A report issued this month by the Office of the European Union Representative (West Bank and Gaza Strip, UNRWA) has described the increase in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and buildings in East Jerusalem and Area C as unprecedented. Covering a six month period, the report focuses on demolitions of EU funded projects, which has resulted in financial losses, deprivation of basic needs and forced displacement of Palestinians.
From September 2016 to February 2017, some 117 structures funded by the EU were destroyed, totalling a loss of €311,692. In 2016, the financial losses from demolitions amounted to €557,378. In January and February of this year, the destruction of 50 buildings funded by the EU was €110,000 while another 50 structures costing €500,000 are currently under notice of demolition. Several types of construction were targeted for demolition, including water networks, according to the report. This detail indicates a premeditated strategy by Israel to increase Palestinian poverty and deprivation.
The statistics cited by the report are bleak. In 2016, 1094 demolitions were recorded in Area C and East Jerusalem, which represents the highest number since 2009. Punitive measures by the Israeli government as part of its retaliatory practice against Palestinian resistance, as well as court cases presented by settler organisations contributed towards the increasing number of demolitions carried out.
A chilling reminder of how forced displacement of Palestinians remains a priority in Israeli policy is the report’s revelation that “12,500 Palestinian structures in Area C currently have outstanding demolition orders issued by the Israeli Civil Administration”. In order to sustain the colonisation process within its warped legal parameters, the reason for demolitions is given as lack of building permits – a convenient phrase which overlooks the fact that Israel makes it next to impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits.
The greatest discrepancy lies in how the EU defines “taking action” with regard to Israel’s contemptuous violations. Between October 2016 and February 2017, the EU Delegation to the West Bank and Gaza issued two statements and conducted three diplomatic visits, including two visits to Khan al-Ahmar, which has been completely slated for demolition by Israel. It is obvious that these visits achieved nothing in terms of safeguarding Palestinian rights, yet it is necessary to point out the obvious yet again.
Clearly, the EU is partial to spend money on dwellings for Israel to destroy, given that no action has been taken to penalise Israel for the destruction of EU-funded buildings. While the report raises the issue of forced displacement of Palestinians as a result of demolition orders, the EU is also averse to making the issue of forced displacement a priority by linking it to Israel’s history of displacing Palestinians for colonial expansion.
The result is a report that reads like a competent, informative exercise and also affirms, through the language used, the recurring nature of such reports due to continuous displacement. The conveyed message is one of lenience and affirmation of a cycle which the EU will be contributing towards, given its reticence to expose Israel’s agenda in clear terms and with explicit mention of its various forms of colonial violence.
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