Last week, the Israeli occupation forces demolished an EU-funded school in Jubbet Adh-Dhib neighbourhood of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. It was the second time that the school had been demolished by Israel; the first was in 2017 after all legal avenues to stop the demolition had been exhausted.
Two weeks ago, the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process reported that the Israeli occupation authorities are not only demolishing Palestinian schools but also undermining the building of new schools. It stated that the population growth among Palestinians is 2.4 per cent, meaning that 600 new schools will be needed by 2025.
The EU duly condemned Israel’s latest demolition of the Palestinian school in Jubbet Adh-Dhib. However, even as the condemnation was issued, it was celebrating the creation of the Zionist occupation state of Israel on the rubble of hundreds of Palestinian homes, mosques, schools, factories and historic sites which once testified to the Palestinian presence in all of occupied Palestine.
Just 10 days before Israel’s demolition of the EU-funded school, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sent a message to Israeli President Isaac Herzog congratulating him on the occupation state’s 75th year of independence. Her message exposed Europe’s hypocrisy. According to von der Leyen, the creation of Israel was a “dream” which “was realised.” She hinted that the Holocaust was “the greatest tragedy in human history.”
While she is right about the enormity of the Nazi Holocaust, why did she not mention the genocidal ethnic cleansing committed by Zionist Jewish terrorist gangs against the Palestinians? “The Jewish people could finally build a home in the promised land,” said von der Leyen, as if the people of Palestine had no right to the land in which they have lived for centuries.
She ignored the fact that the Zionist Jewish terrorists whose violence was behind the creation of the state of Israel, committed 70 massacres that we know of against the indigenous Palestinians. There may have been more. She also ignored the fact that the same terrorists killed 15,000 Palestinians, destroyed 531 Palestinian villages and forcibly expelled over 800,000 Palestinians from their homes.
The European leader completely ignored the Palestinian Nakba, which started before 1948 and remains ongoing with the full complicity of the US and Europe. Their support for Israel means that it can and does act with impunity as it steals more Palestinian land on a daily basis and desecrates religious and historic sites, Muslim and Christian alike.
Ursula von der Leyen is, of course, German. Her description of the Holocaust as a “tragedy” actually downplays what MEP Clare Daly called a “genocide and a crime against humanity”. Moreover, the German politician’s apparent joy that the “home in the promised land” was finally built is an expression of her support for the ethnic cleansing that has taken place ever since 1948 without which that “home” would not have been possible. In doing so, she simply brushes aside the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.
“Today, we celebrate 75 years of vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East, 75 years of dynamism, ingenuity and ground-breaking innovations,” gushed von der Leyen. “You have literally made the desert bloom, as I could see during my visit to the Negev last year.”
That “vibrant democracy” elected the most extreme far-right government in Israel’s history of extremist governments, and ensures that the 20 per cent of Israelis who are Palestinians are second class citizens. Has she not seen the tens of thousands of Israelis who take to the streets in protest at the plans of a prime minister indicted for fraud and corruption to weaken the judiciary and place control of the Supreme Court in the hands of right-wing fanatics to get themselves off the legal hook?
Does the European leader not know — or care — that major human rights groups B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have all declared that Israel has passed the legal threshold to be designated as an apartheid state? How does that fit in with her claim that Israel is a “vibrant democracy”? Even Jews who stand up against its oppression are abused and attacked.
The EU said that it “has asked the Israeli authorities not to carry out the demolition which directly affects 81 children and their education.” How can I trust anything that the EU says on such matters when a senior European official says that Europe has “shared culture and values” with Israel?
The occupation state of Israel has no concern whatsoever about the education of Palestinian children; its soldiers not only demolish schools, but also harass, detain and kill Palestinian children, so why should Israel listen to the EU when it “asks” the occupation state not to demolish a school? Is that what von der Leyen means by “shared culture and values”?
Meanwhile, the EU gives Israel preferential treatment in all areas of life, including educational grants; the Palestinians get the crumbs. Projects continue to be funded by the EU in Israel, even as Israel destroys EU-funded projects intended to help the Palestinians.
In 2022 alone, a total of 954 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized by Israel in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the most recorded since 2016. Why did the EU not put real pressure on Israel — much more than a simple request — to stop this? Its financial, political, military and diplomatic support for the apartheid state gives the EU real leverage, but it chooses not to use it.
Making “the desert bloom”, of course, is one of the great Zionist myths. It implies that Palestine was a “land without a people for a people without a land” — another Zionist myth — and a barren wasteland before Israel was created. Britain’s Peel Commission in the 1930s found that Palestine was the world’s top exporter of citrus fruits. The Palestinians didn’t need the Zionists to show them how to cultivate their land.
As a Palestinian who values his land, his history, his culture and his values, I cannot trust anyone who claims to support the rights of the Palestinians on one hand, while simultaneously praising the Zionist occupation of my land and the apartheid state of Israel. If Ursula von der Leyen has an ounce of decency and integrity, she should retract her praise for the Zionist state and the violence that it inflicts on the Palestinians, and instead seek to end Israel’s brutal military occupation of my land.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.