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‘Absolutely reprehensible’: Israel to auction off EU-funded classrooms it confiscated from Palestinians last year

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A decision by Israeli authorities to auction off prefabricated classrooms that were confiscated from a Palestinian village last year is causing controversy among local and international leaders.

A report from the Guardian last Friday said that the Israeli Defense Ministry was planning on holding an auction this coming week to sell the two prefab classrooms, citing an advertisement for the “seized property” in the Israeli Maariv newspaper.

The classrooms, along with two tents and three metal sheds, were confiscated by Israeli forces last October from the rural Palestinian village of Ibziq, in the northern occupied West Bank.

The classrooms had been donated to the community by the European Union, which has donated hundreds of similar structures to primarily Bedouin communities across the occupied territories.

They were confiscated under the pretext that they were built “illegally” in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, where Palestinian are required to obtain Israeli construction permits in order to build anything — a nearly impossible task.

“A list of auction items, seen by the Guardian, showed dates, item numbers, locations and descriptions that matched the confiscated classroom structures,” the Guardian said, adding that the auction was being held by Israel’s Civil Administration — the agency responsible for enforcing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied territories.

“What the Israelis have done, to confiscate these classrooms, is illegal,” Palestinian human rights lawyer and activist Farid al-Atrash told Mondoweiss. “But to then go on and sell it, is reprehensible. It goes against all international human rights laws and norms.”

“The fact that the Israelis can go and confiscate EU-funded schools, and then go off and sell them, is testament to the fact that the Israelis fear no one in the international community, and feel they can get away with whatever they want,” al-Atrash said.

The Palestine News Network (PNN) reported the Maariv ad as saying “in the case where the owners of these seized assets have not proceeded to request the return of their property within 30 days of the publication of this notice, the assets will be sold.”

However, PNN spoke to Shadi Othman, the EU spokesman in Jerusalem, who said that the EU did in fact make an official request to have the confiscated structures returned, but received no response from Israeli authorities.

The “EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah had called on Israeli authorities to return the confiscated items to their intended beneficiaries without precondition as soon as possible,” Othman told PNN.

He added that the EU requested that if the structures could not be returned, that the EU be compensated for the value of the classrooms, amounting to around $17,100.

At the time of the confiscation, the EU released the following statement:

“Every child has the right to access education and states have an obligation to protect, respect and fulfill this right, by ensuring that schools are inviolable safe spaces for children.”

The Electronic Intifada reported last year that from 2001 to 2016, Israel “caused an estimated $74 million in destruction to EU-funded projects. That includes $26 million of destruction to EU projects during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza,” citing a report from Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq.

“Instead of holding Israel accountable, European donors have expressed reluctance in funding aid projects without guarantees from Israel,” the report said.

“The Europeans and the international community can no longer just be an audience to the injustices committed by the occupation,” al-Atrash told Mondoweiss.

“They need to take concrete actions against the occupation for their violation of Palestinian rights, and hold them accountable in international courts.”

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About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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4 Responses

  1. just
    just on June 3, 2019, 4:35 pm

    Thanks, Yumna. This is a really important article to put out in view of the fact that Kushner et al are pushing for the Gulfies to pay billions in his attempted shoddy blackmail of the Palestinians. Israel has wantonly and maliciously destroyed so much Palestinian infrastructure/homes/villages and nobody (esp. Israel) pays any reparations at all. The EU has stepped up, only to have their contributions destroyed and now stolen for Israeli profit/benefit. ‘Plunder’, anyone???

    The EU and the rest of the world need to sanction this rogue state, of course. Where on earth is their collective spine? What on earth are they afraid of?

    This is the latest from Ali Abunimah today:

    “… Israel’s brazenness generated consternation on social media. Even the EU’s foreign policy spokesperson Maja Kocijančič tweeted that the decision was “incredible.”

    But when Kocijančič delivered the EU’s official response at a press briefing on Monday, she indicated that it would be business as usual: Israel can do as it likes and the EU will take it lying down.

    “When the structures were seized last year – 23 October 2018 and 5 November 2018 – the EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah called on Israeli authorities ‘to return the confiscated items to their intended beneficiaries without pre-condition as soon as possible,’” Kocijančič said.

    Otherwise, Israel was to “provide compensation without delay for the dismantled and confiscated assets.”

    “The EU expects its investments in support of the Palestinian people to be protected from damage and destruction,” Kocijančič added.

    But Israel hasn’t compensated the EU, rebuilt the schools, protected the EU’s “investments” – or the people of Ibziq who have been the targets of repeated Israeli attacks. …

    … Kocijančič did reaffirm that the place where the confiscation took place is occupied territory and that under international law Israel has “the obligation to protect and facilitate development for the local population, and to grant unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance.”

    But there was no inkling that the EU would do anything either to enforce international law or to make Israel pay for its theft.

    So I sent a follow-up question to Kocijančič asking, “Can you confirm that the EU plans to take no action whatsoever to hold Israel accountable for what it has done?”

    “I can’t confirm something that I didn’t say,” Kocijančič replied. “Our position is very clear from my answer.”

    The only thing that is clear is that the European Union will continue allowing Israel to shoot children dead in cold blood, demolish schools and build even more colonies on stolen Palestinian land, and the only thing Israel need fear is a few mild words of rebuke.

    In the meantime, the EU will continue to lavish money on Israel and its war industry, sending a message that is clearly understood by Israel’s government: crime pays. …”

    https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/eu-rewards-israel-selling-classrooms-donated-palestinians

  2. just
    just on June 4, 2019, 8:06 am

    “Israel Delays Auction of Prefab Classrooms the EU Donated Palestinians …

    … Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank has postponed the public auction of prefab classrooms and other equipment donated by the European Union to Palestinians. The administration confiscated these materials last fall because it claimed that they had been erected illegally.

    The one-month postponement of the auction, slated to be held by the Israel Defense Ministry this week, comes after the EU reportedly rejected a deal whereby the structures would be returned to the Europeans in return for their commitment not to restore them to the West Bank without proper building and planning authorization. EU sources have denied receiving an official proposal to that effect from Israel.

    Israeli officials hope that the postponement will allow time for Israel and the EU to negotiate a solution and head off further deterioration in diplomatic relations between the two sides. …

    … Such confiscations are conducted regularly in the West Bank, in Palestinian communities and sometimes also in unauthorized Jewish outposts. The Civil Administration routinely auctions off items that have been seized after 90 days. The EU is worried that the structures in question this time might be sold to settlers.

    While EU officials are aware that they are violating Israeli law by erecting structures that they donate to the Palestinians, they say they are allowed to do so under international law – a claim that Israel rejects. …”

    more @ https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-tension-with-eu-media-storm-spur-israel-to-delay-auction-of-palestinian-structures-1.7331158

    What’s new? Israel never respects international law!

  3. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block on June 4, 2019, 8:42 am

    Years ago the Israelis bombed greenhouses in Gaza, donated by Germany. Reaction? I don’t remember any.
    When are the Europeans going to start raising serious hell about this kind of thing? Maybe now. There’s something particularly disgusting about them not only stealing schools, but selling them.

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