Israel demolishes West Bank villages as Jewish outposts remains untouched

12:00 Feb 21 2012 Tha'lah (Saadet Thaalah)

Israel's eagerness to demolish renewable energy installations in a West Bank village is seen as an ugly riposte to the European Union.

By Akiva Eldar for Haaretz

It is doubtful whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has expressed great concern over the fate of Migron's residents, has heard of Tha'lah. Unfortunately for the village's residents, Tha'lah is situated in Area C, which is under Israel jurisdiction. Minister Benny Begin, who worked so tirelessly on the questionable "agreement" that will leave the Migron criminals on stolen land for a few more years (if it is ever implemented ), presumably does not know what happened to the residents of this tiny village in the Southern Hebron Hills. And the Israeli media didn't stop focusing on an Iranian nuclear bomb that threatens to destroy our homes long enough to cover a boring story about a Palestinian family whose home we Israelis razed.

It happened last Wednesday. Civil Administration officer Nabil Tafsh arrived at Youssef Awad's hut accompanied by a bulldozer. Awad told Rabbis for Human Rights representatives summoned to the site that the official informed him he had one minute to leave the hut and remove the sheep from their pen. Two soldiers forcibly removed Awad and, in a flash, the bulldozer flattened his minimal possessions into a pile of rubble.

Eight people, including children, were thrown out of their shabby hut and left without a roof over their heads on a rainy winter night. The sheep pen was destroyed, and buried underneath it were 15 lambs and a dovecote. Four lambs died, four were injured and 400 head of sheep that were spared lost their shelter. The water cisterns used to provide for the flock were destroyed and sealed.

In a complaint submitted to the Civil Administration, Rabbi for Human Rights attorney Quamar Mishirqi wrote that Awad presented the officer with an interim order from the High Court of Justice ordering a delay in the implementation of the demolition order issued against him. She says the officer tore up the document and slapped Awad across the face. Mishirqi presented an agreement with the State Prosecutor's Office granting Awad 60 days to approach the High Court of Justice before his property would be destroyed. According to her, were it not for a hasty phone call she made that day to the Prosecutor's office, it is almost certain that the Civil Administration would have proceeded to demolish all of the village's houses.

The next target of the Civil Administration (which, of course, carries out the government's policies ) in Tha'lah and nearby villages are renewable energy installations - wind turbines and solar panels that two good Israelis, Noam Dotan and Elad Orian, members of Comet (Community, Energy and Technology in the Middle East ), set up for them.

Around 1,500 people in 16 communities, that have been in the area since the 19th century, now benefit from energy produced by these installations, which provide lighting and electricity to their modest dairy product business. A few weeks ago, the Israeli administration - the one that arranges to run high-tension lines over their heads to supply illegal outposts - decided to issue work stoppage orders to five installations. The demolition orders expected to follow will darken the homes of 500 people. Children will revert to straining their eyes as they do their homework in the light of oil lamps, and the women will go back to churning butter and cheeses with blistered hands.

The new facilities were built mainly with money from the German taxpayer. The German government contributed 400,000 euros to the project, in addition to more modest sums from other organizations. During a visit to Israel three weeks ago, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle asked the prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister to work to cancel the orders. Everyone promised to look into the matter. The response arrived a week later in the form of a new work stoppage order for another installation.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the German government is aware of the stoppage order for the solar energy systems in Tha'lah, and is in close contact with the Israeli government in order to find an amicable solution. The German press sees Israel's behavior as a rude gesture to the European Union, which dared publish a report critical of Israel's discriminatory policy toward 150,000 Palestinians in Area C, who have survived the harassment of the authorities and the fury of the settlers.

During the first six months of 2011, the UN Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs recorded 342 demolitions of Palestinian structures in the area. That is almost five times the number razed during the same period in 2010. The report noted that for Palestinian villages in Area C, the Civil Administration did not manage to plan sufficiently, but all Jewish communities in the West Bank did receive detailed plans.

The Civil Administration said in response, "Illegal construction is occurring in the village of Tha'lah, and legal action has already been taken against it. The plan that the residents submitted was rejected by the planning committee in June 2011 and for this reason it was decided to enforce it. The solar installations are illegal and therefore a court order was issued against it, which is currently being discussed in the relevant committees. Outside assistance is a key component in the bettering the fabric of life of the population, but does not give immunity to illegal activity. The allegations against the officer will be investigated."

The plots thicken

Civil Administration officials are busy with Palestinians' wind turbines and goat pens. No wonder, then, they have no time to deal with a few structures that settlers are building on stolen lands. Not just stolen from Palestinian landowners, but also from the Palestinian Authority.

Two days ago, Haaretz published a list of outposts that are moving into agricultural plots in Area B, which is under Palestinian Authority civil control. A petition submitted to the High Court of Justice on Monday by a resident of the northern West Bank village of Amatin, with the assistance of Yesh Din, shows that the name of the Havat Gilad outpost was omitted from the list.

The petition claimed that people from the outpost built two houses on Palestinian land, contrary to the law and the Oslo Accords. The inspectors are in no rush to go back there. The last time, they got out by the skin of their teeth. Regarding this matter as well, there was no comment from the Civil Administration.

Israel's High Court ruled on Monday that the state must respond within seven days.
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