The Gaza Post | The News of Palestine – Jerusalem
The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory – West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza – continues and deepens week after week. The occupation is of course illegal under international law – as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions which were adopted after World War II. As a reaction to Germany’s colonising activities in Eastern Europe, they specifically prohibit the colonisation/absorption of land conquered in war (in this case 1967) into the territory of the conquering country. Just this weekend Netanyahu has confirmed his determination to continue the settlement enterprise and never to give back any land that has been stolen. This has been reported in Haaretz, the Iiberal Israeli newspaper, which is the source of much of the information in this post.
In Gaza, the siege continues and this prevents the rebuilding of the territory after the last Gaza conflict (2014) and inflicts daily misery on the inhabitants. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it is estimated that over 3500 Palestinians have been arrested this year alone. Many of these are children and every day I read reports of new overnight arrests – children and adults taken from their beds by Israeli soldiers. Settler violence towards Palestinians has increased dramatically and the Haaretz and Israeli NGO’s regularly report on this. The settlers who commit crimes against Palestinians are protected by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) whose soldiers rarely intervene. Prosecutions of settlers for such crimes are almost unheard of.
A particularly serious development has occurred these past two weeks which has really incensed some European governments. With the start of the new school year the Israelis have decided to demolish several schools. Some of these have been funded by the Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian governments. This has been documented this week in an article in the Independent (also confirmed by Haaretz) which reports that 55 schools in the West Bank are currently under threat of demolition.
Belgium is particularly incensed by the demolition of a school in the village of Jubbet Al Dhib where six terrapin cabins had recently been erected so that local children did not have to walk an hour to get to school. The IDF destroyed the school buildings and confiscated the equipment and furniture, so the children had to sit on the ground in the blazing heat on the first day back while tarpaulins were erected to give some protection from the sun. The Belgian Deputy Prime Minister issued a statement saying:
These new demolitions and seizures of essential infrastructure are unacceptable: Belgium’s projects aim to meet humanitarian needs and are carried out in strict respect of international humanitarian law…..By undermining such humanitarian projects, Israel contravenes its international obligations as an occupying power.
The Jubbet Al Dhib demolition comes on top of the destruction of school facilities in three other West Bank villages in the last two weeks, all donated by international bodies and NGOs.
Israel loves to claim that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. It enjoys special privileges as a result of its Association status with the EU. Its citizens, including the settlers who live illegally on Palestinian land, enjoy visa free travel to the UK and EU countries – something that is not true for Palestinians unless they live in Israel proper and have Israeli passports. They are allowed to buy arms not to just for their own security, but also to maintain their illegal occupation. And yet Israel behaves like any other tyranny towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and it thumbs its nose at the European governments that provide aid to Palestine projects which are then destroyed.
How long will the EU countries (including the UK) just carry on admonishing the Israeli government for all its illegal actions, and when will they get serious and start putting pressure on Israel to change its ways. They could start by making trade with settlements illegal and they could withdraw visa free travel for people living in settlements.
By: John Kelly, who is vice-chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine