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Israel destroys Palestinian Solar project provided by Netherlands, from Peter Myers

(1) Israel destroys Dutch development project; Netherlands furious(2) This Palestinian village had solar power — until Israeli soldiers took it away - WAPO(3) Israel Confiscates Palestinian Shepherds' Solar Units - Haaretz(4) Palestinians prepare to lose the solar panels that provide a lifeline (2012)(5) Israel to Demolish Palestinian Solar Energy Program (2012)(1) Israel destroys Dutch development project; Netherlands furious Janene Pieters on June 30, 2017 - 08:29{photo} Empty structures that used to hold solar panels - Israeli army destroys a Dutch development project in the Palestinian village Jubbet adh Dhib on the west bank of the Jordan, 28 Jun 2017. Photo: Comet-ME / Facebook {end}Israel demolished a Dutch development project consisting of 96 solar panels and other equipment for supplying power to Palestinian village Jubbet Adh Dhib on the west bank of the Jordan. The Netherlands spent about half a million euros on the project last year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is furious, AD reports."We immediately protested seriously with the Israeli authorities and demanded return of the goods. We're currently investigating the exact damages and what next steps can be taken", Foreign Affairs spokesperson Chris Bakker said to the newspaper.Israeli soldiers raided the village on Wednesday morning. "The Israeli soldiers also tried to drag the batteries away, but they were apparently too heavy. They were damaged, however", said Tamar Cohen, organizational development manager at Comet-me, the organization with whom the Netherlands donated the solar panels. Israel regularly evacuates Palestinian settlements because of the lack of property acts or building permits. "But that always goes through the court first and then we can litigate. This is the first time soldiers seized goods unannounced", Cohen said to the newspaper.COGAT, the Israeli government on the west bank of the Jordan and the Gaza strip, said that the Dutch solar panels were illegal, in a statement given to AD. "The necessary permits were lacking. A ban on building solar panels in the village has now been imposed. We emphasize that the village has other power sources."The Netherlands donates tens of millions of euros to projects for Palestinians on the west bank of the Jordan and in the Gaza strip every year. Aid agencies often don't request building permits from the Israeli military government, because of long waiting times and very low chance of success. In practice this basically means that the projects are dependent on Israeli goodwill.This is not the first time Israel destroyed a Netherlands funded project. In 2015 Israeli troops seized Dutch funded agricultural machinery for Palestinian farmers in the village of Kusra. The Netherlands also paid the fines to get the machinery back, because the farmers themselves couldn't. And in 2000 Israeli tanks bombed a port under construction in the Gaza strip. The Netherlands contributed 23 million euros to that port.The international community considers Israel's occupation of the Jordan's west bank to be illegal and strives for an independent Palestinian state in parts of the area. But the peace process between Israel and Palestine has been deadlocked for years.(2) This Palestinian village had solar power — until Israeli soldiers took it away - WAPO Palestinian village had solar power — until Israeli soldiers took it awayBy Anne-Marie O'ConnorJuly 7JUBBET ADH DHIB, West Bank — The residents of this dirt-poor Palestinian village waited decades for electricity. But in November, a Dutch-funded solar project finally gave them round-the-clock power to refrigerate food or do a load of laundry.That ended last week when Israeli military administrators in the West Bank sent soldiers with assault rifles and a team of workers to shut down the $400,000 project, ripping out its electrical components and driving away with 96 solar panels, some of them broken, villagers said.Israeli officials called the construction illegal, but the builders contested the charge, saying they are providing desperately needed humanitarian aid that is required under international law."It was a disaster. We are all in mourning," said Fadia al-Wahsh, head of the local women’s committee, hours after the soldiers left, as villagers discussed how to save food and medicine from the stifling summer heat.The confiscation was the latest round of a widening conflict between European donors and the Israeli government over projects that benefit Palestinians in Area C, about 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.  "The Netherlands immediately protested to the Israeli authorities and demanded the return of the confiscated goods," said Dirk-Jan Vermeij, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, who he said told Dutch parliament Tuesday that "this confiscation is simply unacceptable." He said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had discussed the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon declined to comment in a text exchange but referred questions to Israel’s military Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, known as COGAT. A spokesman for COGAT said in an email that the solar and electric panels were installed without the necessary permits.COGAT said the parties involved could "file a request for releasing the equipment as long as the organization will promise that the illegal construction will not be established without the necessary permits again."[20 minutes from modern Jerusalem, a Palestinian village is stranded in the past]The incident illustrates a Catch-22 in the West Bank: For years, Israel has denied most permit requests for Palestinian construction in Area C. But if Palestinians build homes or other structures without permits, Israeli authorities say the structures are subject to demolition because they lack permits.The European Union said in a recent report that there has been an "exceptional upsurge" in seizures or demolitions of European-funded projects by the Israeli government, which faces pressure from Israeli settlers to shut them down.The report said Israeli forces have seized or demolished 117 European-funded humanitarian projects for Palestinians from September through February: latrines, animal shelters, agricultural projects and emergency shelters for families displaced by Israeli home demolitions.   A Dutch-funded solar energy system was installed in this impoverished Palestinian village in November. Its panels were seized last week by Israeli authorities who called it illegal construction, saying the village did not have the necessary permits. The village women's committee has been trying to acquire electricity for the village, which first requested power three decades ago.  (Courtesy of Comet-ME/Courtesy of Comet-ME)"E.U. humanitarian activities are carried out in full accordance with international humanitarian law," the E.U. said in a February statement, calling on Israel "to halt demolitions of Palestinian houses and property in accordance with its obligation as an occupying power under international humanitarian law."Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, told Army Radio that he saw political motives behind E.U. construction, the Times of Israel reported."Like thieves in the night, they are building illegal buildings .?.?. to create territorial contiguity for the Palestinians," he was quoted as saying. "They are creating facts on the ground."A May U.N. report said Israeli authorities reportedly rejected permits for 391 of the 428 requests for building in Palestinian communities in Area C in the first half of 2016, the most current figures available.Most of the permits approved were reportedly issued by Israeli authorities to transfer Bedouin populations, the United Nations said." ‘Lack of permits’ is the cynical pretext used by Israeli authorities to create the illusion that proper procedures exist," B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said in a statement.[A new Jewish settlement begins to rise in the West Bank ]A Israeli government proposal to allow thousands of new housing units in the Palestinian town of Qalqilya recently drew outraged public statements from Israeli settler leaders — who call for Israel to annex Area C — and was openly criticized by several right-wing ministers in the Netanyahu government.Jubbet adh Dhib, a village of 170 people, has requested a hookup to the electrical grid numerous times since 1988, according to Human Rights Watch. European-funded solar streetlights were dismantled in 2009 at the request of Israeli authorities, European diplomats say.A few hundred yards from it is the Jewish settlement of Sde Bar, founded in 1998, according to the nongovernmental Settlement Watch. Residents say they received Israeli utilities and protection for years before Sde Bar was legalized retroactively in 2005.Michael Sfard, the legal counsel for Comet-ME, the Israeli-Palestinian nonprofit that installed the solar electricity system, said he would fight the decision to shut it down and would appeal to Israel’s highest court, if necessary, on the grounds that Israel was violating international law by damaging humanitarian aid without providing an alternative."This has nothing to do with law enforcement," Sfard said. "We have two neighboring communities in the West Bank, one with all the privileges, and another that has nothing. It’s cruel."COGAT said Jubbet adh Dhib has an electricity alternative, an apparent reference to a generator that consumes $100 a day in diesel fuel — villagers say they can afford to run it only a few hours a day."I explained to them that we had medicine in the refrigerator, insulin for diabetics," said Amna al-Wahsh, a member of the women’s committee. "They said, ‘Move away; let us do our job.’ "Anat Ben Nun, external relations director of Peace Now, said demolitions of Palestinian homes reached record levels in 2016, while unauthorized Israeli outposts with roads, water and electricity, "all built completely illegally — are being retroactively legalized."The solar project in Jubbet adh Dhib was touted as an inspirational success for the women’s committee, which is trained to cope with medical emergencies, such as delivering babies.At a March International Women’s Day event in Ramallah, Amna al-Wahsh described the transformation of her village."We have refrigerators, washing machines," she said. "Our children can study whenever they like. I used to be afraid to let my children go to the bathroom with a candle, because they could burn down the house.""We are indescribably happy," she said, as the audience, including European and American donors, applauded.(3) Israel Confiscates Palestinian Shepherds' Solar Units - Haaretz Confiscates Palestinian Shepherds' Home Solar Power UnitsThe units were intended to operate refrigerators, used to store cheeses – on which the family's livelihood depends – and medicines for the sheep and the family   Jul 06, 2017 11:38 AM Amira HassIsrael confiscated Wednesday two home solar power units that had been contributed by the European Union to a small sheep-herding...(4) Palestinians prepare to lose the solar panels that provide a lifeline (2012) prepare to lose the solar panels that provide a lifelineIsrael is planning to demolish 'illegal' solar panels that are the only source of electricity for Palestinians in West Bank villagesPhoebe Greenwood in Tel AvivWednesday 14 March 2012 18.00 AEDTFirst published on Wednesday 14 March 2012 18.00 AEDTTwo large solar panels jut out of the barren landscape near Imneizil in the Hebron hills. The hi-tech structures sit incongruously alongside the tents and rough stone buildings of the Palestinian village, but they are fundamental to life here: they provide electricity.Imneizil is not connected to the national electricity grid. Nor are the vast majority of Palestinian communities in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank controlled by Israel. The solar energy has replaced expensive and clunky oil-powered generators.According to the Israeli authorities, these solar panels – along with six others in nearby villages – are illegal and have been slated for demolition.Nihad Moor, 25, has three small children. The family live in a two-room tent kitted out with a fridge, TV and very old computer. She also has a small electric butter churn, which she uses to supplement her husband's small income from sheep farming."The kids get sick all the time. At the moment, because of a change in the weather, they all have colds. Without electricity I wouldn't even be able to see to help them when they need to use the [outdoor] toilet at night," Moor says. "I don't want to imagine what life would be like here if [the panels] were demolished."Imneizil's solar system was built in 2009 by the Spanish NGO Seba at a cost of €30,000 to the Spanish government. According to the Israeli authorities, it was built without a permit.Guy Inbar, a spokesperson for the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, explains: "International aid is an important component in improving and promoting the quality of life of the Palestinian population but this does not grant immunity for illegal or unco-ordinated activity."The problem for Palestinian communities here is that permission to build any infrastructure is very hard to come by. According to figures from the civil administration quoted by the pressure group Peace Now, 91 permits were issued for Palestinian construction in Area C between 2001 and 2007. In the same period, more than 10,000 Israeli settlement units were built and1,663 Palestinian structures demolished.The Jewish settlements in Area C are connected to the national water and electricity grids. But most Palestinian villages are cut off from basic infrastructure, including water and sewage services. Imneizil, which borders the ultra-religious settlement of Beit Yatir, currently has nine demolition orders on various structures, including a toilet block and water cistern for the school.Comet ME is an Israeli NGO trying to circumvent these crippling restrictions on Palestinian development by harnessing Hebron's abundant natural energy sources – wind and sun.Funded largely by the German government, the organisation has already provided tens of Palestinian villages with electricity through solar panels and wind turbines. Its goal is to reach all villages in the southern Hebron area by the end of 2013."In technical terms it's do-able, but it depends on Israeli policies," says Elad Orian, Comet ME's founder. "Power is a human right, like housing and education," he says. "We deal with providing basic energy services. Renewable energy provides the best route to do it."The green energy solution has its flaws. At a cost of around $4,500 per family, it is expensive. Nor does it generate enough electricity to sustain a community. But it has offered a lifeline to the 150,000 Palestinians living in Area C's impoverished communities.However, it will become increasingly difficult to convince donors that alternative energy is worth investing in if the expensive technology they are funding is destroyed. After the order issued against the Imneizil solar panels in September, six alternative energy systems built by Comet ME in Hebron have received demolition orders.A legal fight waged by Rabbis for Human Rights has succeeded in suspending, but not lifting, the demolition of Imneizil's panels. The German foreign office has launched an intense diplomatic effort to save the others in nearby villages.One UN expert, speaking anonymously as they are not authorised to talk to the media, believes the crackdown on the alternative energy movement by the Israelis is part of a deliberate strategy in Area C. "From December 2010 to April 2011, we saw a systematic targeting of the water infrastructure in Hebron, Bethlehem and the Jordan valley," the source said. "Now, in the last couple of months, they are targeting electricity. Two villages in the area have had their electrical poles demolished."There is this systematic effort by the civil administration targeting all Palestinian infrastructure in Hebron. They are hoping that by making it miserable enough, they [the Palestinians] will pick up and leave."According to UN research, that is happening. Ten out of 13 Palestinian communities living in Area C surveyed by the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in 2011 reported that families had already left their land as a result of Israeli policies. Ali Mohamed Hraizat, 49, head of Imneizil's village council, fears that if the solar panels are destroyed, his community will see an exodus."We've been here since 1948. We try to stay and maintain our lives, but people will leave if the electricity is cut off," he says. "They are used for light for their children to study by and for televisions. They will move into town. The solar panel isn't doing any harm … I just don't see the point in demolishing it."(5) Israel to Demolish Palestinian Solar Energy Program (2012) To Demolish Palestinian Solar Energy ProgramThursday, February 16, 2012by Common Dreams staffA sustainable energy program in 'Area C' of rural West Bank is being threatened by Israeli authorities. The program, which recently installed solar panels and wind turbines in 16 communities, is providing 1,500 Palestinians with electricity -- who were formerly without reliable energy.(Photo: AFP/Menahem Kahana)The foreign aid program, thus far successful, has become a new target for Israel as it threatens to demolish the structures that supposedly lie within Israeli 'administration'.* * *Der Spiegel reports:     The best part is when the lights in the tents go on, one by one, says Elad Orian. Electricity here, in the hills south of Hebron, was long unreliable. Either it was not available or it was too expensive, produced for just a few hours each day by a noisy, diesel-guzzling generator. That changed when Elad Orian and Noam Dotan, two Israeli physicians who had tired of conflict, came along three years ago and installed solar panels and erected wind turbines. Since then, such facilities have been installed in 16 communities, providing 1,500 Palestinians with electricity. [...]     The success, though, could soon be a thing of the past. Israel has threatened to tear them down with five municipalities in recent weeks having received "stop work" orders -- the first step on the road to demolition. The problem is that the facilities are in the so-called Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank and is administered by Israel. Permission from the Israelis is a requirement before construction projects can move ahead -- and permits are almost never given to Palestinians. [...]     European diplomats in Ramallah and Tel Aviv suspect that the demolition orders are a reaction to a recently drafted, unusually critical EU report on the situation in Area C. It states: "The window for a two-state solution is closing rapidly with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements." The conclusion: The EU needs to target investment in economic development and improved living conditions of Palestinians in Area C. [...]"What can you do if there are impediments to development, such as an undefined de-development policy?" says Tsafrir Cohen, Middle East coordinator of Medico International, which supported two of the systems.     A few months ago, a similar project co-financed by the Spanish government was scheduled for demolition, something which has been prevented thus far through massive diplomatic pressure.     Projects funded by foreign aid organizations or the EU have often been destroyed in the past, the best known example being the Gaza airport, financed with $38 million from the EU only to be destroyed by Israeli bombs a short time after its construction. Generally, though, the demolitions have been the result of security concerns. The fact that harmless solar cells -- installations which are funded by allied countries to provide basic humanitarian needs -- are at risk of demolition is a new development. [...]     Hundreds of people live in the village, and they are the poorest of the poor. A community of shepherds, they moved freely through the area until Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Since then, they have settled, collecting rain water during the winter and buying expensive drinking water brought in by a truck along a gravel track in the summer. A well-maintained road to the settlement doesn't exist, despite the fact that Shaab al-Buttum lies between two Israeli outposts. The settlements are illegal, but miraculously they have all the basics their Palestinian neighbors are missing: electricity, water and roads.* * *Ma'an News reports:     In recent months, the army issued demolition warnings against six solar and wind power systems in the South Hebron Hills, which were funded by European governments and development groups.     "What can you do if there are impediments to development, such as an undefined de-development policy?" says Tsafrir Cohen, Middle East coordinator of Medico International, which supported two of the systems.     Known locally as Masafer Yatta, the communities lie almost entirely in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israel civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords. [...]     Cohen says if Medico International abandons development work in Area C, moving to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas where permits are not a problem, they would do little more than "painting the walls of Bantustans."     "We cannot just facilitate a nice jail cell, and a system where people don’t have rights." [...]     Threats to demolish vital village resources are intended to "silently move us from the land," village council head Ali Muhammad Ali Heirezat says. "We have been here since 1948, and we don’t have another place to go."* * *Several West Bank villages had been without electricity for years. Not long ago, however, international funding and an Israeli foundation made it possible to erect solar panels and wind turbines. In total, 16 communities with 1,500 residents have benefited. Here, a woman in the West Bank village of Susya.-- Peter Myerswebsite: