EU calls on Israel not to demolish Palestinian herding villages

Right wing Israeli politicians have argued that the battle political and that Palestinians.

The Palestinian Al Majaz Basic School in Khirbet Al-Majaz in the South Hebron Hills, which is under threat of demolition. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The Palestinian Al Majaz Basic School in Khirbet Al-Majaz in the South Hebron Hills, which is under threat of demolition.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Israeli demolitions of the Palestinian herding villages in the South Hebron Hills would be a violation of international law, the European Union Representative to the Palestinian Territories Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff said on Monday as he urged Israel not to take action against them.
“The European Union Member States and the like-minded partner countries represented here today are concerned about the continued threat of demolition of property and eviction faced by the local communities for more than two decades in the Masafer-Yatta area,” von Burgsdorff said during a solidarity visit to some of the village.
He was joined by local diplomats representing 16 European countries plus one from Canada. The trip was organized by the Left-wing Israeli NGOs Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem to highlight the danger facing the communities located in the West Bank’s Firing Zone 918.
At issue is a pending High Court of Justice ruling, in what is the latest stage in a two decade legal battle between some 12 villages in the area over whether or not they can live in an IDF firing zone.
To date there are some 1,000 Palestinians living in the disputed area, first declared a firing zone in the 1980s. The Palestinians have argued that their history on that land predates the creation of the firing zone. The state in turn has contended that they were not permanent residents of the area and thus can not remain in their homes.
The European Union and European humanitarian NGOs have been heavily involved in assisting the community. EU signs can be found on a number of structures.
Palestinian council head from the region, Nidal Younes, thanked the EU, noting that “without support from the EU we wouldn’t have schools or access to electricity and water.”
Of particular concern for the NGOs and the EU are demolition orders against four small schools in the area, a move which the NGOs explained would particularly harm the female pupils.
On Monday the delegation visited the small al-Majaz Basic School, which is under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority even though it is located in Area C of the West Bank. A Palestinian flag fluttered above the school on the edge of Khirbet Al-Majaz, which is so remote that it can only be accessed by four wheel vehicles because there is no paved road.
Children’s voices could be heard from the small classroom in the two modular buildings.
One school girl, Abir, read a prepared statement to the delegation.“We live under a constant threat that our homes and school will be demolished. If that happens our dreams will shutter.”
Right wing Israeli politicians have argued that the battle is political and that Palestinians, such as those in the South Hebron Hills, are seeking to ensure that Area C will become part of a future Palestinian state.
B’Tselem argued that Israel’s policies were part of a strategy to ensure that it retained its hold on the area. It pointed to a transcript published by the Israel State Archives of a 1981 meeting in which former prime minister Ariel Sharon, then the agriculture minister, spoke of Israel’s plans to expand firing zones in that area to ensure that the territory remains in Israel’s hands.
The document was brought to light by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research.
B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad said that Israel “wishes to expel all these families, demolish their homes and destroy their livelihoods, on one pretext or another. Declaring the area a firing zone was the excuse; cleansing the territory of Palestinians is the goal. This criminal plan must be stopped.”