FM slams European diplomats' 'Pavlovian instinct to attack Israel' over evictions

“The ambassadors that attacked Israel today were confused - instead of protecting the residents, they’re protecting criminals,” a Foreign Ministry official said on Monday.

Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian man during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, December 17, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian man during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, December 17, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

European diplomats automatically attack Israel out of ignorance, a senior Foreign Ministry official said on Monday, following criticism of Israel’s move to demolish an Arab-owned business illegally constructed on public property in Jerusalem.

The diplomats have a “Pavlovian instinct to attack Israel without knowing the facts,” the Foreign Ministry official said.

“The ambassadors that attacked Israel today were confused - instead of protecting the residents, they’re protecting criminals,” the official said.

The remarks came after members of the Salhia family in east Jerusalem threatened to self-immolate as police in the city destroyed their nursery and two storage units, but left their two temporary homes intact.

The evacuation of the area was authorized by the Jerusalem District Court.

 Palestinians with gas cylinders stand on a rooftop of a house being evacuated by Israeli special forces in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. January 17, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Palestinians with gas cylinders stand on a rooftop of a house being evacuated by Israeli special forces in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. January 17, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Jerusalem Municipality plans to build an educational complex on the property, which it says is for Arab residents of the capital and would include a school for special-needs children, six preschool classes, activity halls and sports fields.

A delegation of European officials, led by European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, visited the scene and called for a restoration of calm.

It is "imperative to deescalate the situation and seek a peaceful resolution. Evictions/demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace as well as fuel tensions on the ground," the European Union Representative Office tweeted. 

The Dutch Ambassador to Israel Hans Docter tweeted, "Ongoing attempt to evict a Palestinian family from their East Jerusalem home is contrary to international law and risks further escalation."

He called on "the Israeli authorities to stop the eviction immediately."

The Irish Embassy to the Palestinians said that "such evictions and demolitions are illegal under international humanitarian law and threaten to escalate tensions and conflict in the occupied Palestinian territories."

The British Consulate in Jerusalem, which is near the disputed site, tweeted that "evictions in Occupied Territory are against international humanitarian law in all but the most exceptional circumstances. The UK urges the Government of Israel to cease such practices which only serve to increase tensions on the ground."

Israel does not consider east Jerusalem to be occupied or even disputed territory, having extended its sovereignty to the entire, reunified capital after the 1967 Six-Day War.

The senior Foreign Ministry official lamented that Europe calls on Israel to do things to help Arabs in east Jerusalem – like build schools – and then attacks Israel when it does so.

“The Foreign Ministry sees their reactions as detached from reality and showing a lack of understanding,” the official said.

The Jerusalem Municipality pushed back against some of the claims made by the demolition’s opponents.

"Contrary to the family's claims, the buildings have not been on this territory for decades. Rather, they were built illegally in recent years," the municipality said. "The family's illegal takeover of public property prevents hundreds of children with special needs in the area to get basic educational services that the municipality seeks to provide."

"The claims that the territory will be expropriated in order to be transferred to Jewish residents is unfounded and baseless," the municipality stated.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.