Israel To Demolish Palestinian Solar Energy Program

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Common Dreams

Israel To Demolish Palestinian Solar Energy Program

by
Common Dreams staff

A 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.

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'.

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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.

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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."

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