EU protests demolishment of Palestinian school it illegally funded

“Resistance school’ was one of many hundreds placed in strategic spot as a “tool of annexation,” NGO spokesperson told World Israel News.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The EU protested Friday the demolishment of a small Palestinian school whose construction it had illegally funded and called for Israel to compensate financially.

“Appalled by the demolition of the EU-funded school in Ein Samiya in the Occupied West Bank,” the EU’s Representative Office in Jerusalem tweeted on Friday. Israel, it said, should “respect Palestinian children’s right to education and to compensate [the] EU for the funding lost,” it continued.

The Bedouin herding community of Ein Samiya, with some 200 residents, is located close to the veteran village of Kochav HaShachar in Area C of Judea and Samaria, which is under full Israeli civilian and military control.

The unrecognized community had applied for permission to build a primary school on Israeli state land that had been denied. When the EU paid for modular units to be set up there anyway last year, the government took the matter to court. The judge’s subsequent stop-work orders to halt their construction were ignored, and so the court ordered that the illegal structures be taken down, denying all appeals to allow them to remain standing.

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“The State of Israel will not allow illegal construction and Arab takeover of the open spaces,” said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who ordered the demolition. “I thank the Civil Administration and the security forces who enforced the law today near Ein Samiya and cleared the structures that were erected in violation of the law in a deliberate attempt to take control of the open spaces and establish facts on the ground.”

Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, heads the Civil Administration in the Defense Ministry, which is in charge of bureaucratic matters such as building permits in Judea and Samaria. Hundreds of court-ordered demolitions are issued each year for illegally built structures in the region, both Jewish and Palestinian.

According to the Regavim Movement, which meticulously researches the phenomenon of  illegal Palestinian construction in Area C, such work increased by 80% over the “already alarming rate” of the previous year, with 5535 new illegal structures built compared to 3076 structures in the same period in 2021. By not exerting the control it legally has as per the Oslo Accords, “The Israeli government is creating a de facto Palestinian state,“ the NGO said.

Adjacent to existing, legal Jewish communities

Regavim filed a complaint about this particular school years ago, Naomi Linder Kahn, director of its International Division, told World Israel News. “It’s one of the illegal, EU-funded ‘Resistance Schools’ placed in a strategic spot in Area C by the Palestinian Authority as part of its campaign of using weaponized schools as a tool of annexation.

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“The structure itself is illegal – and the EU knows that. It violates Israel’s jurisdiction – and the EU knows that. It uses children as pawns for political purposes – and the EU should know that, too.

“What’s worse than the illegal structure itself is that it is one of many hundreds of illegal ‘schools’ that the Palestinian Authority has used as anchors for creating new villages. The EU provides the infrastructure (water lines, power lines, paved access roads, etc.) for the school’s construction and operation that is then used to form a village around it, in critically sensitive strategic areas throughout Area C.

“Many of them are adjacent to existing, legal Jewish communities and/or important traffic arteries. Some are in nature reserves, on archaeological sites, or within the municipal lines of Jewish communities (such as Ras a-Tin, which is located on land belonging to Kochav HaShachar, or Khan al Ahmar, which is on land belonging in part to Kfar Adumim). Some are in IDF firing zones (“Masafer Yatta” and “Khirbet Humsa” and Wadi Abu Hindi near Kedar are all good examples).”

Last December, Regavim also revealed an EU document which proved that it is their official policy to help the Palestinian Authority take over Area C.

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The right-wing has long complained that the Administration zealously obeys the courts in tearing down wildcat Jewish buildings but is slow to follow legal orders when it comes to the Palestinian construction. Smotrich insisted on receiving this position partially in order to flip this status quo.

“The criminals are demanding compensation. A new concept for the EU’s hostile Commission for PA Territory. We reiterate our call on the Foreign Minister to immediately summon the EU representative for a reprimand and to act to stop the EU funding illegal construction. In addition, the government must continue to vigorously enforce against illegal construction and even sue the EU for financing the construction,” Israel-based Zionist NGOs Im Tirtzu and Lach Yerushalayim said in a joint statement.

The UN also chimed in disapprovingly about the destruction “just a few days before the start of the new school year,” without mentioning that the fact that an Israel court had first issued a legal ruling on the matter.

Atara Beck contributed to this report.