Ecumenical group highlights damage caused by Israeli house demolitions

By ENInews
22 Nov 2011

Before electricity came to her village, Nihad Moor, aged 25, sometimes spent more than half the day doing housework. A set of solar panels installed two years ago in this small South Hebron Hills village made her life a bit easier. Now she is afraid that if a final demolition order issued in October 2011 by the Israeli Civil Administration for the two solar panels and its controls is carried out, the village will be without electricity again - writes Judith Sudilovsky.

This is the kind of situation highlighted by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which hosted a visit to Imneizil on 16 November.

The solar panels had been installed by the Energy Research Centre of the Palestinian Al-Najah University, the Spanish government and SEBA, a Spanish non-profit organisation that specialises in solar energy.
"Electricity is a basic humanitarian need," Moore said, standing in front of the solar panels at the edge of the village with her three-year-old son Mohammed. A bitter wind blew along the hard dirt-packed hill as the first rains of the winter threatened to drench the scattered collection of tents and half-built cement block homes with corrugated tin roofs that make up the village. "Solar energy does not create pollution. It is the only way we can get electricity," she said.

Imneizil is among 21 villages in the South Hebron Hills which are regularly visited by EAPPI, founded by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) in 2001 at the request of local churches. EAPPI also has a presence in some 113 other communities throughout the West Bank and monitors 24 other checkpoints.

Israel carries out demolitions, largely in Palestinian villages on the West Bank in area C, including East Jerusalem, ostensibly to make sure that planning regulations are followed and that there is no haphazard building. However, Palestinians say their efforts to obtain building permits are largely unsuccessful, as Israel follows what they believe is a undeclared plan to silently make their lives so unbearable that they abandon their small villages.

EAPPI spokesman Paul Adrian Raymond said there seems to have been a recent increase in demolitions. He said there are currently at least 23 schools in the West Bank with pending demolition orders. Rainwater collection devices and rudimentary access roads have also been targets for demolition, he said.

"The (Israeli) Civil Administration is working hard to implement the demolition orders … to create a kind of condition where people will find it difficult to stay where they are," he said.

According to UN statistics quoted by EAPPI, in the first half of 2011 Israel demolished 342 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, leaving 656 people homeless. Some 300,000 settlers live in the area.

Imneizil, population 390, is off any electricity, water and sewage networks because of Israeli military restrictions on Palestinian development in Area C, which constitutes almost 62 per cent of the West Bank and is under Israeli civil and military control.

The village's lawyer from Rabbis for Human Rights, Quamar Mishirqi, said she is currently waiting for a final request to be reviewed by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

It is the last step before an appeal to the Supreme Court which can freeze the demolition order until there can be a court hearing.

Mishirqi is asking that a retroactive building permit be issued for the solar panels, a practice which is sometimes implemented for buildings in Israeli settlements and outposts, but has yet to be used for Palestinian structures, she said.

In a statement to ENInews, COGAT noted the facility was built without the required permits and without any coordination. "Usually there is a delicate and supportive cooperation between COGAT and international organisations, but rule of law is above all," it said. "As a result, cease and demolition orders have been issued, and though the organisation was given the opportunity to present its positions in front of an appeals committee, the organisation's representatives refused to attend."

[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

[Ekk/3]

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