image Photo: Flash90

Europe bickers with Israel

The row is over the IDF razing of an illegally built structure used as a Palestinian school.

By Erin Viner

Security forces evacuated a school building that had been constructed illegally and without the approval of the accredited authorities. Because the building was found to be dangerous to the safety of anyone studying or otherwise visiting there, the court had ordered it demolished,” said a statement TV7 obtained from the Spokesperson’s Unit of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a branch of the Israeli military.

The statement emphasized that, “Moreover, an engineering evaluation found the building dangerous, unfit for habitation or use, and liable to collapse at any time on account of any change in climate.”

As part of the enforcement processes against illegal building, an order for stoppage of work had been issued on 19 April 2017 to the building’s owner. Subsequently – and after the owner’s claims were heard by the authorized committee – a final order was issued for the demolition.

It should be noted that the property holder never appealed the court ruling for the razing of the structure.

In defiance of the court decision and the orders, the building not only continued to serve as a school but was even expanded.

“The holder of the building was approached a number of times, including attempts to enter dialogue and warnings before the enforcement operation,” added COGAT.

An Israeli official source stressed to Reuters that the dispute over the building’s safety had gone on for six years, and that a nearby school would be able to absorb any displaced students.

The European Union Delegation to the Palestinians immediately denounced the demolition, which it deemed to be “illegal under international law” and would “only increase the suffering of the Palestinian population and further escalate an already tense environment.”

A German Foreign Ministry Spokesperson announced that it will hold talks with Jerusalem authorities over the matter, saying that it undermines the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education branded the demolition a “heinous crime” that it said would cause “the school’s students to be deprived of receiving their education in a free, safe and stable manner, similar to children in the rest of the world.”

Palestinians and their supporters complain that it is nearly impossible to obtain building permits in the West Bank.

The head of organizations representing both a nearby bloc of Jewish communities in the Judean Mountains directly south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and an umbrella organization of settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, however, welcomed the demolition.

“This is definitely another step in the persistent struggle for our State lands, Chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional and the Yesha Councils, Shlomo Ne’eman, said in a statement, adding, “there is still a lot of work to be done.”