The European Commission has threatened a lawsuit and is demanding compensation after Israel on Aug. 17 demolished an illegally built school in Ein Samiya near Ramallah.
It’s the third school that Israel has knocked down in the last 12 months, according to UNICEF.
“Appalled by the demolition of the EU-funded school in Ein Samiya in the Occupied West Bank [sic]. Call on Israel to respect Palestinian children’s right to education and to compensate EU for the funding lost,” the European Union Delegation to the Palestinians tweeted on August 18.
However, according to Naomi Kahn, director of the International Division at Israeli NGO Regavim, the school was built on state land in Area C of Judea and Samaria, which entirely falls under Israeli jurisdiction, and without permits.
She expressed surprise at the European Commission’s threats, stating that it knew about the lack of permits.
While constituent EU governments have threatened to sue in the past over Israel’s demolition of illegal structures, “To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that the European Commission itself, per se, has made a statement like that,” she said.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the office of UN Secretary General António Guterres, joined the EU in expressing opposition to the demolition.
“The school served pupils from the few Palestinian families remaining in the herding community of Ein Samiya following the displacement of most of the community amid settler violence and diminishing grazing land,” said Dujarric on August 17.
“We and our partners are currently assessing the urgent needs of 60 communities facing similar challenges,” he added.
Palestinian land grab
According to Kahn, the schools are not about educating children, but are rather part of a wider Palestinian Authority plan to encroach on Israeli territory.
Under the 2009 Fayyad plan, schools are a key element in the PA’s plan to create unilateral facts on the ground, said Kahn. “We tracked and mapped out 100 such schools. The PA claims there are 470. It calls them ‘resistance schools.’ They’re placed in strategic spots in Area C,” she explained.
The PA views these schools as a “win-win” as they pose a unique challenge for Israel, she continued. If Israel chooses to leave them standing for fear of adverse international reaction, then the PA has successfully laid claim to another piece of Israeli territory. If Israel chooses to knock them down, it faces international condemnation, as in this case.
In Kahn’s view, the only viable option is to demolish the schools, as if they are left standing the PA builds villages around them. “There are schools that are built at archaeological sites, inside firing zones, even on property belonging to Jewish communities,” she said.
In May, Israel’s Civil Administration demolished a PA school built illegally in Herodion National Park, an ancient Jewish fortress and town located about 7.5 miles south of Jerusalem.
Regavim had been fighting for more than five years to see that a demolition order against the school was enforced.
“That case was even more outrageous because the school was physically dangerous to everyone who was in it,” she said.
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