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News > World

Israel Seizes Dutch-Donated Solar Panels in Palestinian Village

  • The village of Jubbet al-Dhib before and after the confiscation of its solar panel mounts.

    The village of Jubbet al-Dhib before and after the confiscation of its solar panel mounts. | Photo: Comet-ME

Published 3 July 2017

Occupation authorities claimed the village had enough electricity in the form of a few dirty generators that powered the village for three hours a day.

Israeli forces seized nearly a hundred solar panels from a remote village in the occupied West Bank donated by the Dutch government, touching off outrage by the people of Palestine and the government of the Netherlands.

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In total, 96 panels were seized from the isolated southern Bethlehem village of Jubbet al- Dhib, with a population of 160, last Wednesday.

Israeli-Palestinian sustainable rural electrification group Comet-ME, which installed the panels claimed that officials destroyed and vandalized the equipment they didn't confiscate, hoping to prevent the future use of the system, while 30 families as well as public buildings in the village lost immediate power, resulting in grave material and social damage.

According to residents, the Israelis failed to present cease work and demolition orders prior to the raid, only giving the orders to cease construction during the raid itself.

The equipment was donated by the Dutch government as part of an approximately US$570,000 humanitarian project meant to provide electricity to the West Bank, with about US$400,000 going to the Jubbet al-Dhib village.

The village was founded in 1929 and has requested access to Israeli infrastructure and electricity since 1988, which has been denied by the occupying force. It also lies near the illegal Israeli settlements Noqedim and El David, as well as near various other outposts considered illegal even by Israeli law. Despite the illicit nature of the outposts, they still remain connected to the Israeli power grid and other infrastructure, according to Haaretz.

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While Comet-ME legal advisers speaking to Haaretz have blasted the confiscation as "an explicit violation of international law, which forbids occupying powers to damage humanitarian installations without providing alternatives," authorities claimed that the village had more than enough electricity and hardly required the “illegal electrical room.”

"We emphasize that the village has other electricity sources," authorities told Ma'an.

What Jubbet al- Dhib had before the solar panels were some loud and polluting generators capable of providing power for only three hours per day donated by humanitarian organizations years ago.

Members of the city's women's committee had teamed up with Comet-ME to implement the new solar project using environmentally and socially sustainable methods, which they had hoped would breathe some life back into the village, which was reliant on agriculture and animal husbandry but has since become dependent on the wages of villagers employed within the borders of the Israeli state. The women in the committee had intended to draw people back to the village who had left due to the lack of electricity and permits for construction, and hoped to use the electricity to benefit the educational needs of the village.

“In order to contribute to reducing the suffering of the people of the village, help them to stay in their lands by protecting it from the ambitions of the Israeli occupation to confiscate it, the idea of using solar technology to light up the village streets, as well as lighting the village gathering center (the mosque) was considered,” Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism wrote in a village profile in 2010 cited by Ma'an.

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The government of the Netherlands has lodged a formal protest with Israel regarding the seizure, with the Dutch Foreign Ministry office in Ramallah requesting the return of the equipment while "currently assessing what next steps can be taken," according to a ministry statement forwarded to Haaretz. While the Dutch government and Israelis enjoy a close relationship, the paper cited a source close to the diplomats who claimed that there is “anger brewing in the government of the Netherlands."

According to military officials quoted in an article released last week by the Jerusalem Post, Israeli authorities have demolished over 300 structures built in the West Bank with the support of international organizations or the European Union out of a total of 875 demolitions of Palestinian structures. In 2016, authorities passed a law allowing them to raze any structures built within 60 days of construction without legal proceedings if they were built without Israeli permits.

Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset Aida Touma-Suleiman accused the occupation authorities of seeking to annex the region by creating facts on the ground “either through withholding permits or demolishing homes,” according to the post. She also noted that the Israeli destruction of EU temporary housing projects provided to displaced Palestinians shows that Israel simply “wants to expel as many Palestinians from their land as it can.”

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