The issue of confiscation or demolition of donor-funded structures, included those funded by the EU, is of great concern to me. The demolition of Palestinian homes, and demolition or seizure of related structures such as water tanks, wells, solar panels, schools and animal housing, are cruel and unjust actions. The only possible conclusion we can draw from the systematic nature of these policies, especially in areas where illegal Israeli settlements have already been constructed, is that they are aimed at forcing Palestinians off their land.
Ireland joined the European Commission-led West Bank Protection Consortium in 2017 at my instigation, during my first visit to Israel and Palestine as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Consortium plays a leading role in supporting threatened communities and coordinating the provision of essential services to them, including material assistance and legal aid. Ireland’s membership of the Consortium underlines our commitment to reducing the vulnerability of Palestinian communities living in Area C of the West Bank.
My primary concern is the hardship and injustice that demolitions and confiscations cause for Palestinian families. But it is right that the question of recompense for humanitarian relief funded by our taxpayers should also be pursued. Ireland is part of a group of EU Member States which pursue this issue consistently through the West Bank Protection Consortium. It is the practice of the Consortium to raise this directly with the Israeli authorities and to date, the donors to the Consortium have sought compensation in the amount of over €121,000 in respect of confiscated or demolished assets.
In October 2018, seven donor-funded humanitarian structures were confiscated by the Israeli authorities from two vulnerable Palestinian communities located in Area C of the occupied West Bank. The structures were co-funded by the EU and the West Bank Protection Consortium, and were provided in order to address the basic needs of the population and to support children’s right to education in a safe environment as part of a humanitarian response mechanism.
There were worrying reports that the confiscated humanitarian assets were to be auctioned by the Israeli Civil Administration earlier this month, but I understand that the auction has since been postponed. Irish diplomats based in Ramallah and in Tel Aviv are following this matter closely and are working with other members of the Consortium to determine how best to pursue this issue.
The practice of demolition and confiscation of humanitarian assets, including education infrastructure, is contrary to Israel’s obligations under International Law, including provisions of international humanitarian law, and in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. These practices also cause suffering to ordinary Palestinians, and impinge on the right of children to an education.
Ireland regularly conveys our views on these actions to the Israeli authorities, both directly and through the EU. I have done so myself on my visits to the region.