Last year, the government of the Netherlands donated about €500,000 to bring reliable electricity from solar panels to the southern Bethlehem region. Under ordinary circumstances, the Palestinian villages in the area are not connected to a reliable electrical grid and struggle to make do with about 3 hours a day of electricity supplies by diesel generators donated by various aid organizations after Israel dismantled a solar microgrid in 2009.
Comet-ME Promotes Solar Panels In Middle East
€350,000 of that money went to provide a combination diesel generator and microgrid composed of solar panels for Jubbet ad-Dib, a small community of 150 people. It is located east of Bethlehem in Area C, which is composed of the 61% of the West Bank under the exclusive control of the Israeli military.
According to the Ma’an News Agency, 60 solar panels were seized. However, Haaretz, a highly regarded Israeli daily newspaper, put the number of panels confiscated at 96. The Jubbet ad-Dib microgrid was constructed under the auspices of Comet-ME (Community, Energy, and Technology — Middle East), an Israeli-Palestinian partnership that builds water and energy systems for Palestinians. Comet-ME implemented the project with the assistance of the town’s women’s committee using environmentally and socially sustainable methods.
Solar Energy & Empowerment Of Women
Empowering women while bringing solar power to underserved regions of the Middle East is the objective of several NGOs working in the area. In southern Lebanon, a group of female entrepreneurs worked with Greenpeace to install a solar microgrid in their town. The electricity it provides allows the women to operate a cooperative that makes rosewater, apple vinegar, orange sauce, apricot jam, crackers, and tomato paste without artificial preservatives.
The women were assisted by volunteers from Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. Daad Ismail, President of the women’s cooperative, says, “Electricity shortages have hurt our productivity, our working hours, and our personal lives. We know that solar energy will not only help us to cut bills, generate more income, and improve our lives, it will also broaden our horizons with new opportunities.”
Israeli Settlements Nearby Have Grid Access
Near Jubbet ad-Dib are several Israeli settlements classified as illegal under Israeli and international law that all enjoy full access to a stable electrical grid plus other amenities such as internet access. Those settlements include Noqedim, home to Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, the El David settlement, and a number of Israeli outposts, according to Haaretz.
Dutch Government Is Furious
The government of the Netherlands is incensed at the high-handed way Israel has acted in this regard. It has asked for the return of the confiscated solar panels and filed a stern protest with the Israeli government. The panels are claimed to be worth about €40,000, but the government forces also destroyed all the electronics that made the microgrid operable. The removal of the panels and destruction of the electronics were justified by authorities on the ground that the system did not have the required permit.
That is undoubtedly true, since Israeli authorities have refused to grant any such permits for Palestinians since 2009. The Dutch are reported to be considering their next move. Israel and the Netherlands have enjoyed a close relationship until this incident, but that may be about to change. The damage is far greater that the cost of the solar panels, says Haaretz, “as their seizure immediately resulted in the loss of power for the 30 families in the village and its public buildings.”
Gobbledy Gook From Israeli Authorities
Taking a page from the Donald Trump double-speak playbook, COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for enforcing Israeli policies in the occupied territory, told Ma’an News Agency that a stop work order had been issued. But Haaretz reports that order was delivered during the raid itself, not prior to it “as is required by planning and construction laws.” Going on: “Had orders been given in advance, the village and its representatives could have taken administrative or legal action.” COGAT responded: “We emphasize that the village has other electricity sources,” meaning it can continue to operate on electricity supplied 3 hours a day by diesel generators.
The Arab World Sees It Differently
Not surprisingly, the Arab Reporters For Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) see things in a completely different light. “In order to contribute in 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,” ARIJ wrote in a village profile in 2010.
“The Israeli civil administration’s decision not to grant a license to implement the project of solar energy technology in Jubbet ad-Dib village means depriving the Palestinian residents of their most simple human rights of access to the most basic rights such as: education, health, the right to work, and the sense of humanity,” the Haaretz report concluded
ARIJ argues that the Israeli restrictions represented a violation of international human rights law and “confirms the continuation of Israeli policy towards Palestinians to increase their suffering by causing people to leave their homes, and controls Palestinian lands in order to expand Israeli settlements. This policy does not only include Jubbet ad-Dib village, but almost ten Palestinian villages, which suffer from the lack of services and development projects.”
The Jerusalem Post quotes an Israeli military source as saying more than 300 structures erected with support of international organizations or with the financial help of the European Union were demolished by Israeli authorities in 2016, the highest number since various human rights groups began collecting data on such incidents.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been going on for more than 70 years. In many of its official actions, the government of Israel has acted in a way that differs only in degree, not in concept, from the treatment of Jews by the Nazi regime. One would think a nation founded after the horrors of the Holocaust would be particularly sensitive to how it treats others. But history shows the urge to oppress, dehumanize, and subjugate those with less political power is a human characteristic that spans societies and cultures.
This mean-spirited example may be small, but it indicates Israel has learned nothing from history other than how to oppress other people in the same manner as its people were oppressed. How it could possibly object to solar power replacing electricity made from burning diesel fuel is incomprehensible and the sort of thing one might expect from a petty tyrant rather than a nation that claims to have an advanced and evolved citizenry.
The world cannot expect to make progress on curbing carbon emissions when such petty squabbling is the norm for human relations.
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