Destroying Palestinian Solar Plant

By Stuart Reigeluth

With international attention focusing on the Palestinian UN bid, the prisoner swap and the absurd US response to UNESCO accepting Palestine, a much smaller event but no less revealing has been largely overlooked: Israel wants to destroy a Spanish-sponsored solar power plant in the West Bank.

The solar plant is not particularly big — as far as solar plants go. This is nothing compared to China’s massive solar farms, but it does provide electricity for 40 Palestinian families, a school and a medical centre in a town called Emnaizel, south of Hebron in the West Bank.

The Spanish Agency for Cooperation and Development helped cover the costs of around ¤300,000 and the Spanish association, Seba (Servicios Energeticos Basicos Autonomos), helped with the installation in 2009. Israel claims the trouble has to do with the location.

The solar panels in Emnaizel are located in Area C of the West Bank, which is off limits to Palestinian construction and under complete Israeli military control. Essentially no building permits are granted by Israel there and no connections are allowed with the rest of the West Bank. The repercussions here are significant for the inhabitants of Emnaizel — they will simply no longer have access to electricity since they cannot connect with the Palestinian grid, being in Area C. But the implications reveal a more endemic strategy used by Israel. Why would Israel want to destroy a peaceful little solar plant?

Areas A, B and C are geographic denominations that emanate from the 1993 Oslo Accords. They were meant to be ‘interim’ steps that would pass over gradual authority and eventual sovereignty to the Palestinians in the West Bank. The problem is Israel has not let go.

Area A includes the main cities of the West Bank under full Palestinian authority — even though Israel would often make random incursions for security reasons. Area B is the land around the cities where security is ‘shared’ with Israel. Area C is the rest, indeed a majority of the West Bank.

Area C is where Jewish colonial growth occurs most predominantly. As part of this modern anomaly — for decolonisation in the rest of the world took place in the post-Second World War decades — this neo-colonial project intends to allow potential only for Jewish homes. As elsewhere in the West Bank, the strategy in the southern hills of Hebron therefore is to deny the local Palestinian population the opportunity to grow or in this case basic access to renewable energy, so that they go to the urban centres, and leave the lands open for Jewish colonists to cultivate.

In the best of all possible worlds, cultivating lands is a rather positive endeavour. Tilling the soil, sowing seeds, harvesting — all these activities common to agriculture — are potential sources of great cooperation between peoples, but also a source of conflict.

The destruction of Palestinian orchards — uprooting, burning or chopping down row after row of olive trees — is a malicious act of initiation almost carried out primarily by young Jewish colonists. Vandalism is quite common; what is uglier is the intention to destroy another person’s livelihood.

What is uglier still is when such intentions have been institutionalised to such a degree that they become banal and boring to most who do not understand what they represent in today’s world. It is embarrassing and shameful that Richard Goldstone saw it in Gaza but refuses to recognise the beast.

Goldstone claims there is no apartheid in Israel using circuitous arguments that Jews and Arabs do actually live together within Israel proper in relative peaceful relations — granted Arabs are treated as secondary, tertiary class citizens, but they can sit on the same bus as a Jew. In gross contradiction to his argument, Goldstone quotes the 1998 Rome statue on the definition of apartheid as existing when "committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."

There should be no mistaking Israel’s intentions — anyone who has visited the occupied Palestinian territories can attest to this — Jewish neo-colonisation of Palestinian land is a remorseless and nasty beast that serves to conquer more territory for Israel. Spain needs to rally other European countries to stand together and denounce the illegal expropriation of Palestinian land and destruction of their projects. This solar power plant is a small but emblematic example of Israel’s recurring impunity regarding international law. Wasted European tax-payer euros are one thing, but worse is the systematic destruction of Palestinian projects and the institutionalised Israeli lie that this destruction is legal. As an Israeli spokesperson, Lior Hayat, said about the solar plant: "Israeli security forces only act within the law."

All the laughable terrifying lies …

– Stuart Reigeluth is managing editor of Revolve magazine and works at the Council for European Palestinian Relations. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published in Gulf News – http://gulfnews.com)

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