Ali Abunimah discusses the complicity of the EU, which donated pre-fabricated classrooms to Palestinian schoolchildren, but did not ensure that they would be used for the purpose of education, rather than as a way for the Israeli occupation forces to pillage Palestinian property for their own profit. Thanks to media outrage the sale of the classrooms is on hold
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
Israel’s occupation forces in the West Bank have confiscated prefab classrooms which were donated by the European Union to be used by Palestinian children. Now the Israeli forces are now trying to sell them to the highest bidder in an auction. The story dates back to October of last year, when the Israeli forces confiscated the EU-donated caravans, which were used as classrooms by schoolchildren in the village of Izbiq in the northern part of the occupied West Bank. The school’s headmaster, Feras Daraghmeh, explained why the classrooms are so important to the children and the parents living in this village.
SHARMINI PERIES The Israeli forces occupying the West Bank demanded that the EU stop the use of these classrooms in the area. When the EU refused to do so, the Israeli Civil Administration, which is the military government of the occupied territory, announced that the classrooms will be sold at an auction. This led to an uproar in the international media, and the civil administration had to halt the sale of the classroom for a month or so, hoping that the outrage will blow over.
We are now joined by Ali Abunimah, who wrote a very important article in Electronic Intifada that sparked all of this, which seemed to have convinced the civil administration that the plan to auction the classrooms would be an act of pillage of Palestinian property. On to talk about this with me is Ali Abunimah. He’s the co-founder of the award winning online publication The Electronic Intifada. Ali Abunimah is also the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to the End of the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. And he’s also the author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine. Ali, good to have you here.
ALI ABUNIMAH Good to be with you.
SHARMINI PERIES Ali, you were very effective and convincing in your article in Electronic Intifada. You not only criticized the Israeli forces who are occupying the West Bank, and this village in particular, but you also criticized the European Union for their limited action on this matter. Why?
ALI ABUNIMAH I wish I could take credit for having that much influence, but I really don’t think I did. There was an uproar with a number of, you know, media and people on social media just pointing to the sheer brazenness of the Israeli action here, where these classrooms had been donated to this village by the European Union, as the EU has donated classrooms across the occupied West Bank.
Now, all of these schools, and it’s dozens of schools across the West Bank that are under threat of Israeli dismantlement or demolition, they are all in Area C of the West Bank. What is Area C? That’s 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, so designated under the Oslo Accords of the early ’90s, where Israel maintains full military control. It’s only in a fraction of the West Bank, less than 30 percent, where the Palestinian Authority has full or partial control. Most people don’t know that they think the Palestinian Authority has this great, you know, is basically the government of the West Bank. Israel is the government. And most of the territory is under Israeli control. And Area C is where Israel is rapidly expanding its illegal settlements, and it prohibits Palestinians in Area C from building on their own land, from farming on their own land, from starting businesses, for the purpose of basically forcing them off the land, because this is land Israel wants to annex.
The EU says it supports a two state solution, and says that Area C is going to form the bulk of a Palestinian state. So the EU has an interest in supporting Palestinian communities in Area C to stay on their land. One method is to help build schools like this for the children. This was a school that served roughly 50 children in a remote area in the West Bank. The problem, however, is that when Israel demolishes a school like this, as it’s demolished schools across the West Bank, what does the EU do? Back in October, when Israel first dismantled this particular school, the EU issued a statement, as it usually does, you know, wringing its hands, saying, oh, this is terrible, and Israel should return this property, and put the school back where it was. The problem is that the EU does absolutely nothing to hold Israel accountable. And on the contrary, the EU continues to reward Israel with massive amounts of EU taxpayer money, including funding for Israeli military firms.
And on the very day that Israel was, you know, the EU was complaining about Israel auctioning off the classrooms, a high level Israeli Defense Ministry delegation was being welcomed by EU bureaucrats in Brussels. So there really is–the important thing here is the two-faced nature of the EU. The European Union pretends to support Palestinians in Area C, pretends to support Palestinian rights to some extent, but when Israel acts in such a brazen way it does absolutely nothing except encourage more Israeli crime. That’s really what we need to take from this.
SHARMINI PERIES All right. Now, there was international media attention on this issue. And while, Ali, you don’t want to take credit for it, it has exposed a really critically important issue here in terms of what’s going on in Section C. Tell us more. Why doesn’t the European Union want to take a more concrete position on this and condemn the Israeli government for what they’re doing, given that they are the donors of these classrooms?
ALI ABUNIMAH Right. And I think as of 2016, based on some research we reported on, the Israelis had destroyed something like $74 million worth of EU-funded projects. This involves, you know, schools, infrastructure, all sorts of projects across the occupied West Bank. And the EU has done absolutely nothing to hold Israel accountable. They don’t even subtract the value of the destroyed EU projects from the aid which the EU gives Israel. And we should be asking why the EU is even giving Israel aid. We often think it’s the U.S. that is the biggest donor to Israel, and it is. But the EU is giving huge amounts of money to Israel.
Just in the last few years the EU has given more than $800 million in so-called research funding to Israeli firms, Israeli universities, many of them involved in the war industry. So the EU is a major donor to Israel’s crimes, and gives a pittance to the Palestinians. And then when Israel takes that away, snatches it away or destroys it, the EU does nothing.
The question you asked is why. And that’s a very good question. I think that, you know, this is a big question. But briefly, EU policy reflects the overall Western right-wing drift of all Western governments. These governments are closely aligned with the United States, with the Trump administration. Just as the Democrats put up fake resistance to Trump domestically, the European Union puts up fake resistance to Trump on the international stage. But on every substantive issue, with a few exceptions, perhaps the Iran nuclear deal is the major one, but on every other substantive issue, the EU and Israel are closely aligned. This is true on the Trump effort to overthrow the government in Venezuela. It’s true on the war in Yemen, where several EU countries are fully involved in the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen. It’s true in Ukraine, where both the EU and the United States support right wing and fascist forces. So where is the EU contrast with Trump on the international stage? We don’t see it.
So therefore it’s no surprise to see the EU effectively aligned with Trump’s support for Israel. And within the EU there are a lot of divisions. Some EU countries are very slightly more critical of Israel, but others, particularly some of the Eastern countries like Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, the right-wing neofascist government of Hungary, are very, very pro-Israel. You know, the anti-Semitic government of Hungary is closely aligned with Netanyahu. And so in order to maintain a semblance of a unified foreign policy and a consensus, the EU has to descend to the lowest common denominator. And that is, of course, effectively unconditional support for Israel and minimal lip service to Palestinian rights.
SHARMINI PERIES All right, Ali. We’ll leave it there for now, but we’ll be looking forward to having you back sometime this week again, because I know you broke another story on Friday that we would like to discuss. But we’ll leave it hanging there as a cliffhanger. Good to have you here.
ALI ABUNIMAH Thank you.
SHARMINI PERIES And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.