Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
156. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the increase in demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures in the West Bank (details supplied); the response of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30754/20]
157. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to a school in Ras al-Tin near Ramallah (details supplied) that is at risk of imminent demolition; the steps his Department has taken to prevent the demolition of the school and other schools and structures in the West Bank; and the steps his Department has taken to secure compensation for demolished or seized aid. [30755/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.
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. This is of particular concern when those structures confiscated or demolished are donor-funded. 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, Consortium have sought compensation of over €625,000 in respect of confiscated or demolished assets.
Demolitions and seizures of Palestinian property and humanitarian aid, including Palestinian homes, continue, despite previous commitments from Israeli authorities not to target Palestinian residential structures during the Covid-19 pandemic. The monthly average for 2020 shows an acceleration in demolitions, the September situation report of the West Bank Protection Consortium notes an average of 31 demolitions per month, higher than the average of 28 in 2016 which was previously the high-water mark.
With regard to the specific case the Deputy mentions, Irish officials are aware of this and have been following it closely. Ireland’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv has raised this case with the Israeli authorities, along with a group of EU and non-EU colleagues. 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.
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.