Elad Orian is clearly a man on mission. It’s just gone 8pm and he is busy telling me about his work with Comet-ME, which provides renewable energy to Palestinian villagers living in the south Hebron Hills. His mission, however, is to save 6 of these projects from demolition. “The Palestinians were hoping it wouldn’t come to this as the solar panels had been there for a while,” tells me Orian over the phone. “But in the same way, this isn’t exactly a big surprise. In Area C there are around 10,000 outstanding demolition orders…”
No Permits for Palestinians in Area C
The argument goes that that these solar projects were installed without permits in Area C of the West Bank which is under Israeli control. As such the Israeli authorities have every right to demolish these solar panels and wind turbines, even if they are the sole source of electricity for some villagers. So why didn’t Comet-ME and the German aid group Medico which helped fund these projects apply for permits?
“The reason that we didn’t apply for permits is that we know we wouldn’t have got them,” replies Orian. “We would be applying for places in Area C and Israel never grants permits there for Palestinians…” In fact, according to figures from the pressure group Peace Now, in total, just 91 permits were granted for Palestinian construction in Area C between 2001 and 2007. In the same period, more than 10,000 Israeli settlement units were built. And more than 1,500 Palestinian structures were demolished.
International Pressure to Stop Demolition
“Why they have decided to get demolition orders now I really don’t know,” continues Orian. “One of the solar panels was built quite near to an Israeli checkpoint with soldiers working there and so it’s not like they didn’t know that it was there. They did.” Orian also explains that as an occupying power, Israel has a duty under the Geneva Convention to provide basic facilities such as energy to Palestinians living in Area C and yet many of them don’t have access to electricity.
Comet-ME and the German government are currently working hard to put pressure on Israel to leave the solar panels in tact. “I do think there is still a chance that the solar panels won’t be demolished as there is lots of international pressure to stop this,” says Orian. “The German foreign office has been involved and also many others see the importance of protecting the Palestinian communities in Area C.”
Whilst the demolitions may deemed justifiable to some, Orian insists Israel has nothing to gain from demolishing these renewable energy projects which are providing a lifeline to isolated Palestinians.
:: You can help support the campaign to protect the solar projects here.
:: Image via Tomer Appelbaum.
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