Israel set to destroy Spanish-financed solar energy plant in Hebron district 23Oct11 October 23, 2011

Alternative Information Centre  -  22 October 2011

Israel is planning to demolish a local solar energy plant in the Hebron district town of Mneizel. The plant provides the sole electricity to this town, surrounded by Israeli settlements, and was financed by the Spanish government for some EUR 300,000. If Israel carries out its demolition orders, will the Spanish government demand compensation?

The small Palestinian town of Mneizel, some 70 kilometers south of Hebron, enjoyed 2.5 years of late talks, studying and meals at night, television movies and cartoons, the wonders of conserving food in the fridge and the numerous employment possibilities opened to them by electricity. They could have enjoyed all of this before but they live in Area C, fully controlled by Israel in accordance with the Oslo Agreements, and the Israeli authorities denied them this essential service. Now the Israel authorities returned to this small, poor and forgotten town, surrounded by settlements, to deny them this basic right yet again. On 11 October, Israeli officials from the so-called civil administration of the military occupation issued demolitions orders for the local solar energy plant, a small building where batteries are stored, and three neighboring houses of local residents.

 “If they demolish the plant and the batteries’ building, the town will lose all connection to electricity. This means no electricity for the houses, but also closing down the clinic, the school and some of the small businesses that opened in the last years”, explained to the AIC Ignacio, a Spanish activist that works with the project. The entire solar energy plant was built on private Palestinian land and its construction, including the batteries and installation in each house, was financed by the Spanish government for nearly EUR 300,000.

 According to the Israeli orders, the demolition was supposed to have occurred on Tuesday (18 October), but a lawyer from Rabbis for Human Rights presented a complaint in the Israeli courts and received an injunction to delay it. The Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem and the Spanish company that is administrating the project, Sistemas Energéticos Båsicos (SEBAS), are immersed in endless political meetings since issuance of the orders to try and freeze or even reverse the demolition orders.

 For the 300 Palestinians who live in the small town of Mneizel, the following days will determine their way of life, their possibilities of having a slightly easier life.  As Ignacio highlights, the town is part of one of the most vulnerable and impoverished Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Just as an example, the residents of Mneizel consume 21 liters of water daily, a miniscule figure compared with the 130 liters consumed each and every day per settler in the same area.

 “International humanitarian law clearly states that the occupation forces have to guarantee access to basic services for all the civilian population under occupation”, Ignacio notes. Yet as experience has demonstrated that the Israeli authorities have no interest or will to comply with international law, the Spanish Cooperation, through the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem, decided to start energy projects in Areas B and C, according to the Oslo denominations. “If we only build in Areas A (under complete control of the Palestinian Authority), we would be supporting ethnic cleansing”, Ignacio added.

 Currently SEBAS has another energy project in Atuf, near the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank. It’s in Area B and will be the first town to generate, if it is successful, its own energy. The Spanish company also has two additional projects in Area C, but they are currently in the planning phase.

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