EU accused of "colonialism" over illegal Arab settlement drive
EU accused of "colonialism" over illegal Arab settlement driveIssam Rimawi/Flash 90

A leading Israeli NGO has slammed the European Union over its alleged role in financing illegal Arab settlements in Judea and Samaria, saying its direct attempts to "subvert" Israeli internal affairs amounted to a form of "colonialism."

The remarks, made by the grassroots Im Tirzu organization, came in response to an article in the UK's Daily Mail, which cited figures showing how the EU has channeled European taxpayers' money into building some 400 homes and other buildings illegally in Area C of Judea and Samaria.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords - signed not only by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but by the EU itself among other parties - while the PA maintains full or partial control over Areas A and B of Judea-Samaria ("West Bank"), Israel maintains exclusive military and civilian authority over affairs in Area C, including planning and construction.

As such, the revelations - first exposed by the Regavim NGO and initially reported several months ago by Arutz Sheva - would amount to a flagrant breach of international law by the EU.

"It's not enough that the European Union finances Israeli BDS organizations who work to erase Israel's Jewish and democratic identity from within, but now the EU is openly fighting against (Israeli) communities by financing illegal building for Bedouins," Im Tirzu's CEO Matan Peleg said in a statement to Arutz Sheva.

"The European Union's subversion of the internal affairs of the State of Israel is anti-democratic and colonialist in nature," he charged, adding that such policies "also seriously harm the just and legitimate integration of the Bedouin sector into Israeli society" by encouraging law-breaking.

Jewish and pro-Israel groups within Europe have also been reacting to the report, with the UK's Zionist Federation accusing the EU of hypocrisy and double-standards

"There has always been a distinct sense of ‘'all settlements are equal, but some are more equal than others' about Europe’s attitude to Jewish communities in the West Bank," said ZF Chairman Paul Charney. 

"While the European Union has happily opened its coffers for the settlements in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, every new Israeli construction - even if it’s directly next to the Green Line - seems to have an EU-sanctioned Sword of Damocles hanging over it," he added, calling for a review of the EU's role in the conflict.

"This new, shocking revelation about European funding for illegal Palestinian settlements must be the catalyst for reviewing the unhelpful and unfair approach to a complex and sensitive issue.

"Instead of concerning itself with facts on the ground, the EU should be learning about facts from the ground - such as the widespread Palestinian culture of incitement and rejectionism.

"If the EU wants to fund construction, let it concentrate on building bridges between the Jewish and Arab communities, since coexistence is the only viable blueprint for peace."

After repeated requests for comment, the EU's embassy in Israel refused to directly confirm or deny the allegations, saying only that "the EU provides humanitarian assistance to communities in need in Area C in accordance with the humanitarian imperative."

However the statement did add that "the EU is also committed to supporting the development of Area C for the benefit of Palestinian communities," while insisting that "the EU consults with the local communities themselves and the Israeli authorities where necessary."

The Regavim report illustrated how since 2009 European funds have been shifted away from passive diplomatic and financial aide to the PA, towards full, active cooperation with the PA's efforts to create facts on the ground via unilateral illegal construction.

One of the major goals in these EU efforts is to advance illegal Arab building precisely in Area C which is under full Israeli control, and therefore to slowly cede the areas and create a continuity between Arab-held land between Har Hevron in southern Judea, through Yericho (Jericho) and up into Samaria, it said.

The report features a detailed mapping of hundreds of illegal Arab structures built by the EU in the corridor from Jerusalem out past Ma'ale Adumim to its east, known as E1 - precisely where the EU and other international bodies have threatened Israel with sanctions if it builds. 

"Between the lines rises in full force the European hypocrisy, which accuses Israel of taking unilateral steps, even as it is sunk up to its neck in illegal and unilateral activities for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority," Regavim stated, calling for the Israeli government to confront the issue head-on.

The EU's activities, it stated, "are not legitimate. There is no avoiding a drastic change in terms of the Israeli government's treatment of the issue."

That change would come "firstly, by understanding and internalizing that the European Union is a problematic player that causes great damage to Israeli interests in Judea and Samaria," Regavim said. "Secondly, the supervision and checks on the Union's activities and organizations funded by it must be tightened."

The group also recommended that Israel "take a series of steps - political, legal and publicity based."

"The Israeli actions must be comprised of a combination of political actions through the accepted diplomatic channels, legal actions, intensive enforcement, and widening the publicity to create international legitimacy to end the illegitimate actions by the European Union," concluded Regavim.