NGOs, UN agencies, and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have intensified their campaign on the subject of home demolitions by Israeli security forces. Contrary to their distorted narrative of “impunity,” these demolitions are undertaken after strict legal review and with judicial supervision. And many of these “homes” are actually small outbuildings, animal enclosures, and illegal shacks.
On May 17, 2016, MEPs held a debate on “West Bank demolitions and displacement,” in which various accusations were leveled against Israel, including that “since January, more than 500 Palestinian homes and other structures have been bulldozed by Israeli authorities”; “thousands of Palestinians, including thousands of children are deprived of their homes,” and that “Israel destroyed hundreds of homes, schools and clinics, leaving thousands of Palestinians homeless.”
The source for these claims appears to be a dubious document published by UN Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory (OCHA-oPt). The March-April 2016 “Humanitarian Monitor” claims that Israel has destroyed schools, agricultural buildings, and more, and that since the beginning of 2016 “the Israeli authorities have demolished or confiscated nearly 600 Palestinian structures and displaced over 800 people.”
NGO Monitor research has documented the degree to which OCHA depends on and coordinates closely with highly politicized NGOs that lack credibility, including a number that are very active in promoting BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) and “lawfare” campaigns against Israel. Some also engage in blatantly antisemitic activities. OCHA regularly parrots the false and distorted claims of these groups, thereby seeking to give credence and credibility to highly misleading accusations, which are in turn quoted by MEPs as well as other EU officials.
An additional event in parliament, entitled “Demolishing Palestine,” is scheduled to take place on May 25, and will feature four NGO officials including a representative of the radical NGO Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD explicitly advocates for the end of the state of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, stating that “the only option for resolving the conflict [is] a one-state solution.”)
An official from EWASH, an umbrella group comprised of UN agencies and political NGOs, is also speaking. This group plays a major role in promoting a distorted narrative on water rights and availability, ignoring the negotiated agreements (i.e. Oslo Accords) that determine the water arrangements, internal Palestinian dynamics, and other complexities – in order to falsely accuse Israel of violating international law on water rights.
An additional important actor in the “house demolition” campaign is the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) which has funded hundreds of cases via NGOs in Israeli courts specifically dealing with house demolitions. NRC financed at least 677 cases that received “full legal representation at the relevant court/administrative body” in Israel. According to assessments of the project, NRC is responsible for 51% of all house demolition cases in Area C of the West Bank and 35% of all legal cases dealing with housing, land, and property claims in East Jerusalem and Area C.
This “echo chamber,” in which NGOs feed UN bodies and parliaments with distorted and misleading information leading to condemnations of Israel, creates tension and friction between Europe and Israel, as well as between Israelis and Palestinians.