In a rare condemnation from the European Union, the regional body expressed its disapproval of Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank.
At a meeting last week with the Israeli foreign ministry’s newly appointed director general, Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen had stern words for the apartheid state, saying it was failing in its international legal obligations and needed to change policy.
“The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets (including EU-funded) and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law,” Faaborg-Andersen said, with envoys from all EU member states present, as reported by Reuters.
“We therefore call on Israel, as the occupying power, to meet its obligations vis-à-vis the Palestinian population … completely stop these demolitions and confiscations and allow full access of humanitarian assistance.”
The EU took notice of the issue when Israel issued demolition orders last month against 42 homes in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem. EU member states Belgium and Italy have funded a school and helped build structures there.
Israel insists the deliberate destruction of Palestinian homes is necessary because the building was constructed out without a permit in an area of the West Bank known as Area C, where Israel retains full colonial control. Some 60 percent of the West Bank is part of Area C.
The EU has countered that by saying Israel rarely issues permits in Area C. The body expressed concern that by blocking Palestinian development there, it is actively undermining the viability of any future Palestinian state.
While between 450 and 560 Palestinian structures were demolished each year from 2012 to 2015 in the area, the number jumped to 876 in 2016, and in January this year alone there were 121 demolitions, according to numbers from the United Nations.
Delegations from EU embassies have been visiting the site regularly to highlight their concern for the region.
“We’re not giving up,” said one EU diplomat to Reuters, while acknowledging that the process will be difficult. “We have to be realistic.”
US: Immigrant Workers, Workers of Color Plan Historic Strike on May 1
Various immigrants’ rights groups and labor unions have allied to organize the largest U.S. May 1 demonstration in the past 10 years, the groups announced in a press conference on Monday in Washington, D.C.
The announcement came in the context of anti-immigrant stances and policies by U.S. President Donald Trump, which has triggered a movement of solidarity for immigrant workers and workers of color across the country.
“After years of broken promises, raids, driving in fear of being pulled over, not being able to bury our loved ones, Trump is just the final straw,” Movimiento Cosecha’s Maria Cabello said. “As we saw during the spontaneous strikes on February 16, our people are ready.”
The coalition, which includes Cosecha, Fight for $15, the Food Chain Workers Alliance and the SEIU United Service Workers West, plans to repeat February’s successfully held across the United States under the name “A Day Without Immigrants.”
“It’s very important that we can show that the undocumented community can turn fear into power,” former Bernie Sanders press official Erika Andiola added. “We hope that our communities can come out and say, ‘Yes, we’re here, yes we are going to show our power and yes we can change this community.'”
More than 400,000 workers have already committed to the annual celebrations of Labor Day on May 1, activists from immigration group Movimiento Cosecha told online publication Mic.
Tens of thousands of workers from the SEIU United Service Workers West have also announced their participation in the state of California.
US Pulls Funding for UN Population Fund
The U.S. State Department announced that it is discontinuing its funding for the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA is an organization that focuses on family planning and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries worldwide. This marks U.S. President Donald Trump’s first step in reducing funding for United Nation organizations. This move has raised some concerns since the U.S. is the major contributor to the UN.
The State Department revealed that it withheld $32.5 in funding because the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” In January, Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which withholds U.S. funding for international organizations that perform abortions or provide information about abortion. One of Trump’s recent executive orders, which references all global health assistance, withheld at least half a billion dollars in U.S. funding. Trump’s proposed 28 percent budget reduction for diplomatic and foreign aid, specifically, included reduced financial support for the United Nations and its agencies.
UNFPA stated that it regrets the U.S. government’s decision to end funding, which it said is based on an “erroneous claim” that the agency supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China. The agency added that its mission is “to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.” The statement from UNFPA also declared, “The support we received over the years from the government and people of the United States has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises.”
The State Department said the funds will instead be transferred to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities.
UN officials have warned that abrupt funding cuts could trigger more global instability and argued that dollars for diplomacy are more effective than military spending in combating terrorism. President George W. Bush had also defunded the UNFPA, from 2002 to 2008, arguing that its presence in China constituted participation in the country’s “one-child” family planning policy. At that time, the U.S. government had pulled $34m of funds.