Is Belgium misleading the international community?
Following PMW exposure of PA’s renaming of school built with Belgian money after a terrorist murderer, Belgium announced it would “put on hold any projects related to the construction or equipment of Palestinian schools.”
- However, a week later a representative of the Belgian Development Cooperation Institution participated in the inauguration of a new PA school.
- The Belgian Embassy has not responded to PMW’s repeated requests for clarification of the issue.
By Maurice Hirsch, Adv. and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
In September, Palestinian Media Watch exposed that a PA school built using money from the Belgium government was named after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who led the murder of 37 civilians. Shortly after PMW’s exposure, Didier Vanderhasselt, a spokesperson for the Belgian Foreign Ministry, responded that Belgium “unequivocally condemns the glorification of terrorist attacks,” and “will not allow itself to be associated with the names of terrorists in any way.” He added that “in the meantime Belgium will put on hold any projects related to the construction or equipment of Palestinian schools.” [The Algemeiner, Oct. 7, 2017]
Following the Belgian announcement, the official PA daily reported that Belgian and PA officials would meet on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, to discuss the issue.
However, on the very same day that the meeting was scheduled for, Donia Al-Watan, an independent Palestinian news agency, reported that Eric De Muynck, a representative of the Belgian Development Cooperation Institution, participated in the inauguration of a new PA school named “Defiance 6 School.” [Donia Al-Watan, Oct. 18, 2017]
In the photo, Representative of the Belgian Development Cooperation Institution Eric De Muynck is seen at the event (3rd from left) standing next to PA Minister of Education and Higher Education Sabri Saidam and District Governor of Ramallah and El-Bireh Laila Ghannam.
(4th and 5th from left)
The name “Defiance 6 School” was given to the school in reference to the fact that the previous structures that housed the school were recently destroyed by Israel, since they were erected in Area C without the relevant building permits. The PA therefore built the new school to “defy” Israel.
The report further stated that the building of the school, which reportedly took “24 hours,” was funded by the European Union.
The report on the PA's new school, as well as the Belgian representative's presence at the inauguration, raise a number of questions.
Firstly, the presence of De Muynck, an official Belgian representative seems to suggest that Belgium’s previous statements to delay “any projects related to the construction ... of Palestinian schools” was not completely honest. This contention is strengthened by the fact that while PMW repeatedly contacted the Belgian embassy to receive its response to De Muynck’s presence at the ceremony, and to receive information about the announced meeting between the PA and Belgian officials, the Belgian embassy did not respond.
Secondly, the fact that this new school was reportedly built with EU funding, would seem to suggest that the EU is supporting the PA’s use and abuse of Palestinian children for political gain.
It should be noted, that as agreed in the Oslo Accords, the PA has no jurisdiction to issue building permits in Area C. Accordingly, does a school built in just 24 hours, without any planning permission, meet the engineering standards that befit a school and ensure the safety of the children?
Moreover, what message does the chosen name “Defiance 6 School” convey to its students? Why is the EU providing financial support to a school that teaches its students "to defy" Israel and that breaking the law is legitimate?
Finally, even if the PA and the EU, for political purposes, chose to break the law and build structures in Area C without the relevant building permits, is it reasonable or ethical to place young school children in direct conflict with the Israeli authorities?
The EU should not be condoning the PA’s use and abuse of the Palestinian students for its political purposes.
The following is a longer excerpt of the article in Donia Al-Watan:
Headline: “[PA] Ministry of Education: The birth of the Defiance 6 School”
"[PA] Minister of Education and Higher Education Sabri Saidam today, Wednesday [Oct. 18, 2017], inaugurated Defiance 6 Co-ed Elementary School in the Wadi Al-Sik area, east of the village of Deir Debwan in the Ramallah and El-Bireh district - and this was funded by the European Union.
Participating in the opening were District Governor of Ramallah and El-Bireh Laila Ghannam, Representative of the Belgian [Development] Cooperation Institution Eric De Muynck, Director of International Relations and Public Relations in the [PA] Ministry of Education Nadim Sami, Director of the Ramallah and El-Bireh Directorate of Education (i.e., branch of the PA Ministry of Education) Bassem Erekat, and representative of the Committee to Resist Settlements and the Wall Abdallah Abu Rahma...
The minister of education emphasized that this school comes as part of a series of schools for defiance and resolve that the ministry has established in areas being targeted by the occupation (i.e., Area C under Israeli jurisdiction where building is illegal without a permit -Ed.) He emphasized that the building of these schools in these regions conveys a message to the whole world that emphasizes the sanctity of education in the eyes of all Palestinians and the students' determination to continue studying, despite the difficult conditions they are experiencing in the shadow of the occupation and settlement.
He also noted that the building of this school took 24 hours, 'and this is a miracle, and you see our children, who number 80 male and female students, and other students will join them.'"
[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Oct. 18, 2017]