Belgium Says Construction of Palestinian Schools Still Suspended After Official Spotted at Inauguration of New West Bank Institution
Belgium is upholding its commitment to suspend construction projects with the Palestinian Ministry of Education, a spokesperson for Brussels told The Algemeiner after a Belgian official was spotted at the inauguration of a new Palestinian school.
Last month, the monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) revealed that a Palestinian school built with Belgian aid in the town of Beit Awwa was renamed in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978 helped massacre 38 people — including 13 children — near Tel Aviv. The school’s logo also includes a map erasing Israel, while its Facebook page has posted pictures glorifying Palestinian attackers.
Didier Vanderhasselt — a spokesperson for the Belgian Foreign Ministry — told The Algemeiner at the time that Belgium was initially unaware of the name change, and has decided to “put on hold any projects related to the construction or equipment of Palestinian schools” while it resolved the matter with the Palestinian Authority.
However, PMW reported last week that a Belgian official — Eric De Muynck, representative of the Belgian Development Cooperation Institution — participated in the inauguration of a new Palestinian Authority school in the West Bank on October 18th, about two weeks after the announced suspension.
The school was allegedly built in “24 hours” with funds from the European Union, according to a report in Donia Al-Watan, an independent Palestinian news agency. It was named “Defiance 6,” a 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,” PMW wrote. “The PA therefore built the new school to ‘defy’ Israel.”
PMW warned that De Muynck’s presence at the ceremony suggested Belgium’s pledge to freeze “any projects” related to the construction of Palestinian schools “was not completely honest,” and questioned whether Brussels was “misleading the international community” and “continuing to support PA schools.”
Vanderhasselt challenged this claim, telling The Algemeiner on Monday that De Muynck attended the inauguration of “the school in Wadi As-Seeq because this school is threatened by demolition by the Israeli authorities.”
“By sending a Belgian representative to this school we emphasized the paramount importance of the respect for International Humanitarian Law and the right to education,” he said.
The spokesperson confirmed that Belgium’s decision to “put on hold two projects related to the construction of new Palestinian schools, for an amount of 3.3 million euros … remains in effect until further notice.”
He clarified that “projects that could not be put on hold, ie. schools that were already under construction or being built by third parties, were not affected by this decision.”
While Belgian authorities held several meetings with Palestinian counterparts on the renaming of the school in Beit Awwa, “the dialogue has not been concluded and is being pursued,” Vanderhasselt said.