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Israeli court approves destruction of Bedouin village, despite Congressional and EU protest

Israel/Palestine
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Khan al-Ahmar, occupied West Bank

Children laugh and play in the small Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, located east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, jumping on tin sheets laid out on the ground and throwing any object they retrieve from the dirt at one another.

The children’s loud giggling and the wide smiles of the women, who energetically offer visitors tea and juice, belie the reality: the entire community could be demolished by the Israeli government at any moment.

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled to allow the state to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, including a medical clinic, mosque, and a school made from mud and tires built by an Italian NGO almost a decade ago. The demolition could be carried out at any time as of next month.

“We can’t do anything except wait for the Israelis to come,” Eid Abu Khamis, a leader of the Bedouin in the area and a resident of Khan al-Ahmar, told Mondoweiss. “Unlike Israel, the United States does not fund us to obtain F-35 jets. We don’t have tanks. We have nothing but our people’s will and resilience.”

“If they come to demolish the village, they will have to forcibly carry me off the land if they want me to leave,” Abu Khamis said. “We are not leaving and we will continue to resist by remaining on our land.”

Eid Abu Khamis in Khan al-Ahmar. Photo by Jaclynn Ashly.

Displacement over decades

Khan al-Ahmar, nestled between the illegal Israeli settlements of Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim, is home to some 181 residents, 53 percent of whom are children, according to the UN.

The village consists of makeshift residential structures and animal pens, many of which have been provided to the community by the European Union (EU). The Bedouin in Khan al-Ahmar are some of the most vulnerable residents in the occupied West Bank, with the village lacking basic necessities, such as adequate healthcare and electricity.

The UN has noted that 95 percent of the residents in Khan al-Ahmar are registered as Palestinian refugees with UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees, including their descendants, who were expelled from land that became part of the state of Israel during and after 1948.

Israel expelled the residents, members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, from their lands in Tel Arad of the Negev desert in what is now southern Israel in the 1950s. According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, following their displacement, the tribe members leased land where the Kfar Adumim settlement is now located.

When the settlement was established in 1979, the Bedouin were once again expelled from the area, and have since resided in their current location beside the Jerusalem-Jericho highway.

Child in Khan al-Ahmar, photo by Jaclyn Ashly.

The community is located in Area C, the designation for more than 60 percent of West Bank lands in which the Israeli army has full control. Under the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s, this area was to have been gradually transferred to the jurisdiction of the Palestinians.

However, more than two decades later, Israel retains full control over these areas and has implemented policies to ensure that Palestinian development is restricted, while increasing the Jewish population in illegal settlements. There are now upwards of 600,000 Israeli settlers residing in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Despite the Bedouin in Khan al-Ahmar having lived on the land for years before the establishment of the settlements around them, their village is considered “illegal” by Israel owing to their structures being built without Israeli building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Area C.

The Israeli government has been attempting to demolish the village for years under the pretext of “illegal building.” But rights groups have pointed out that the village is located on land earmarked for Israeli settlement expansion, including in the contentious E1 zone where Israel plans to construct thousands of illegal settlement units, which would split the West Bank from north to south.

According to B’Tselem, from 2006 to Sept. 2017, Israeli authorities demolished 26 homes in Khan al-Ahmar, displacing 132 Palestinians, 77 of whom were children and youths.

Khan al-Ahmar is just one of 46 Bedouin communities in the occupied West Bank at risk of displacement and forcible transfer owing to Israeli policies, the UN has noted.

Setting a precedent

Ending a years-long court battle, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of a petition presented by Israelis from the Kfar Adumim settlement to enforce the demolition of the village based on the reasoning that construction in Khan al-Ahmar was “unlawful.”

According to Shlomo Lecker, the Israeli attorney representing residents in Khan al-Ahmar, the high court ruling has set a precedent for Israel to “go ahead and demolish any small Bedouin village they are interested in removing.”

For Abu Khamis, the court ruling is “more dangerous than Trump’s decision to move the US embassy or his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

“If they demolish our village, it will be an end to the peace process,” he said, noting that the Bedouin represent Israel’s last impediment to annexing all of Area C.

“They [Israel] wants our land, but without us being on it,” he added.

The Israeli state has promoted a plan to transfer the village’s residents to al-Jabel West — a site located next to a garbage dump in the West Bank town of Abu Dis. The community has rejected the plan.

Dozens of Jahalin Bedouin families were forcibly relocated to the area in the 1990s, when Israel expelled them from lands during an earlier expansion of Maale Adumim.

Each Bedouin family would be allocated 250 square meter plots of land in the “relocation” area, according to Abu Khamis.

Owing to the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Bedouin, which relies on open spaces for grazing sheep and other animals, a forcible transfer to the site would uproot the community’s entire way of life.

The Israeli Supreme Court has now taken the situation even further than the state, Lecker said, by not necessitating that alternative locations be provided to the Bedouin at all if the state expels them from the area.

Meanwhile, Israel’s civil administration is expected to approve the construction of 92 new illegal settler homes in Kfar Adumim, which will be located less than a mile from Khan al-Ahmar.

‘Greenlighting a war crime’

Representatives of the EU and its member states have expressed concern over the pending demolition.

EU Representative Ralph Tarraf told Mondoweiss that residents in Khan al-Ahmar “have the right to remain here and the right to go about their traditional way of life.”

He noted that the EU has continued to “apply pressure” on the Israeli authorities not to demolish the village.

“We know hope is becoming dim, but we continue to hope that this decision will not be implemented,” he said.

Fabio Sokolowicz, the consulate general of Italy, said that he was particularly concerned about the tire school, which was partly financed by Italian organizations via the Italian NGO Vento Di Terra.

School in Khan al-Ahmar constructed with tires and mud. Photo by Jaclynn Ashly.

The school provides education to almost 200 boys and girls in Khan al-Ahmar and neighboring Bedouin villages.

“This project is significant and this is a very important service we’re providing. We are following this situation very closely, and we are trying our best to hopefully make sure the school survives,” Sokolowicz told Mondoweiss.

Tarraf and Sokolowicz were not able to comment on what measures the EU would take if Israel goes through with the demolition.

A donkey and a structure donated by the EU, with EU insignia on its wall. Village of Khan al-Ahmar. Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim can be seen atop hill in background. Photo by Jaclyn Ashly.

Abu Khamis, meanwhile, has little hope that the EU will be able to affect Israel’s decision.

The EU “doesn’t do anything practical. It’s all lip services, conferences and press releases condemning what is happening. But no one is going to take any real action,” he told Mondoweiss.

B’Tselem, meanwhile, released a statement following the court’s decision, saying that the court had given the state the greenlight to “commit a war crime.”

“The provisions of international law prohibit the forcible transfer of protected civilians, unless the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand,” the statement read.

“Obviously these exceptions are irrelevant when the state seeks to take over the land for the purpose of future expansion of settlements in the area or for any such similar purpose.”

Last week, a group of 74 United States Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him not to demolish Susiya — another Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills under threat of demolition– and called on him not to demolish “other similarly situated Palestinian communities in the West Bank,” which would include Khan al-Ahmar. The eviction of Palestinian communities and the expansion of settlements “abandon our two countries shared values of justice and respect for human rights,” the congresspeople wrote.

‘We didn’t stand a chance’

For the residents of Khan al-Ahmar, the Israeli Supreme Court decision was not surprising.

“We didn’t have even a one percent chance that the Supreme Court would rule in our favor,” Abu Khamis told Mondoweiss.

One of the three Supreme Court judges presiding over the demolition case was Noam Solberg, a resident of Israel’s illegal Alon Shvut settlement who is known for his right-wing views.

Another judge, Yael Willner, has a brother and sister residing in Kfar Adumim.

“The judges are settlers,” Abu Khamis said. “We obviously know that settlers are not going to rule in favor of the Bedouin.”

Israel’s settlement plans are decades in the making, and the Bedouin are currently standing in Israel’s way, Abu Khamis noted.

“From Azariya [a West Bank town located a few miles from Jerusalem] to the Dead Sea, there’s no refugee camps, no villages, and no cities. There are only the Bedouin,” he said.

“When they remove us to build settlements, any Palestinian traveling towards Jericho or the Dead Sea will have to get an Israeli permit to enter. When the Bedouin are expelled, they will take over all of it.”

Jaclynn Ashly
About Jaclynn Ashly

Jaclynn Ashly is a journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. You can find her on Twitter @jaclynnashly

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7 Responses

  1. just
    May 31, 2018, 3:45 pm

    Another illegal Israeli- engineered tragedy for the indigenous people of Palestine who have lived this way forever. To think it is sanctioned by illegal settler judges is puke- worthy.

    “Abu Khamis, meanwhile, has little hope that the EU will be able to affect Israel’s decision.

    The EU “doesn’t do anything practical. It’s all lip services, conferences and press releases condemning what is happening. But no one is going to take any real action,” he told Mondoweiss.”

    ~and~

    “Last week, a group of 74 United States Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him not to demolish Susiya — another Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills under threat of demolition– and called on him not to demolish “other similarly situated Palestinian communities in the West Bank,” which would include Khan al-Ahmar. The eviction of Palestinian communities and the expansion of settlements “abandon our two countries shared values of justice and respect for human rights,” the congresspeople wrote.”

    It’s ALL “lip service”! I guess none of these cowards/liars/Israel- firsters have heard of sanctions… biting and meaningful Sanctions. If they stopped pushing legislation against BDS, I might take some of them seriously, but they don’t and I cannot. Will these Dems give more standing ovations the next time they see Bibi and his criminal gang?

    With regard to US Democrats, I was pleased to read this today:

    “Abbas Refused to Meet Democratic Delegation, Led by Pelosi, That Visited Israel …

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to meet with a delegation of Democratic Members of Congress that visited Israel two months ago, in protest of the Trump administration’s policies toward Israel. Abbas’ refusal to meet the delegation caught its members by surprise, because many of them are constant critics of the Trump administration, and they were hoping to hear the Palestinian point of view about Trump’s policies while visiting the region.

    The delegation, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, visited Israel and Jordan in late March. It included 11 members of Congress, all of them Democrats, including two members of the House Intelligence Committee. They held lengthy meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan. In addition, they met with representatives of civil rights groups in Israel that are fighting against the government’s plan to deport African asylum seekers.

    The delegation also wanted to visit Ramallah and meet Abbas, but to their surprise, he refused to meet them. Palestinian Authority officials explained that following Trump’s speech on Jerusalem last December — in which he recognized the city as Israel’s capital — Abbas decided to halt all political contacts with the United States, irrespective of the official’s party affiliation or branch of government. Abbas has also refused for months to communicate with the team within the administration working on Trump’s proposed peace plan, which Palestinians believe will fully adopt Israeli positions and ignore their own.

    A Palestinian official told Haaretz that Abbas refused to meet the Congressional delegation even though he knew they were all Democrats, and included strong critics of Trump. The decision, this official added, was meant to send a message that despite the Democrats’ criticism of Trump, the party didn’t act in any significant way to oppose the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy to the city.

    According to this Palestinian official, Abbas reached the conclusion that the Democrats gave their silent blessing to the embassy move. While some Democrats, like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have openly and repeatedly praised Trump for moving the embassy, many other party leaders and officials have taken a more nuanced line, saying that while they support the idea of moving the embassy, they find the timing and the manner in which it was done unhelpful and even damaging.

    A Democratic congressional aide who is aware of the incident, told Haaretz that there were two main reactions among the Democrats to Abbas’ refusal to meet the delegation. “Some people said it made them doubt his sincerity to engage in peace talks, because if he won’t even meet a group of Democrats who don’t hesitate to criticize Trump, who is he going to work with? On the other hand, it made everyone understand how much anger and disappointment there is on the Palestinian side towards Trump, and how ridiculous it is to expect his administration to promote peace between the two sides.” … ”

    more @ https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/.premium-abbas-refused-to-meet-democratic-delegation-that-visited-israel-1.6136850

    This is not only about Trump, Friedman, Kushner et al, it is about Democrats and their historical unwavering and hypocritical support for Israel above international law, etc.

    Thank you, Jaclynn, Eid Abu Khamis in Khan al-Ahmar, and B’Tselem.

    • Kay24
      May 31, 2018, 4:15 pm

      No one can fault the Palestinians for refusing to talk to anyone from the US. The Democrats are as guilty as the Republicans in enabling their occupier, and showing it unwavering support. Yes, it was unbelievable that Chuck Schumer supported this outrageous embassy move to Jerusalem, although all it did was prove that Schumer is yet another Israel firster, always has been. The US leaders, are simply enabling, aiding, and supporting, these killers, to take over all Palestinian lands, so that they can build their despicable nation, over the blood and tears of the Palestinians. Flint has no clean water, US teachers have to buy their supplies with their low salaries, but Israel keeps getting billions of dollars in aid, and weapons to kill unarmed civilians. Something is horribly wrong with this scenario.

      • Citizen
        June 1, 2018, 3:49 pm

        Not to mention, Kay24, 45 senators are now on board with the bill criminalizing any support of BDS by any American citizen. Steep fine too. ACLU says its unconstitutional on its face. Duh. SCOTUS upheld boycott of industry supporting Jim Crow stuff, way back. That was in US, not a foreign country.

      • echinococcus
        June 1, 2018, 4:16 pm

        Citizen,

        Way back, the US of the civil rights struggle time definitely was a foreign country.

  2. RoHa
    June 1, 2018, 5:04 am

    “abandon our two countries shared values of justice and respect for human rights,”

    The shared value is the lack of respect for justice and human rights.

  3. Ossinev
    June 1, 2018, 5:10 pm

    Hey no big deal if you are a Ziobot. After all a land without people for a people without land is simply not marketable if you have all these indigenous Untermenschen wandering around as if they belong there. I believe that Hitler had similar plans for a Greater (Untermenschen free) Germany. Of course in 1939 there was no internet,no smartphones etc so the task was much more straightforward. Zios on the other hand to their dismay have to do the expansion bit piecemeal . Not at all what that dear old moral and kind humanitarian Ben Gurion had in mind:
    http://www.palestinechronicle.com/ben-gurion-and-massacre-of-deir-yassin/

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