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Israel asks court to approve forcible transfer of entire Bedouin community

By The Palestine Monitor - September 26, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [demolition] [E1] [Bedouin]

The Israeli government has asked the Supreme Court to approve plans to demolish an entire Palestinian Bedouin community. The government said the demolition should take place by mid-2018.

This would be the first time an entire Palestinian community is demolished since 1967. Khan al-Ahmar, home to 173 people, is located in Area C – the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control. The Israeli government considers the community's presence there illegal, and has issued demolition orders for all of its structures earlier this year.

The village is home to one of 20 Jahalin Bedouin communities at risk of expulsion due to Israeli settlement expansion in this area, strategically located between East Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, the West Bank's largest settlement. Known as E1, an Israeli construction plan for this area has been frozen since 2009, following international outrage. The communities are made up of 2,300 Palestine refugees who were originally displaced by Israel in the 1950s.

Plans for this area, critics have argued, are aimed at linking Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem, therefore breaking the territorial contiguity of a prospective Palestinian state – and jeopardising the feasilibity of a two-state solution.



Abu Khamis, the mukhtar of Khan al-Ahmar, knows that his community has become a symbol of the Palestinian struggle to remain in their lands.

“There's proof this community has been here since 1967. We are only the first piece of the puzzle in the bigger picture,” Abu Khamis told Palestine Monitor. “If they relocate this community, they will relocate all other communities in the area,” he said, adding that he believes international pressure can help postpone the transfer – a strategy that has worked over the years, while leaving the community in a constant state of insecurity.

Residents of the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim, together with the pro-settler organisation Regavim, have been filing petitions to evict the residents of Khan al-Ahmar and demolish its primary school - which serves 174 pupils from the village and five neighbouring communities - since 2009. Regavim, which is involved in other high-profile demolition cases in the West Bank, such as the village of Susyia in the South Hebron Hills, declares its mission to be “ensur[ing] responsible, legal, accountable & environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas”, as stated on its website. The fourth and last petition was filed in 2016.

Unlike on previous occasions, the community's lawyer, Shlomo Lecker, is concerned that this time the court will accept the State's answer when asked to provide an alternative for residents. Israel plans to relocate them to lands near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, in an area known as Jabal West.

“It's a symbolic act to please the right-wing,” Lecker said, speaking at a meeting with representatives of NGOs and diplomatic missions last week.



Rghts groups have opposed these plans.

“While the government argues that the residents of Khan al-Ahmar will receive alternative housing, they will in fact be evacuated against their will for the benefit of settlers, and placed above the garbage dump in Abu Dis,” said a statement from Israeli anti-settlement NGO Peace Now after the government submitted its answer to the Supreme Court on the settlers' petition on Monday. “This type of forceful evacuation of protected persons constitutes a severe violation of international humanitarian law.”

“It appears that the forceful displacement of the residents of Khan al-Ahmar is a form of "compensation" for his right wing supporters for the upcoming evacuation of the Illegal outpost of Derech Ha'Avot, following a High Court ruling,” the statement added.

B'Tselem said Israel was asking the High Court for “permission for commit a war crime.”

"No sanctimonious language about a 'planning, proprietary and realistic’ alternate, or 'time to prepare’ can erase the disgrace or hide the facts: the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar means the forcible transfer of protected persons, and forcible transfer is a war crime,” said Hagai El-Ad, B'Tselem's executive director.

Abu Khamis told Palestine Monitor that voluntarily moving to the proposed location is not an option, and that the community will continue to fight to stay.

Meanwhile, children at the “tyre school” nearby are taking a break and playing outside the classroooms. The school, which stands out as the only real building in the village with its painted mud walls – the rest are makeshift structures made of wood and corrugated iron – provides a safe space for children to play as well as study in this isolated desert community. Despite its location just off a highway a few kilometres from Jerusalem, the only road that leads to the village is an unpaved, winding track.

“Students here, some of them from nearby villages, know the school is at risk,” said Halimeh Zahalka, the school's headteacher. “They keep asking their teachers whether they will continue coming to the area if the school is demolished.”










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