Call on Congress to put an end to Israel's demolition of Palestinian villages. Keep Khan Al-Ahmar standing!
"It's inhuman, it's like putting them in pens, it's like a zoo."
--Michael, international observer, of the proposed relocation site for the villagers of Khan Al-Ahmar
The West Bank Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar faces the imminent threat of demolition by Israeli forces. The Israeli government plans to transfer the residents against their will to the village of Al Jabel, near the Abu Dis garbage dump.
International observers have joined Palestinians from around the West Bank and Jerusalem to offer support and a protective presence to residents of the village. One observer, Michael, explained how the proposed relocation would be devastating for the villagers who have a strong connection to the land. He said the new site is a very small tract of land, surrounded by a roadway, where the families would be housed in 2.4 x 12-meter container box buildings.
This would be the third time the Jahalin Bedouin tribe was forced to move – first from the Negev desert from which they were expelled by the Israeli military decades ago, and then from the area in the West Bank that now houses the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim.
Khan Al-Ahmar is just one of dozens of communities that could be forced to move. A UN news report explains:
"The community is home to 181 people - more than half of them children," Ms Throssell [spokesperson] told journalists in Geneva, noting that it is "at high risk of forcible transfer" owing to Israeli practices and policies "that coerce people and communities to move."
The Khan al Ahmar al Helu community has spent the last decade opposing the move in a part of the central West Bank called Area C.
In total, around 7,000 people from 46 Bedouin communities live there "and we are concerned about all of them", the OHCHR spokesperson said, noting that the community is located near existing "large Israeli settlements".
If Khan Al-Ahmar is destroyed and replaced by settlements, Palestinians will be further cut off from Jerusalem and from one another in the West Bank.
Although the Israeli High Court gave a green light to the demolition and displacement, petitions to the court resulted in delays to the plans being carried out. International pressure, including the presence of internationals in the village, and a letter from 76 members of Congress, have helped to raise awareness about Khan Al-Ahmar and other villages scheduled for demolition.
It is critical for advocates to continue to voice their concern – for Khan Al-Ahmar and everywhere Palestinians homes and property are threatened. As UN officials explained, "This situation occurs on the backdrop of a wave of demolitions across the West Bank in recent days. Since 1 July, eleven incidents have occurred, displacing 59 Palestinians, including 37 children, and affecting more than 200 others." The demolitions included nine homes in Abu Nuwar and one home in Susiya.
Often, as in the case of Khan Al-Ahmar, the stated reason for the demolitions is that the properties were built illegally without permits. Referring to Khan Al-Ahmar, the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem writes, "The determination that the 'construction is illegal' is meaningless," and says, "The structures in the community were indeed built without the residents having been issued building permits from the Israeli authorities. However, the residents did not choose to do so because they are deliberate lawbreakers, but because Israel’s policy keeps them from even being able to apply for building permits."
The Israeli authorities rarely grant permits to Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank – the area under Israeli civil and military control. A UN report explains, "Due to discriminatory and unlawful planning processes, it is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in the vast majority of Area C and East Jerusalem The systematic destruction of property in this context, along with other factors, contributes to the generation of a coercive environment pressuring residents to leave."
As residents leave, more land is cleared for the relentless expansion of Israeli settlements which are illegal under international law. The destruction of homes and other property creates tremendous suffering for Palestinian families and communities and undermines prospects for a just and lasting peace for all.
Telephone or e-mail your Senators and Representative today and ask them to contact Israel's Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, to insist that Israel stop the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar and all demolitions of Palestinian homes and property.
For more information:
Everything you need to know about the West Bank Bedouin village at the eye of a diplomatic storm, Haaretz, July 8, 2018.
Communities facing expulsion: The Khan al-Ahmar area, B’Tselem.
As Israeli bulldozers circle, a tiny village takes center stage in Palestinian struggle, Washington Post, July 13, 2018.