Saturday, 18 October 2014 16:30
An estimated 90,000-100,000 Palestinian Bedouin lived in Palestine before the Nakba. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s all but about 10,000 were driven from their lands by Zionist militias and – after the establishment of the State of Israel – the Israeli army. The Bedouin fled to different areas. Some went south from their homes in the Naqab to Egypt, others fled to Gaza and many to the areas around Hebron and East Jerusalem – lands east of the Green Line.
The Jahalin tribe re-established various communities-in-exile around the Jerusalem periphery. Today, it is the largest of the exiled Bedouin tribes in the West Bank.
In ‘Area C’ of the West Bank and sandwiched between the Israeli settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, the village of Khan al-Ahmar is one of the Jahalin’s villages. Since its establishment, residents have lived without the most basic of infrastructure and amidst the ongoing demolition of their houses. Israel carries out these demolitions under the pretext of the Bedouin having built their structures ‘illegally’ despite the fact that all their requests by the community for development of their village including construction and connection to infrastructure have been rejected by the Israeli Civil Administration.
The ever-present fear of individual demolitions has now been overshadowed by the spectre of another mass-displacement project. Khan al-Ahmar is amongst the communities that are threatened with ‘Forced Population Transfer’ within Israel’s E1 development plan. ‘Forced Population Transfer’ is in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines it as ‘a crime against humanity’.
More than half of Khan al-Ahmar’s population are children and according to UNRWA many of them ‘display signs of psychological trauma such as speech defects, insomnia and bed-wetting’.
Various international bodies have provided humanitarian aid and assistance to the Bedouin communities in different forms, yet this practice does not address the root cause of the issue. Only real political action can halt Israeli expansionism and the displacement and exile that it necessitates.
Until that happens, the Bedouin of Khan al-Ahmar and the wider Palestinian population are forced to survive amidst continued dispossession and displacement with no end in sight.
Slideshow of Rich Wiles’ photographs at article, or above: