Anshel Pfeffer examines the story of a West Bank Bedouin village that is to be demolished under an Israeli court order
The impending demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the West Bank, almost became an international diplomatic incident this week.The village, near the main road extending east from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, is home to around 300 residents, mostly belonging to the Jahalin Bedouin tribe.They have been uprooted a number of times over the decades and now mostly live south-east of Jerusalem in the Palestinian Authority territories, near the Abu Dis rubbish dump.In recent years the village has become a rallying point for Palestinians, left-wing Israeli and foreign activists, fighting the eviction orders of Israel’s Civil Authority in the West Bank. It is not officially recognised by Israel and has not been connected to water and power lines. Structures there built by European countries, including a school and solar energy panels, have either been dismantled or confiscated by the Civil Authority.Khan al-Ahmar is in Area C, meaning it is under full Israeli control under the Oslo Accords.
The Bedouin residents say they have lived there since the 1950s, when the area was under Jordanian occupation, after they were forced to leave the Negev Desert.But neighbouring Israeli settlers councils, who plan to build a new neighbourhood of Khartoum Adumim there, counter that the Jahalin arrived there in the late 1980s, and that they are supported by the Palestinian Authority in its attempt to hinder Israeli settlement in the area. The Civil Authority supports the settlers, treating the buildings as illegal and built without planning permission.Both sides petitioned the High Court of Justice, which finally ruled four weeks ago that the residents had failed to establish any proof of ownership and that the demolitions could go ahead on October 1.A number of European governments, including Britain, have called upon Israel to halt the demolitions, while the European Parliament voted 320-277 in favour of a resolution describing it as a “war crime” in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.Germany’s government had to deny reports in the Israeli media that Chancellor Angela Merkel had threatened to cancel her visit to Israel if it was to coincide with the demolition.The demolition was slated to begin this week but was postponed for at least a few days — at least until Ms Merkel left Israel on Thursday night.