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Residents of Khan al-Ahmar at a press conference in September, after the High Court turned down their appeal against evacuation of their village.Credit: Olivier Fitouss

Opinion // ‘Democracy’ in Israel: Where the Palestinian Subjects Are Beholden to the Occupier

The fate of the inhabitants of Khan al-Ahmar is being used in the election campaign as a political pawn by the right-center camp, which is pushing hard for their expulsion. Incitement to a war crime? Absolutely

Hagai El-Ad |  Jan 15, 2019 5:35

Residents of Khan al-Ahmar at a press conference in September, after the High Court turned down their appeal against evacuation of their village.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Residents of Khan al-Ahmar at a press conference in September, after the High Court turned down their appeal against evacuation of their village.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated very soon, I won’t tell you when. We’re preparing for it” (Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Nov. 19, 2018); “I issued an order to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar, and a day before the evacuation the prime minister ordered to cancel it” (former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, Jan. 2); “We are calling on the prime minister to evacuate already today the illegal construction in Khan al-Ahmar. A law is a law is a law” (announcement by Hayamin Hehadash, the New Right, Jan. 3).

“Khan al-Ahmar must be evacuated too, it canot be that it will be left in place just because they have a lobby” (Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, Oct. 22, 2018); “On the subject of the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar … I believed that we must evacuate” (Lieberman explains his decision to resign from the government, Nov. 14, 2018).

“The Israeli government is getting into an unnecessary panic and is afraid to evacuate [Khan al-Ahmar] … for fear of what they’ll say in Europe and what they’ll do in The Hague” (Education Minister Naftali Bennett, former Habayit Hayehudi chairman, explaining his decision to remain in the government, Nov. 19, 2018); “A full evacuation of the illegal outpost Khan al-Ahmar” (No. 1 on the “list of demands the Jewish people are making to the government and the Knesset before the election,” drafted by the Im Tirtzu organization (Nov. 15, 2018); “Khan al-Ahmar must be evacuated” (former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, Jan. 3).

I could go on quoting, but the point should already be clear: The fate of the Bedouin inhabitants of Khan al-Ahmar is being used as a political pawn by members of the right-center camp in the current election campaign. They all swear that they are totally in favor of carrying out, as soon as possible, the war crime of expelling protected residents in an occupied area, and that their loyalty and commitment to advancing the expulsion is greater than that of the other right-center leaders, and therefore they and their parties deserve the voter’s confidence.

Incitement to a war crime? Absolutely. A practical campaign-oriented approach? Without a doubt. All that can be found deep inside the mission statements of the ultranationalist right-center in advance of the election for the 21st Knesset. But on the other hand, what do candidates Benny Gantz, Tzipi Livni, Avi Gabbay, Moshe Kahlon, Shelly Yacimovich, Orli Levi-Abekasis think about the issue? Well … there’s silence.

All told – between those who are turning the residents of this West Bank village into a political punching bag and those who have lost their tongue – these are parties that represent a minimum of about 90 MKs, according to the latest polls. And that, in a nutshell, is the whole story. Both regarding Khan al-Ahmar, specifically, and with respect to the continuation of the “present situation,” in general.

Nearly all of the political establishment in Israel supports some variation of the situation whereby disinheritance of the Palestinians – which is being promoted gradually, so as to minimize the international price that will be paid, while establishing more and more facts on the ground – has become a central national project.

Whether by silence or openly, whether by acceleration or at the present pace – everyone has already dispossessed the Palestinians and will continue to do so in the future, everyone is part of the major Israeli consensus, which agrees to the core value of the regime: management of all the territory – and all the people – between the Jordan River and the sea, at the expense and over the heads of the Palestinian subjects.

As far as Israel is concerned, the Palestinians under occupation have no right to rights: There are no rights. Therefore, Israeli politicians can be indifferent to their fate – or worse, use them as a political football. In any case, they have no representation and thus there is no political price to be paid in the Israeli arena for trampling them.

In exactly the same way, Palestinian subjects have no representation on the planning committees of the Civil Administration, which pave the way for building settlements for Jews and distributing demolition orders to Palestinians. They have no representation in the offices of the military advocate general, the serial white-washer of cases documenting the killing of the subjects. And the same goes for the Judicial Appointments Committee, the Israel Police’s Judea and Samaria district, the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, the health and transportation ministries, and the Knesset’s supervisory committees: Palestinian subjects have no representation.

As long as the majority of Israelis continue to waver between one party supporting the continuation-of-the-present-situation and another, that will be precisely the result of the election, time after time after time. Meanwhile, the Palestinians will continue to be considered subjects, since we are the ones who determine not only all the rules of the game, but who is allowed to participate in it.

As for the issue of being exploited by the leaders of at least four parties, seeking to recruit voters – all this is taking place over the heads of the 200 Palestinians living in Khan al-Ahmar. This is not only a metaphor, it’s a precise geographical-political description of the situation, since on the hills overlooking the enclave, in the settlement of Kfar Adumim, Israeli citizens with a right to vote are living. Over 97 percent of them voted for one of the parties that favor continuation-of-the-present-situation or even more radical changes. And in Rishon Letzion? Over 92 percent did the same thing. And in Tel Aviv-Yafo? Over 77 percent. And among the entire electorate? Over 73 percent.

Down there, in the valley, live subjects. No one with a right to vote; no representation. No polling booth has been placed, nor will be placed, in their school. The school is slated for demolition. A life of subjects, exposed to the arbitrary nature of the occupiers’ decisions. Or as it’s called in Israel, “democracy.”The writer is the executive director of the human rights group B’Tselem

Hagai El-Ad

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