Khan al Ahmar Update: Recent Developments

On August 1, Israel’s High Court of Justice held a hearing on the two petitions that were submitted to prevent the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar (see our last report). During that hearing, the court reiterated its decision of last May authorizing the evacuation of the village’s residents and the demolition of the village, but asked the State of Israel to (a) offer an alternative location for the transfer of the village and (b) try and seek a compromise with the residents. The High Court basically rejected from the outset the residents’ call to cancel the planned eviction and demolition of their village and did not give much attention to the counter-proposal that they could return to their original lands in the Negev (from which they were evicted by Israel).

As explained in detail in a report compiled by Btselem, neither of the alternative relocation plans offered by the State – including moving to a site located east of the Mitzpe Jericho settlement – would enable the residents of Khan Al Ahmar to preserve their way of life and source of income, as they would in all cases be deprived of pasture lands and therefore unable to continue as sheepherders. Both plans would also uproot the Khan al Ahmar residents from their community centers, which provide crucial services on which the community depends. Both plans would leave Khan al Ahmar residents living in locations that are, objectively speaking, terrible: adjacent to the Abu Dis garbage dump, or near a wastewater site. Notably, the State has made the wastewater site – which is offered, in the context of the legal petition, as an improvement on the garbage dump site – available only if Khan al Ahmar residents can convince other Bedouin in the Maale Adumim area to move with them. As observed by Btselem’s Hagai Elad in a piece entitled, appropriated, Between garbage and sewage: Israel’s future plans for Khan al-Ahmar:

“…the state is ready, and has been for more than two months, to transfer Khan al-Ahmar’s families directly to the initially proposed ‘permanent site’ near the Abu Dis garbage dump. It has emphasized it is ‘in the final stages of preparation for fulfilling the final demolition orders for the Khan al-Ahmar compound.’ But since a new petition was filed anyway, why not try and leverage it to transfer even more Palestinians from the ‘Ma’ale Adumim bubble?’ Never mind that they have nothing to do with the petition. Never mind the mind-boggling cynicism of expecting a Palestinian community to persuade hundreds of other Palestinians to join them in ‘consensually’ abandoning their homes, supposedly for their own good. Never mind how explicit it makes the state’s true intentions: to dispossess and expel as many Palestinians as possible from the area marked for cleansing.”

Khan Al Ahmar is not the only Bedouin village in the E1/Maale Adumim area threatened with evacuation. The nearby village of Jabel al-Baba is under the same threat, as we reported in the past (see here). On July 25, Israel dismantled and confiscated a donor-funded women’s center and kindergarten located in that village. The demolition was condemned by the EU, which funded the facilities.