High Court gives final okay to demolish Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar

UN urges government to protect West Bank Bedouin village.

September 5, 2018 11:34
High Court gives final okay to demolish Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar

Palestinian boys sit in the Bedouin village of al-Khan al-Ahmar near Jericho in the West Bank July 5, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)


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The UN called on Israel not to demolish the West Bank herding village of Khan al-Ahmar, after the High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that the IDF can legally evacuate it after a weeklong wait.

“#UN has called on #Israel to cease demolition of #Palestinian property and efforts to relocate #Bedouin communities in the #WestBank. Demolitions undermine prospect for two-state solution and are against international law,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov tweeted.

The High Court ruling comes in the aftermath of a slew of last-minute petitions the villagers filed to the court, in an attempt to stave off the destruction of the village, which was built illegally.

Supreme Court justices Hanan Melcer, Yitzhak Amit and Anat Baron said that while the law did give them leeway to intervene in the IDF’s actions, they urged the army to avoid a violent demolition and to find a peaceful way to evacuate the site.
B'Tselem at the proposed relocation site of Khan al-Ahmar, August 15, 2018 (Tovah Lazaroff)

The ruling, which lifts after seven days an injunction preventing IDF action against the community, includes the European-funded Tyre Elementary School. The court noted that the school’s demolition could take place even though the school year had started.

Located right off of Road 1 below the Kfar Adumim settlement, the encampment of shacks and tents is home to some 180 Jahalin Bedouin, who were relocated to the area from the Negev in the early 1950s.

The international community, including the European Union and individual European countries, had heavily lobbied the government to prevent the community’s demolition.

Khan al-Ahmar’s attorney Tawfiq Jabareen said that all legal appeals had been exhausted because the High Court lacked the courage to buck the will of the government.

“Now we are facing a new period. The Israeli High Court finished its job. In the past the Israeli High Court intervened in some of the cases for the benefit of the Palestinians. I do not think the Palestinians can submit any petitions, hoping maybe the Israeli court will make justice work.”

Right-wing Israeli politicians immediately issued congratulatory messages to the court, a body they have often accused of upholding Palestinian land rights in favor of those of the settlers and the state.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) said, “‘I congratulate the judges of the High Court of Justice for a courageous and obvious decision – in the face of a concerted hypocritical assault by [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen, the Left and the European countries.”

The ruling proves that “no one is above the law. No one will prevent us from exercising our sovereignty and our responsibility as a state.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) also said the ruling showed the lack of EU influence over Israeli law. “The State of Israel has a law and everyone is equal in front of it,” Edelstein said.

MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) called on the IDF to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar as soon as possible.

He charged that both the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria have not done enough to prevent Palestinians and Bedouin from seeking to seize territory in Area C of the West Bank.
He called on the IDF to prevent any further illegal building.

Joint List Party head MK Ayman Odeh said, “The Khan al-Ahmar families have fallen victim to the destructive policies of the right-wing Israeli government, which is expanding the settlement blocs at the expense of the Arab residents.

“These are not just families the state will evacuate for the third time, but part of a comprehensive move that will prevent any chance of establishing a Palestinian state,” Odeh said.

The ruling came as he and other members of his party where in Brussels holding high-level meetings with EU officials to raise European awareness of Israeli actions against Israeli Arabs, Bedouin and Palestinians.

The PA called on the international community to protect Khan al-Ahmar.

“Israel has exceeded the parameters of impunity, and its unilateral acts of provocation should no longer be tolerated by the free world. The occupying state must be placed under the microscope of accountability and forced to stop its crimes against humanity,” the PA stated.

Khan al-Ahmar is built on private Palestinian territory that was seized by the State of Israel, but its registration as such was never completed. It was built in an area of the West Bank that is designated desert territory. Throughout Khan al-Ahmar’s long legal history, the land was treated as if it was designated state land and rulings were done accordingly.

The village has since argued that the land remains private Palestinian property and that the owners have given their consent for their presence on the property. They argue that the IDF does not have the right to evacuate Palestinians from private Palestinian property.

Among the complaints, including of the international community, is the low level of building permits granted to Palestinians and Bedouin in Area C of the West Bank.

The three justices ruled, however, that the community must be evacuated because it was built illegally, close to a major artery, Road 1. Melcer said that, should the land status change in the future for any reason, community members would be within their rights to push for a master plan to legalize their community in that area.

He further noted that the state has the responsibility to provide an alternative site for the community, but did not necessarily need to do so at the time of the evacuation.

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