Europe warns: Razing Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar is a war crime

The parliamentarians said they condemned “any unilateral decision or action that may undermine the prospects of this solution.”

View of the European Parliament during a plenary session in Brussels, Belgium, March 2, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)
View of the European Parliament during a plenary session in Brussels, Belgium, March 2, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The European Parliament denounced Israel on Thursday and warned that it would be committing a war crime if it demolished the illegally built West Bank Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar.
In a 320 to 277 vote, the Parliament in Strasbourg approved a harsh resolution against Israel that called for monetary compensation for financial losses should Khan al-Ahmar be demolished.
Parliamentarians called on the EU to more strenuously object to the demolition, including insisting on compensation of the loss of EU-funded structures in Khan al-Ahmar and other such herding villages.
The resolution stated that “the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and the forcible transfer of its residents would constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law.”
Such violations are considered under the Fourth Geneva Convention to be war crimes.
“Ten EU Member States are supporting humanitarian programs in Khan al-Ahmar, including the construction of a primary school, and an estimated 315,000 euros worth of EU-funded humanitarian assistance is now at risk,” the resolution stated.
“Should the demolition and eviction of Khan al-Ahmar take place, the EU’s response must be commensurate with the seriousness of this development and consistent with its long-standing support to the community of Khan al-Ahmar,” it said.
It called on the EU to step up its “engagement with the Israeli authorities with regard to full respect for the rights of the Palestinian population in Area C and to demand compensation from Israel for the destruction of EU-funded infrastructure.”
The resolution recalled “that Israel bears full responsibility for providing the necessary services – including education, healthcare and welfare – for the people living under its occupation, in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
It stated that the parliament “remains firmly convinced that the only lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East is that of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders, on the basis of the 1967 border and with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.”
The parliamentarians said they condemned “any unilateral decision or action that may undermine the prospects of [a two-state] solution.”
They also demanded that Israel “immediately halt and reverse their settlement policy.”
The High Court of Justice last week ruled that there was no legal reason to prevent the village’s relocation, although it urged the IDF to find a peaceful resolution. A High Court injunction preventing the demolition was lifted on Tuesday at midnight.
Tension has been high in the village ever since, as residents fear Israeli security forces will enter the village and destroy it at any moment.
BUILT ON Route 1 just below the Kfar Adumim settlement, Khan al-Ahmar is home to some 180 members of the Jahalin tribe that Israel relocated to the area from the Negev in the early 1950s.
In a pre-dawn raid on the village early Thursday morning, the Civil Administration demolished and confiscated five temporary shacks that activists had built near the village to protest Israeli plans to forcibly relocate the community.
MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) made a solidarity visit to the village and urged its residents to stand strong and “look the occupation in the eyes.”
“Khan al-Ahmar’s struggle is the Palestinian people’s struggle for independent recognition and territorial contiguity for a future independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” she said.
“The small and steadfast Khan al-Ahmar can shine a bright light toward a more just future,” she added.
The European Union and individual European states have stood in solidarity with Khan al-Ahmar for at least the last decade. Its Tyre Elementary School, which would also be razed, was built with European donor funds.
The state wants to relocate the village of tents and shacks to a newly- built neighborhood of Abu Dis, called Jahalin West.
Khan al-Ahmar residents have objected to the plan because the homes are located near a garbage dump. They want the Civil Administration to approve a master plan for their homes at their current location, or very nearby.
Right-wing Israeli politicians who support the demolition hold that the Bedouin community is part of a strategic Palestinian Authority plan to seize hold of critical land in Area C.
At a European Parliament debate on the matter on Tuesday night in Strasbourg, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar “would also be a blow against the viability of the State of Palestine and against the very possibility of a two-state solution.
“The EU and its Member States expressed their concerns about the imminent demolition through repeated statements, démarches and ministerial letters to the Israeli authorities, and the representatives of several member states were present at the village on 5 July when the Israeli forces attempted to cordon it off,” she said.
“Until now, these efforts have been to no avail. Israel claims that the community has been built without the required building permits. It is important to note, however, that it is virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain any building permits in Area C of the West Bank, as confirmed by the Quartet report we produced in July 2016,” Mogherini said.