3 July 2018

Israel's Ethnic Cleansing Proceeds as the Eviction and Demolition of Khan al-Ahmar is Imminent

Like Apartheid South Africa before it, Israel is moving Palestinians into bleak and desolate townships 

Khan al-Ahmar is a Palestinian village located between the Israeli settlements of Ma'ale Adumim, a city of nearly 40,000 settlers which is 4 miles from Jerusalem and Kfar Adumim.  About 200 people live there with a school that is attended by about 150 children in the area. The aim of the eviction is to create a continuous belt of settlements from Jerusalem into the West Bank, at the same time dividing the West Bank in two.
The Jahalin Bedouin of Khan al Amar were expelled from the Negev in 1952 by the Israeli army. They moved the following year to the West Bank. In the late 1970s the villagers found themselves incorporated into lands that were assigned to what became the Maale Adumim settlement. The village is one of the only remaining Palestinian areas within the E1 zone, strategically significant because it connects the north and south of the West Bank.
The village has suffered from continual harassment and attacks by the Israeli army and the settlers. In 2015, solar panels were donated to provide the village with electricity. In July, the Civil Administration confiscated the solar panels, as well as one which had been in the village for several years.[1] Palestinians don’t require electricity under Israel’s colonial regime.

Children in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, West Bank, May 15, 2017.

On the 24 of May Israel’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that starting from June, the Israeli army could move the village to a different location and carry out the demolition and eviction of the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar.[2] Justices Noam Solberg, Yael Willner and Anat Baron approved expelling the population and razing their homes.
The Court was presided over by Noam Sohlberg, who is himself a resident of an illegal Israeli settlement, Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion bloc. Sohlberg wrote that the grounds for the decision rejecting a villagers' petition for a stay in the order, was that the residents had unlawfully engaged in building both the school and housing, and that it was not within the court's remit to meddle in the execution of Israeli state laws.
Of course the reason why the buildings are illegal is because Israel’s colonial administration refused to issue permits to Palestinians for such things as schools and housing.  The Supreme Court however was not interested in asking why permits are not granted to Palestinians because that might come perilously close to examining the legitimacy of the Occupation itself. A colonial court such as Israel’s Supreme Court can only concern itself with procedural questions.  Of course Israeli settlements aren’t troubled by such legal niceties since the granting of permits and master plans for their development is taken for granted.

Abu Ali Abu Ghalia at the projects committee for a Jahalin Bedouin neighborhourhood

The villagers have been in their current location since before the settlement of Kfar Adumim was established. Despite this, the state refused to include them in the master plans it prepared for the settlers. Consequently, the buildings that the justices deemed illegal were all built without permits.
Israel’s Supreme Court operates on the basis that the Occupation, which is in conflict with International Law is nonetheless legal under Israeli law.  The role of the Court is to put a legal gloss on the Occupation.  Whenever there is a conflict between Israeli Law and International Law the former prevails.[3] As Hagai El-Ad, Director the Israeli Human Rights NGO B’tselem noted:

school in Khan al Ahmar

For decades, the Supreme Court justices have granted legitimacy to practically any injustice that Israel wishes to cause to the Palestinians: demolishing their homes, administrative arrests, revoking residency rights, seizing land, constraining their movement. Still, it isn’t every day that six of the 15 Supreme Court justices sign off on rulings on the fate of Palestinian subjects that boil down to approving crimes.[4]
David Zonsheine, executive director of B'tselem, explained that Israel had failed to connect the township to water, power and sewerage services, and that the villagers had built without permits because Israeli policy is such that is dissuades Palestinian villagers from even trying to obtain licenses to build, a claim also repeated by Human Rights Watch. The effect of the dismantlement and evictions will be, he added, to bisect the West Bank from north to south. [5]
Thousands of settlers in Kfar Etzion celebrating celebrating 50 years of settlement September 27, 2017. (Gershon Elinson FLASH90)
Solberg wrote: “The question at stake is not whether the path the state plans meets the requirements of the law, but whether carrying out the demolition orders meets the requirements of the law.” The “inarguable point of departure” was that the buildings in question were “illegal.”
Why a school building was illegal was not something that the Court was concerned about. It noted that “the village school doesn’t have a yard that meets standards.” It didn’t even meet “acoustic standards”!   In normal circumstances one might expect that a court of law would order that the owners install sound proofing or build a yard of sufficient size.  However that would be to entirely miss the point. This is Israel and these are Palestinians.  The only solution that the Court was prepared to agree to was to demolish and expel.

The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, West Bank, May 15, 2017.

However every cloud has a silver lining.  Even though the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar is going to be demolished and its inhabitants expelled the Civil Administration (run by the Military) is set to approve the construction of 92 building in Kfar Adumim, a settlement less than a mile away from Khan al-Ahmar.[6]
The plan covers an area of 122 dunams (30 acres) which in turn is part of a larger plan, comprising 322 new homes on 660 dunams, which passed the first stage of its approval process in February 2017. The new neighborhood will be called Nofei Bereishit.
The funds for this development will come from the World Zionist Organization Settlement Division.  The Jewish Labour Movement, which as we all know is terribly concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’, is affiliated to the WZO.[7] So although the JLM is formally a supporter of a 2 States solution, they are affiliated to a body that is responsible for providing funds to build settlements designed to prevent that solution! Such is the hypocrisy of Labour Zionism.
Justice Willner, one of the three judges has a brother and sister who live in Kfar Adumim. Nevertheless, she didn’t offer to recuse herself from hearing the case. Willner, Sohlberg and Baron subsequently rejected a request by attorney, Shlomo Lecker, that she do so.
As Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran observed “They’re destroying Khan al-Ahmar because they didn’t give them building permits, it turns out that the Israeli government has no problem with issuing permits for this land – just not to Palestinians.”

Girls going to school in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar,

The state intends to evacuate the residents of Khan al Ahmar to the village of Al Jabel, an area near the Abu Dis garbage dump that the state has allocated for the permanent settlement of the Jahalin Bedouin, refugees from the Negev who have lived in the area since before 1967.  It has already become a slum and the shepherds will have to give up their flocks, with the consequent increase in unemployment. The status of women will also be adversely affected.[8]
The garbage heap, which also serves Ma’aleh Adumim, brings throngs of flies and mice to the neighborhood, conveying the Israeli authorities’ contempt. The sewage holes frequently overflow. This is one of the residents’ main grievances: If they already prepared the land for construction, why didn’t they build a sewage system?
In the late ‘90s, Israel expelled around 150 families from about 10 Bedouin communities, including Salaila’s, to the new site. The Bedouin’s expulsion for a “permanent settlement,” now known as al-Jabal (the mountain), was carried out in three phases. Now the High Court of Justice has let the state expel to that site a fourth wave of Bedouin families from Khan al-Ahmar. It’s locked between the largest garbage dump in the West Bank to the east, and the Al-Eizariya car junkyard to the west. [9]

The settlement of Kfar Adumim

Hamda Salaila spoke passionately about the women’s committee she set up two years ago that meets regularly in a large container that houses old furniture, a modest kitchenette and an old ventilator to alleviate the heat a bit.
Salaila and a few other local women run all the activities, which consist of courses for women, project-management training, and games and tutoring for children. Amir Hass described how three women joined the conversation with Salaila: the twins Amani and Iman Abu Ghalia, 22, and their cousin, Hind Abu Ghalia, 27. “Men are not part of this,” Salaila said, with unconcealed pride.
Still, the four women, all university graduates hoping to continue their studies, refused to have their faces photographed. While assertive and aware of their duty to advance the status of women in their community, they nonetheless partially submit to what Salaila calls “the shame culture,” part of which is their families’ – especially the men’s – objection to having pictures of women published.

Palestinian girls watch TV at their home on May 30, 2018 in Khan al-Ahmar village. MENAHEM KAHANA AFP

A stroll around the neighborhood at midday revealed a strange phenomenon: no women are in sight. Is it the heat? No. Even the four women we talked to in the container wouldn’t join our stroll but went straight to their homes next door.
“We don’t walk on the street just like that,” one of them said. “Once we used to stroll outside the neighborhood a little.”
Bulldozers from the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration have flattened a few lots, on which the forced evacuees are supposed to build their own houses. The new plots are very near one another, a tight cluster of houses and families alien to the Bedouin’s way of life.
In the semi-urban Jahalin neighborhood there is no room for flocks of sheep. “We buy milk. Imagine that – Bedouin buying milk!” says Hind Abu Ghalia. She has lived in the neighborhood most of her life but feels the absurdity of this reality.
“Today woman have a lot of free time. In the past they took part in the work. Economically, a man couldn’t make it without his wife. Today the woman is only at home with no work opportunities,” Salaila says.
The man goes out, works in settlements and doesn’t let his wife go out. If she hasn’t studied, she’s even more captive in her own house. Once, when we lived in the encampment, women also met and talked to each other. That custom has been lost.

Plots leased to the Bedouin at al-Jabal in the West Bank

The women now have electricity, running water, and shelter from nature’s hazards. But deprived of the chance to work for a living, they’ve lost the reason to move around.
“We’re imprisoned at home,” Bedouin women told researchers from the group Bimkom, who last year wrote a report about the expulsion’s negative effect on women at al-Jabal and Arab al-Rashayida southeast of Bethlehem.[10] When there’s no choice but to leave home, they wear a niqab, a face covering that wasn’t customary when they lived in the open. Twenty years after the forced relocation, most of them have suffered damaged self-esteem.
At first the neighborhood got its water from Israel water company Mekorot, allowing for a regular water supply. Then the locals were linked to the Al-Eizariya municipality. Israel limits the water supply to the Palestinians, so in the hot months they don’t have running water every day.
To make a living, some families have split. Some of their members look after the flocks and still live outdoors in tents. Some make a living off jobs in nearby settlements. But according to a member of the neighborhood’s projects committee, Abu Ali Abu Ghalia, unemployment among the men is very high.
 “Some basic conditions must be kept when you move from a life of herding to an urban environment. A water and electricity infrastructure isn’t enough. You have to give the people training to change their profession so we can live in the new conditions. A man can’t turn overnight from a shepherd into a driver or a teacher,” he adds.
The lots there are planned at 300 square meters (3,229 square feet) per family, less than what was allocated for the previous waves of expellees. No pasture land has been allotted.
In its response to Lecker’s petition against the demolition at Khan al-Ahmar, the state said that at the beginning of June it would finish building a school that will replace the ecological school. The new school would accommodate 150 students.
This week Civil Administration employees accompanied by policemen entered Khan al-Ahmar to take measurements.  It would appear that the demolition and evictions are imminent. [11] Ahmad Abu Dahuk, a village resident, told Haaretz that the Civil Administration representatives, accompanied by security personnel, were seen five times at the entrance to the village, on Route 1, which leads to Jericho. The sixth time, he said, on Sunday around noon, they entered the village, walked around the houses, entered the ecological school (the well-known one made of tires, which is also slated for demolition), and counted the flocks of sheep. He said the children who were in the school fled in panic. 
Residents told B’Tselem that a police officer told them they would be evacuated by force and that they would be better off leaving “willingly.”
Abu Dahuk also told Haaretz that “We are afraid to sleep, in case they come at night and destroy our homes, and we are afraid when we wake up, in case they come then to destroy them.”.
Since the High Court paved the way for the demolition last month, police, army and Civil Administration representatives have been coming to the site periodically to survey the area and the houses to determine the best points of entry for the heavy vehicles and bulldozers. This time, however, the surveying raised concerns that the demolition and eviction were imminent. No doubt Sohlberg, Baron and Willner will sleep easily in their beds.
Thus Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians continues apace.  After having concentrated the Bedouin in the new township the next phase will be transfer from the country altogether.
Tony Greenstein

[1]           See Khan al-Ahmar, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khan_al-Ahmar.

[2]           Israel to Demolish Entire West Bank Bedouin Village, Ending Year-long Legal Battle , Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 25.5.18. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-to-demolish-entire-west-bank-bedouin-village-1.6116488

[3]           See Israel's Supreme Court: Liberal bastion or an enforcer of injustice?, Ben White, Middle East Eye, 23.3.18., http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/how-israel-s-supreme-court-reinforces-discriminatory-status-quo-1678693361

[4]           Khan al-Ahmar and Gaza: Two Sides of the Same Legal Coin, Ha’aretz, 5th June 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/khan-al-ahmar-and-gaza-two-sides-of-the-same-legal-coin-1.6152008 

[6]           Israel to Build 92 New Settlement Homes Near Bedouin Village Slated for Demolition, Amira Hass, Ha’aretz, 30.5.18., https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-to-build-92-homes-in-settlement-near-condemned-bedouin-village-1.6132947 

[7]           About the Jewish Labour Movement, http://www.jlm.org.uk/about 

[8]           Israel’s Solution for Expelled Bedouin: Between the Garbage Dump and Junkyard, Ha’aretz, 11.6.18., Amir Hass, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-israel-s-solution-for-expelled-bedouin-between-garbage-and-junkyard-1.6158225

[9]           Israel to Demolish Entire West Bank Bedouin Village, Ending Year-long Legal Battle, Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 25.6.18., https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-to-demolish-entire-west-bank-bedouin-village-1.6116488

[10]          The effect of forced transfer on Bedouin women, Bimkom, http://bimkom.org/wp-content/uploads/The-effect-of-forced-transfer-on-Bedouin-women-Eng_DESIGN1.pdf

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