Al Khan al-Ahmar
Refugee Bedouin communities in Palestine, living under Israeli military occupation, have experienced decades of home demolitions and forcible transfers along with virtually non-existent services. Al Khan al-Ahmar is one such village. Jahalin Solidarity works to hold the Israeli government accountable for these transgressions in order to ensure the safety and health of villages like Al Khan al-Ahmar. Here’s what you need to know about Al Khan al-Ahmar and what you can do so that together we can rise up.
Jahalin Solidarity is a Palestinian non-profit which aims to develop and work with Palestinian society (especially Bedouin, but also others in Area C and East Jerusalem) targeted for transfer and forcible displacement. As such, Jahalin Solidarity represents an initiative of civil society dedicated to protecting the rights of Bedouin and other Palestinians living under occupation, especially those living in a coercive environment of ongoing demolitions and imminent forced eviction by the Israeli military authorities. Jahalin Solidarity works in solidarity with Bedouin and other Palestinian civil society to support their struggle to stay where they have lived for the past 60+ years in the Jerusalem periphery or elsewhere, to uphold the Palestinian Right of Return, and end the Israeli occupation.
Jahalin Solidarity is currently working with the filmmaker Guy Davidi to continue the “Twilight of a School” series (see the ‘Story’ section below). The upcoming films will follow Nisreen and Ali and two other students at the Al Khan al-Ahmar school and give voice to the aspirations and career paths made possible by the school. They will film more children while the school is still standing, and then in some months’ time following those little dreamers to see if they – like so many children – are able to access education at all.
Jahalin Solidarity needs help producing these films and translating them into as many languages as possible. You can make a donation for this purpose on their website at http://www.jahalin.org/donate/.
You can find Jahalin on their website at http://www.jahalin.org/. Or find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JahalinSolidarity/, Twitter at https://twitter.com/jahalin, or YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBwcWLI4MEiWPCcr67A7CiA .
When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, the Bedouin were mostly left alone, although the military took over large areas of land in that region in the 1970s for “security” and then gradually “gave” those lands to the settlers, to develop Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim settlements, next to Al Khan al-Ahmar village. This changed following the 1993 Oslo Agreement, when Al Khan al-Ahmar became a part of Israeli-controlled “Area C” (which accounts for 60% of the West Bank). Building permits have not been given to the resident refugees, and are almost never given to the 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C. In 2010, Regavim, a rightist settler group, lobbied for the removal of the village and demolition of the iconic “car tyres” school, built in 2009, so that more settler homes could be built; Regavim has been leading a legal struggle to have the village and school demolished, following the military issue of a demolition order on the school in 2009 while it was still being built.
In 2012, Israel announced plans to relocate the residents to an area north of Jericho. Members of the village rejected this plan and fought it with the help of their lawyer and activist organizations. The village has also been supported by UNRWA, arguing that its demolition would “effectively deny the children of the community their education and jeopardise their future.” Meanwhile, nearby Jewish settlements and Regavim have petitioned for the village’s immediate demolition.
The school itself was built in 2009 by the Italian aid organization Vento Di Terra (Wind of Earth) and volunteers, with funding also coming from Jahalin Solidarity’s co-director who was fundraising for a school bus at the time, so the children could get an education. This, the first school to ever serve the community, was served a demolition order only a month later, because it lacked planning permission from the military. As usual, there was no plan from the Israeli government to replace what would be lost with the destruction of the school.
The fight continued, and in 2015 all of the village’s solar panels were confiscated. And in 2017 villagers were told that their only option was to move to a site near the Abu Dis garbage dump. Not only was the land owned by Palestinians in another village, but each family was allocated only 250 square meters for their families and herds. It is not agricultural land, nor is it desert, and, perhaps worst of all, given its proximity to a dump, is dirty and foul-smelling. Bedouin who were forcibly displaced to that area in the 1990s live in acute poverty and awful conditions there.
It must be said that moving to urban or semi-urban, ghettoised environments is particularly difficult for Bedouin women, who in the process lose their traditional role and livelihood. Instead of moving freely as shepherds or travelling to market for sale of products, with access to income, they have become increasingly disempowered, dependent on their husbands, often restricted to lives inside unfamiliar, alienating concrete buildings and subject to increased gender-based violence at the hands of their menfolk, settlers, and soldiers.
In May of 2018 the Israeli High Court issued a ruling stating the Israeli army could begin moving the village in June and demolish it together with the school. Since then, the case has been under appeal, with the court urging the state and village to reach a compromise. Al Khan al-Ahmar’s legal team has presented evidence showing that the village and its structures are indeed legal, based on laws dating from the British Mandate era, while the state has offered as a ‘compromise’ a different resettlement area, as long as three other villages voluntarily agree to the resettlement. What the state did not tell the High Court was that the new site is less than half a kilometer away from a major sewage treatment plant, on desert land that is too salty to provide grazing for the Bedouins’ dwindling herds of sheep and goats.
Just prior to initial publication, in September, 2018, the High Court upheld the ruling, stating that the village could be demolished starting the following week. As residents and activists protest the imminent demolition, the European Parliament passed a motion warning that the destruction of Al Khan al-Ahmar would be a “grave breach of international law.”
Now, the legal fight continues, with the village facing frequent harassment from Israeli settlers. And sewage from the nearby Israeli settlement has been leaked multiple times, creating a sewage lake near the village.
The world has been clear in their condemnation of Israeli treatment of the Bedouin: The European Parliament passed a motion warning that the destruction of Al Khan al-Ahmar would be a “grave breach of international law.” And Adalah states:
“The United Nations and the European Parliament both criticized the original Prawer Plan and called for its cancellation. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) urged the Israeli government to withdraw the Prawer Plan on the grounds that it was ‘discriminatory’ and would ‘legalize the ongoing policy of home demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities.’
Further, in a report released in February 2014, the U.S. State Department called the treatment of the Bedouin one of Israel’s “most significant human rights problems,” noting that relocation would require them “to give up claims to land they had [inhabited] for several generations and would separate them from their livelihood.”
With the international community and United Nations clear on both the illegality and immorality of Israel’s treatment of Bedouin villages one would hope that Israel would reconsider its harsh treatment of the Bedouin tribes. Alas, civic and military officials seem deaf to these arguments and continue to push pro-settler plans. The courts have been more restrained, but that restraint has only served to slow down the tragedy of the Bedouin villages so that it plays out over years and decades. This means that Bedouin communities living their lives year after year with, at best, a sense of uncertainty as to their futures. It also means that constant work and effort are required to keep up challenges in the courts and to keep the public aware.
Through the week, Kumi Now will play its part by sharing and publishing a variety of stories from these and other organizations about how Bedouin communities and their allies are fighting to protect their lands and communities.
Nisreen, a student at Al Khan al-Ahmar school
I’d like to be a teacher. I like Maths and I’d like to be a Maths teacher and to teach in our school if it’s still here.
I’d also like to speak English. There’s an English teacher here. Her name is Sahar. She teaches us the letters and how to read properly. Here the English teacher explains everything and helps us to understand the general idea. The teachers are very supportive because of the threat of demolition.
Some girls’ fathers refuse to send them to school but my father lets me go. They study because the school is here but they won’t go if it’s far away. They are allowed to go because it’s nearby.
There is a girl in my class from another community. She is the best in our class. She’s very, very smart. She gets the best marks in all the exams. She has a lot of work at home because she’s the eldest and because her mother is very ill she has to help her grandmother with the animals. So she won’t be able to study if the school is far away.
The principal said that if they demolish the school we will set up a big tent and study in it. Also for the young children that weren’t in kindergarten. There was a kindergarten here, some time ago, but then a strong wind hit it.
From the short film “Twilight of a School – Nisreen” by Guy Davidi. Available at https://www.jahalin.org/twilight-of-a-school-nisreen/ See also “Twilight of a School – Ali” at https://www.jahalin.org/twilight-of-a-school-ali/
Israel likes to move people around against their will. In the case of Al Khan al-Ahmar, the villagers are being forced to choose between two absurd options. As Amira Hass writes in Haaretz, “Who would believe the Jewish democratic state would present non-Jews with two options for where to live, either next to a garbage dump or next to a sewage plant?”2
The UN has repeatedly criticized Israel for this practice, and has described it as a forced transfer, which is a war crime under international law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. Let’s remind Israel that according to the International Criminal Court, “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” constitutes a war crime. Israel’s top officials have clearly forgotten about international law, as Avigdor Liberman, the Defense Minister, wrote following the ruling, “Khan al-Ahmar will be evicted!…No one is above the law. No one will prevent us from exercising our sovereignty and responsibility to the state.”
Help keep Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman and the rest of the cabinet occupied without running afoul of international law by sending them silhouettes cut from paper (also known as paper dolls). Send the paper dolls to Avigdor Liberman and write them a message along the lines of, “At your next cabinet meeting you and your friend Benjamin Netanyahu can have fun moving these people around instead. Stop playing with the Palestinian people.”
Send your paper dolls and messages to:
Attn: Avigdor Liberman
Share a photo of your paper dolls on social media, along with your messages. Include a link to this page of the Kumi Now website along with the hashtags #SaveMySchool, #KumiNow, and #Kumi2.
Reactions to the Israeli Supreme Court Ruling
“In their ruling, Justices Amit, Meltzer, and Baron described an imaginary world with an egalitarian planning system that takes into account the needs of the Palestinians, as if there had never been an occupation…
This ruling shows once again that those under occupation cannot seek justice in the occupier’s courts. If the demolition of the community of Khan al-Ahmar goes ahead, the Supreme Court Justices will be among those who will bear responsibility for this war crime.”
“The Israeli Supreme Court in the Service of the Occupation” from B’Tselem1
“That this House…believes that the demolition of these buildings would be a flagrant disregard by Israel of both the will of the international community and the international legal order; further notes that the coercive environment of threatened demolition, illegal settlement expansion and forcible displacement are a daily reality faced by communities in the occupied Palestinian territories…”
“Early day motion 1169”, UK House of Commons (April 2018)2
“The Supreme Court proved today that it has finalised its role as the High Court of Justice…
In the 5th September 2018 judgment of Al-Khan al-Ahmar, the Supreme Court has sent a clear message to the Palestinians living under occupation: “You have nothing to look for here.”
The Supreme Court has now ended its historic role.
Ayelet Shaked has managed to turn the Supreme Court into a settler court.”
Statement by Adv. Tawfiq Jabareen, September 6, 2018
“In their ruling to authorize the village’s demolition the justices have given the state a green light to embark on a campaign of mass destruction and deportation of some 20 other Bedouin communities in the same area…”
Amira Hass, journalist for Haaretz3
“‘With this shameful and manifestly unlawful ruling the Supreme Court has confirmed a pattern of complicity in the crime of forcible transfer of Palestinian communities for the expansion Jewish only settlements. The court has not only completely denied the petitioners the protection provided to them by International Humanitarian Law, it has also validated the discriminatory policies of the Israeli authorities.’
‘If the international community does not immediately take the necessary action to stop this crime from taking place, thousands of other Palestinians surrounding Jerusalem and in the Jordan Valley will now face an imminent risk of forced displacement.’
Forcible transfer of people under occupation is a serious breach of the IV Geneva Convention. The deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory constitutes a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.”
Amnesty International and Saleh Higazi, Head of Office in Jerusalem for Amnesty International4
- “Khan al-Ahmar: Setting the record straight” by Angela Godfrey-Goldstein for +972 Magazine: https://972mag.com/khan-al-ahmar-setting-record-straight/139270/
- “Ex-Jewish Agency Chief Slams Fellow Settlers over Eviction of Neighboring Bedouin”: https://www.jahalin.org/ex-jewish-agency-chief-slams-fellow-settlers-over-eviction-of-neighboring-bedouin/
- “Khan Al-Ahmar not illegal, lawyer evidence shows” from Middle East Monitor: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180820-khan-al-ahmar-not-illegal-lawyer-evidence-shows/
- “The expulsion of Khan al-Ahmar: August 2018 update” from B’Tselem: https://www.btselem.org/facing_expulsion/20180815_update_on_planned_expulsion_of_khan_al_ahmar
- “Between garbage and sewage: Israel’s future plans for Khan al-Ahmar” by Hagai El-Ad for +972 Magazine: https://972mag.com/between-garbage-and-sewage-israels-future-plans-for-khan-al-ahmar/137299/
- “The School at Khan al-Ahmar” from Helen Eisler: https://www.jahalin.org/the-school-at-al-khan-al-ahmar/
- “Supporting Education in Bedouin Communities at Khan Al-Ahmar” from UNDP Palestine: https://youtu.be/Dnlkp21C5aw
- “Destruction of Khan al-Ahmar and Death of the Two-State Solution” from PressTVUK: https://youtu.be/dU-x8ojTEBE
- “Save Khan al-Ahmar!” from B’Tselem: https://youtu.be/Ar8VF4R71Wg
- “Education Challenges in Area C – The Case of Khan al-Ahmar” from GVC Italia: https://youtu.be/c-9BBRYlyPo
- “Khan al-Ahmar – Palestine” from Government of Palestine: https://youtu.be/EU_0zfNbWe4
- “Looming Demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar Village” from AP Archive: https://youtu.be/bG9HsYcmNKQ
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