Everything you need to know about Khan al-Ahmar

Israeli authorities are set to demolish and forcibly displace the entire Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar any day now. Here is what you need to know about the village, and why rights groups and world leaders are describing Israel’s plans as a war crime.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Residents of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, West Bank, September 17, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Residents of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, West Bank, September 17, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

For nearly a decade, the community of Khan al-Ahmar has been fighting the Israeli government’s attempts to evacuate its village, located just east of Jerusalem, and move its residents to a garbage dump in East Jerusalem. Now, after a green light from Israel’s High Court of Justice, the hamlet is under imminent threat of demolition.

Why does Israel say it wants to destroy Khan al-Ahmar?

The Israeli government says the village was built on state land without the required permits or a master plan. For Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, under direct Israeli control — and where Khan al-Ahmar is located — obtaining building permits is often close to impossible.

Who lives in Khan al-Ahmar?

The village is made up of around 180 members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, which has a 70-year-long history of dispossession and forced relocation by the Israeli government. Before Israel’s establishment, the Jahalin lived in the area of Tel Arad in the Negev, located in present-day Israel. Following the 1948 war, the Israeli military forced them out of their villages and into the West Bank; they settled in the pink, rocky hills of what today is known as Mishor Adumim in the early 1970s. Most of the villagers live in makeshift tin shacks or tents, and make their living off grazing.

For more, read Joshua Leifer’s piece on the history of the Jahalin.

Residents of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar look on as a bulldozer paves an access road to be used by Israeli forces in the imminent demolition of the West Bank hamlet, July 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv)
Residents of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar look on as a bulldozer paves an access road to be used by Israeli forces in the imminent demolition of the West Bank hamlet, July 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv)

What does Israel want to do with the villagers of Khan al-Ahmar?

Israeli authorities plan to move residents to Al Jabel, an area in East Jerusalem located near a garbage dump, where each family is supposed to receive a plot of land of around 300 square meters. Although Israel’s High Court ruled that the residents can be expelled from their village, they cannot be forced to move to the site in Al Jabel.

What about the village’s famed eco-school? Is it slated for demolition as well?

Yes. The village school, built in 2009 out of mud, tires, and clay with the help of an Italian NGO that specializes in ecological structures, serves the Bedouin population in the area. The Israeli army ordered it demolished just a month after it opened.

For more, read Orly Noy’s account of her visit to Khan al-Ahmar’s school.

Dozens of schoolchildren from the Khan al-Ahmar eco-school demonstrate outside the president’s residence in Jerusalem, demanding Chancellor Angela Merkel intervene and prevent Israel from demolishing their school, October 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Dozens of schoolchildren from the Khan al-Ahmar eco-school demonstrate outside the president’s residence in Jerusalem, demanding Chancellor Angela Merkel intervene and prevent Israel from demolishing their school, October 4, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

What were the previous High Court rulings?

Israeli military authorities issued demolition orders for all the village structures in 2009. Residents of nearby Israeli settlements have also pushed the Israeli army to carry out the demolition. Israeli authorities initially informed the High Court that they sought to demolish Khan al-Ahmar by June. The residents petitioned the High Court to cancel the state’s decision, arguing that they had proposed their own master plan (ostensibly to legalize the village’s buildings) to the Civil Administration, the branch of the Defense Ministry that runs the day-to-day affairs of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.

How did the High Court rule?

The High Court initially issued several temporary restraining orders, freezing the demolition and ordering the state to respond to the Palestinians’ claims. On September 5, following the state’s response, the High Court denied the villagers’ petition, giving Israeli military authorities a green light to demolish Khan al-Ahmar.

Jewish American activists seen after spending the night in the schoolyard of Khan al-Ahmar, September 16, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Jewish American activists seen after spending the night in the schoolyard of Khan al-Ahmar, September 16, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

What is Israel’s bigger-picture reason for wanting to demolish the village?

The destruction of Khan al-Ahmar and displacement of its residents is part of Israel’s plan to expand its settlements in the E-1 area, a 12 sq. kilometer area located between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. For decades, Israel has hoped to build up the area with settlements in order to connect the two cities — effectively cutting off Palestinian East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Doing so would also bifurcate the West Bank, leading to what many have described as the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.

For more, read Edo Konrad’s interview with Daniel Seidemann, an attorney and activist who runs the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem.

What is the international community doing to stop the demolition?

Over the past few months, European diplomats have spent time shuttling back and forth to Khan al-Ahmar. In September, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the impending demolition, warning that Israel would be committing a grave breach of international law if it destroyed the village. The demolition has also been called a war crime by rights groups such as B’Tselem.

Israeli police arrest an international solidarity activist who had attempted to block a bulldozer brought to prepare for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, July 5, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Israeli police arrest an international solidarity activist who had attempted to block a bulldozer brought to prepare for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, July 5, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

What are activists doing to prevent the demolition?

For the past few months, hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists have been spending their nights and days in the village, preparing to nonviolently resist the demolition. Activists have repeatedly tried to block Israeli bulldozers that attempted to enter the village in order to prepare for the demolition.

Oren Ziv has been there to document every step of the struggle to save Khan al-Ahmar. Read his articles here, here, and here.