The Israeli military is expected to demolish and forcibly displace the entire village of Khan al-Ahmar any day now. Hundreds of activists hope to stave off the bulldozers, or at least stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the village’s residents when they arrive.
Ever since a temporary injunction delaying the forcible displacement and demolition of the entire Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar expired, over 100 Palestinian, Israeli and foreign solidarity activists have spent the night in the village school’s courtyard.
After dinner and a few live broadcasts on Facebook, the activists sleep on thin mattresses and heavy blankets laid out across the schoolyard’s artificial grass covered courtyard.
As the sun rises each morning, a sense of temporary relief is tangible. The village survived to see another day another night. They made it through the night.
The scene is in some ways reminiscent of Tel Aviv’s 2011 social justice tent protests, when thousands of young Israelis slept under the stars and in tents along the city’s Rothschild Boulevard. Only here, in Khan al-Ahmar seven years later, instead of Hebrew-language signs demanding affordable housing there are Palestinian flags, portraits of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and almost certainty that Israeli army bulldozers will soon arrive.
Many of the activists, including Palestinian government minister Walid Assaf, hurry to leave the school — and the village — before the children arrive to school each morning. In the evening they will return to spend another night in the village, hoping to hold off its destruction, or at least to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its residents when it happens.
For nearly a decade, the residents of Khan al-Ahmar have been fighting the Israeli government’s attempts to demolish the Bedouin village and forcibly transfer its inhabitants to an area adjacent to a garbage dump near the West Bank town of Abu Dis.
The village has become an internationally-known site of resistance to Israel’s practice of forcibly transferring Palestinians out of Area C, and, in the past, pressure by American and European diplomats succeeded in helping to stave off the demolitions.
The area where it is located, known as E1, is of great strategic importance because if Israeli settlements expand throughout it, they would effectively dissect the West Bank into two pieces, rendering the idea of a contiguous Palestinian state there moot.
Human rights activists and organizations have called the planned demolition and forced displacement a war crime. Earlier this week, the European Parliament warned Israel that carrying out the plans would constitute a grave breach of international law.
A version of this article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.