Everything You Need to Know About the West Bank Bedouin Village at the Eye of a Diplomatic Storm

Who lives in Khan al-Ahmar, why is the West Bank village slated for demolition considered 'illegal' and what does the High Court say about it?

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Palestinians protesting the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Palestinians protesting the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, Wednesday, July 4, 2018Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Who lives in Khan al-Ahmar?

This Bedouin village is close to Route 1 in the area of Kfar Adumim. It is home to a few dozen families from the Jahalin tribe, which was expelled from its home in the Negev to the West Bank in the 1950s. Aerial photographs and testimony by villagers show that the residents wandered within the Jerusalem-Jericho region before gradually establishing permanent residence in Khan al-Ahmar, apparently in or around the 1970s. Khan al-Ahmar is just one of a number of villages that are home to the Jahalin.

Which buildings are slated for demolition?

Most of the village’s structures are tin shacks, tents or permanent tents that are used to shelter the residents and their livestock. Khan al-Ahmar is also home to the Tire School, a more durable structure, established with European support.

What is the village’s zoning status?

Khan al-Ahmar is not legal according to Israeli planning law. Members of the Jahalin tribe have been living in the area since before the Six-Day War. Its permanent buildings were erected without the required permits from the Civil Administration and without an urban master plan. They were built on land that is defined as state land.

Can the buildings be legalized retroactively?

The state can grant legal status retroactively to unlawful construction on state land, but is not doing so in Khan al-Ahmar. The state has legalized settlement outposts in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, whose jurisdiction includes the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement — the community that petitioned the High Court to demolish Khan al-Ahmar. Among the outposts it legalized are Rahelim and Harsha, even though the access road to Harsha was constructed on privately owned Palestinian land. Steps have also been taken to legalize the Adei Ad outpost. Mateh Binyamin includes some 30 unauthorized Israeli outposts. Admittedly, in regard to Khan al-Ahmar there is a certain difficulty in granting legal status to a community built from tents and tin shacks, adjacent to a highway and lacking any organized infrastructure.

The village’s proximity to a settlement and a highway are among the reasons cited for not legalizing it.

But there are also arguments, grounded in international law, according to which it is illegal for an occupying force to displace a local population. These arguments are generally not accepted in Israeli law.

Where does the state want to resettle the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin?

Authorities plan to move residents to Al Jabel, a village in the Azariya area, situated between the Abu Dis garbage dump and a chop shop for stolen vehicles. Bedouin from other Jahalin communities are already living there, but there is a long-running feud between the two groups. The residents of Khan al-Ahmar, who already live under dire conditions, claim that the permanent site designated for them would leave them significantly worse off. Each family is supposed to receive an area of around 300 square meters in the permanent site.

What were the previous High Court rulings?

Demolition orders were issued for the structures used to shelter the residents and their flocks as well as the school. There have been a number of legal proceedings. Residents of nearby settlements, in particular Kfar Adumim, have sought to have the demolition orders carried out, while the Bedouin have fought the orders. The state informed the High Court that it intended to evacuate all residents of Khan al-Ahmar by June. In the end, the court ruled that the state is authorized to carry out the demolition orders without setting a date. In previous evacuations of Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land, the High Court explicitly ruled that the state must carry out the demolition by a particular date.

What was the latest High Court ruling?

On Thursday the Palestinians petitioned the court, arguing that the legalization proposals they submitted to the Civil Administration were not examined. The High Court issued a temporary restraining order freezing the demolition and ordered the state to respond to the Palestinians’ claims by Wednesday. After the state submits its response, the High Court can decide to reject the petition and allow the state to resume the demolition process. Alternatively, the court can conduct deliberations that could delay or prevent the demolitions.

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