Ex-Jewish Agency Chief Slams Fellow Settlers Over Eviction of Neighboring Bedouin

Sallai Meridor, former Israeli U.S. envoy and founding father of a settlement, decries his community's contribution to High Court's ruling: 'The Bedouin were here when we arrived'

Kids play under a tree at the Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar near the West Bank city of Jericho May 30, 2018
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

The former Jewish Agency chief and Israel's ex-ambassador to the U.S., Sallai Meridor, published an open letter condemning petitions to the High Court by his settlement in support of the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.

Meridor, who is one of the founders of the West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim, prefaced his reproach by saying how proud he used be of his community, and its contribution to the strength of Israel.

Sallai Meridor
Tomer Appelbaum

 "I was proud of what we created here," Meridor wrote. "Proud of the wonderful social tapestry of the whole of Israel, of the joint lives of religious and secular (Jews) all these years while maintaining a sense of humanity."

>> Breaking Political Taboo, Jewish Settlers Side With Bedouin in Their Fight Against Demolition

The letter goes on to describe Meridor's dismay over the High Court's decision to approve the demolition and Kfar Adumim's role in the decision. "It is clear that the four petitions filed by the union (of the settlement) contributed to the decision which will allow the forceful evacuation of our Bedouin neighbors," it said.

"What morality drove us to wish for the banishment of people for the second time, after their families were banished from the State of Israel in the 1950s?" reads the letter.

If upholding the law was the chief concern of Kfar Adumim's leadership, Meridor wrote, "it would have prevented unauthorized construction within the village before it acted against unauthorized construction." He was disturbed that the appeals may have stemmed from ethnic and religious concerns, saying these were "unacceptable to me as a Jew." Security concerns, he insisted, belong to the state, not the settlement's union.

"The Bedouin were here when we arrived," Meridor wrote, adding that their presence never prevented the state from giving Kfar Adumim 10,000 acres to develop. "What has become of us that we now demand the poor man's lamb for ourselves as well?"

Meridor concludes the evacuation will mark a sad day not just for the residents of Khan al-Amar who will suffer, but for those who caused their suffering as well. "I also, who kept silent out of respect for the community and its emissaries, will walk with this Mark of Cain for many days."

On May 24, the High Court of Justice approved the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, which is home to the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, along with the village’s school made out of tires – allowing the demolition at any time the government sees fit as of June. 

The same day, the court rejected two petitions against the demolitionby village residents and parents of children at the school who come from surrounding Bedouin communities. Justice Noam Sohlberg wrote in the ruling that the structures were built illegally and that no reason existed for the court to intervene in Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s decision to demolish them. Justices Anat Baron and Yael Willner concurred.

In August, Lieberman announced that his ministry was preparing to remove the residents from Khan al-Ahmar and Sussia after all requests by the villages for a master plan and building permits where they had lived for decades were turned down. The petitions by the Jahalin residents were filed by attorney Shlomo Lecker. Over the past decade, both communities have become the flagship of the fight against the removal of Palestinians from Area C, which is under complete Israeli civil and military control.