The Tire School – which has been operating in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar for eight years – and the newer and lesser known school in Al Muntar point to changes occurring in Bedouin society. Parents want their children to study as much as possible, and to learn more than they did in their own childhoods. They particularly want their daughters to study and complete their high school education.
The Bedouin, like all Palestinian residents in the West Bank, are under the civilian jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, including its law on compulsory education. However, communities lying in Area C are subject to Israel’s administrative and security control. This artificial and illogical division into categories A, B and C in the West Bank was meant to end in 1999. This did not happen, though, and Israel has persisted in prohibiting Palestinian construction in Area C, including the building of schools. Bedouin children have dropped out of school in Jericho, Al-Azariya and Abu Dis either because their parents could not afford to pay for transportation or because it’s difficult to walk several hours every day to reach school, in rain or blazing heat, across valleys and over steep hills. Through lack of choice, these and other communities decided to build structures without permits.
The increasingly powerful settler lobby, spearheaded by the Regavim NGO and the Judea and Samaria subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is applying greater pressure on the Civil Administration to implement demolition orders. It is not satisfied only with this, and is also insisting on the complete evacuation of Bedouin communities (as well as others in the south Hebron Hills area, such as Susya) from locations they have lived at before the West Bank was even occupied by Israel in 1967.
High Court petitions filed by Bedouin and other communities have delayed the evacuations, but their residents are living in increasingly constricted conditions. High Court justices debate the “illegality” of Palestinian structures, yet completely ignore the historical context and international laws that prohibit forced expulsion. These justices have never demanded that the state halt its discriminatory policies, which allow Jews to build in the West Bank while denying Palestinians that same right. At the end of December, the justices ordered the demolition of the school in Al Muntar, although a fresh petition delayed its implementation. The justices still have to decide the fate of the Tire School and the Khan al-Ahmar community.
It is not too late for the High Court to show civic and democratic courage by blocking these demolitions and forced expulsions. The justices can be inspired and encouraged by the efforts of a handful of settlers from Kfar Adumim who – contrary to the official position of their settlement – have decided to take action against the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and its school.