Planned demolition of a Bedouin community village including its school ordered by Israel’s High Court

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By Middle East Affairs

The planned demolition of Jahalin-tribe village at Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank has been approved by The High Court of Justice, along with will go the village’s school made out of tires.

Now that the demolition has been approved by the court, the village can be demolished on any date that the government sees fit.

The community of Bedouins including residents from the village and parents of the school children wrote two separate petitions asking the demolition not to be carried out were rejected on Thursday.

Justice Noam Sohlberg, along with Justices Anat Baron and Yael Willner wrote that the structures in the village were built illegally, so there stands no reason for the court to intervene in the defense’s ministry ruling.

Requests for a master plan and building permits from the residents of the villages who have lived there for decades were denied in August when Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that his ministry was preparing to remove the residents from Khan al-Ahmar and Sussia.

Shlomo Lecker filed the petitioned by Jahalin residents, both communities have become the symbol of the fights against the removal of Palestinians from Area C, which has become under the complete control of Israeli forces over the last 10 years.

Israel wants the removal of 200 residents of Khan al-Ahmar and Abu Hilweh from their current homes and deposited into an area that the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration has allocated to them. The state is saying that homes and a new school will be built in the newly designated area.

This ruling might become a precedent for other Bedouin communities forcing them to urbanize their lifestyle, should the Israeli state wish to relocate them to more permanent areas in the West Bank including a town near Abu Dis (known as Jabel Jahalin or Kafr Jahalin).

Justice Sohlberg said that while he was aware of the Bedouin community’s opposition to moving, he said the conversation is centered on buildings that were built without permits. He said that relocation plans were not “so extreme in its unreasonableness”.

A wounded Palestinian is being moved away from the border after Israeli forces fired at protesters during the ‘Great March of Return’ in Gaza on 11 May 2018 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Between Jerusalem and Jericho are many Bedouin communities belonging to the Jahalin tribe. The Bedouin communities had once settled in the Negev and moved with the seasons among a few permanent areas. When Israel became a state in 1948, many communities became evicted from the Negev and were relocated to the West Bank. After the Six-Day War, Israel restricted their movement which didn’t allow their normal seasonal moves. Israel also blocked their water access sources, along with lands for the names to graze by establishing a large military zone in the area.

Conditions worsened in the 1990s as Oslo Accords discussion continued, settlements and construction of roads that further separated the communities boomed.

Around the same time, West Bank Palestinians were banned from entering Jerusalem. This meant that Bedouins lost access to the market and were unable to purchase the products that they needed.

Communities slated for demolition like Khan al-Ahmar, have had their residents residing in them for decades, as well as in Palestinian villages. The lands are sometimes registered as private or public land, while the Civil Administration declared some of them as state land.

Israel has not provided the Bedouin communities with a master plan of their vision for the area and continues to declare their living structures as illegal.

The Jahalin community at Khan al-Ahmar and Abu Hilweh have been protesting against the demolitions and bans on construction of public infrastructure as a clinic or school since 2009.

Lecker represented the Jahalins at this time, as well as other Bedouin communities. The E.U. has said that the removal of the Bedouin communities is a violation of international law as it creates forced displacement.

Around the world and in Israel, many NGO groups have taken up the Bedouin’s fight against forced evacuation, hoping that Israel will take notice of the numerous opposition to their evacuations.

Their fight has postponed the Civil Administration’s demolition orders giving time to the residents of Kfar Adumim to send four petitions to the High Court since 2009.

So far three have been denied. The High Court announced their ruling that the Israeli government has the right to decide when the carry out their demolitions. It has also made known their plans of relocating all existing Bedouin communities into chosen for them areas.

On Thursday, the fourth petition was withdrawn after having been labeled redundant.

While the international community has fought against forced evacuations, settler’s supporters in the Knesset have rallied for more evacuations, calling in favor or demolitions saying that they need the land to accommodate further expansion plans.

Lecker in speaking to Haaretz in response to the ruling: “Justices Sohlberg, Baron and Willner decided today to remove all protection of the High Court of Justice in the face of the state’s actions in Area C and allowed the state to demolish in another week the only shelter for dozens of Bedouin families from Khan al-Ahmar and the school in which 165 children study, as well as the sheep pens that provide shelter for 850 sheep.”

Lecker when speaking about the ruling precedent-setting and, referring to the International Criminal Court, said “the High Court of Justice has legitimized the carrying out of serious crimes against defenseless populations under the state’s control for 51 years. In my opinion, this ruling provides a broad opening for intervention by the court in The Hague in the state’s actions.”

The Bedoquin’s community lawyer Lecker also said, “I would like to note that until now I opposed steps that called for the court in The Hague to be involved in what is happening in the territories under Israel’s control.”

 

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