The sole Jewish Knesset member from the Joint (Arab) List has come under fire for accusing Israel, in an interview with Sky News, of demolishing Palestinian homes as a means of “ethnic cleansing” in the West Bank.
MK Dov Khenin’s comments regarding Israel’s practice of destroying Palestinian buildings in the West Bank that do not have construction permits was broadcast at the beginning of the week, although he later said it was recorded some time ago.
Likud lawmaker Nava Boker accused Khenin of stoking anti-Semitic propaganda against Israel.
“The only ethnic cleansing being carried out is in his delirious mind,” Boker told Army Radio Tuesday. “With his deceitful expressions he is joining a long line of Jews throughout history who bolstered anti-Semitic propaganda with false claims.
“It is not surprising that Khenin, a member of the communist party, is joining the attempts to harm Israel,” she continued, referring to Khenin’s membership in the far-left socialist Hadash, one of the four parties — along with the United Arab List, Balad, and Ta’al — that unified to form the Joint (Arab) List faction. “In my opinion, he lost touch with reality a long time ago.”
In an interview with Army Radio Tuesday, Khenin said Israel evacuates Bedouin Arabs from Area C — areas under Israeli military and civilian control, under the Oslo Accords — in the Jordan Valley in order to build Jewish settlements.
“I have very serious criticism of the Israeli government,” he said. “But from that to make accusations of anti-Semitism? That is the height of insolence.”
He continued, “The images from the Jordan Valley are terrible images — children whose homes are destroyed, their tents are evacuated there… It is a grave thing to say [ethnic cleansing]… [but] the reality is very grave.
“The reality in the Jordan Valley is one in which they are expelling the Bedouins, evacuating them from their places of residence. They are not being allowed to build,” Khenin said. “When you evacuate Arabs and in their place you build settlements for Jews, that is a reality that must be addressed.”
The Sky News segment about Israeli demolitions of Palestinian buildings in Area C of the West Bank, aired on Sunday, included the interview with Khenin, in which he said the demolitions were “ethnic cleansing in a very sophisticated way.”
Citing figures from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the report said there have been an average of 165 house demolitions every month since January and that in February some 235 buildings were torn down.
In a response to Sky News, Israeli officials said: “The civil administration, by its power, takes enforcement measures against any sort of illegal construction in Area C.”
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, land in the West Bank designated as Area C is under full Israeli control. The Civil Administration, which is responsible for the area, claims it applies construction laws equally to both Jewish and Arab residents. However, Palestinians say their construction requests are invariably turned down by the Administration. About 60 percent of the West Bank is designated Area C.