High Court okays demolition of West Bank Bedouin village

Judges say order preventing razing of Khan al-Ahmar will be lifted in 7 days, bringing a seeming end to years-long legal battle

Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags as they try to prevent a tractor from paving an access road to the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags as they try to prevent a tractor from paving an access road to the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a petition to prevent the demolition of a West Bank Bedouin village, bringing a seeming end to a years-long legal battle to prevent the community from being evicted.

In its ruling, which was in response to a petition from residents of Khan al-Ahmar, the court said an order preventing the village’s demolition will be lifted in seven days, allowing it to take place as soon as next week.

There has been strong international pressure on Israel to reverse its plans to raze the village, which Israeli authorities say was built illegally.

Khan al-Ahmar’s demolition had already been approved by the court in May, which the judges noted in their decision Wednesday.

“The main petition is an effort to to reopen a conclusive ruling, and this reason is enough to reject it out of hand,” they ruled.

A young boy in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

The judges also rejected the petitioners’ request to delay Khan al-Ahmar’s demolition until an alternative site is found for its residents.

Residents of the village have opposed the state’s plan to relocate them near a garbage dump belonging to the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, as well an another proposal that would have moved them to a site east of the Mitzpe Jericho settlement.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised the court’s ruling, calling it a “brave and necessary decision in the face of the orchestrated hypocrisy offensive of [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], the left and European countries.”

“No person is above the law,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “No one will prevent us from realizing our sovereignty and responsibility as a state.”

Rabbis for Human Rights, on the other hand, slammed the court’s ruling as “making kosher a grave moral and racist crime.”

“The destruction of the village is an anti-Jewish act worthy of condemnation,” the group said in a statement.

The High Court froze the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar in July when it agreed to hear the residents’ petition.

Israeli policemen scuffle with Palestinian demonstrators in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar east of Jerusalem on July 4, 2018 (FLASH90)

In the beginning of that month, the state had begun its preparations to raze the hamlet, where none of the structures have been granted permits. Security forces were deployed to the village and construction workers began paving an access road that would facilitate the demolition and evacuation.

The state says the structures, mostly makeshift shacks and tents, were built without permits and pose a threat to the village residents because of their proximity to a highway.

But the villagers — who have lived at the site, then in Jordan, since the 1950s, after the state evicted them from their Negev homes — argue that they had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits, as such permits are almost never issued to Palestinians for building in parts of the West Bank, such as Khan Al-Ahmar, where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.

Opponents of the demolition also argue that it is part of an effort to enable the expansion of the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim, and to create a region of contiguous Israeli control from Jerusalem almost to the Dead Sea, a move critics say will bisect the West Bank, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

AFP and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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