Israeli rights group asks EU to prevent razing of West Bank Bedouin village
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Israeli rights group asks EU to prevent razing of West Bank Bedouin village

B’Tselem says European Union foreign policy chief Mogherini must take action if the body is to ‘credibly back its own positions’

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

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said Saturday it had written to the European Union to ask that it intervenes to prevent the demolition of a Bedouin village in the West Bank, which is slated to occur as early as Wednesday.

B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad wrote Friday to the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, asking her to take action on the issue.

El-Ad referred to previous statements made by Mogherini warning Israel against the demolition, writing: “We have reached the juncture where it appears that these serious consequences must be spelled out, if the EU is to credibly back its own positions.”

In a ruling last week the High Court of Justice cleared the way for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, rejecting a final appeal in a case that has drawn international criticism.

The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on September 6, 2018. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

El-Ad wrote that, “in their occupation-serving decision, the justices ignored both the context of a completely one-sided planning regime, where building ‘legally’ is an option reserved for settlers and denied from protected persons.”

He then claimed that the demolition was part of a plan to minimize Palestinian presence in Area C, a stretch of land accounting for 60 percent of the West Bank over which Israel has control under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinians in September 1995.

“The EU obviously has ample leverage to affect a concrete impact, by showing Israel that unacceptable human rights violations will have serious consequences and spelling out exactly what it stands to lose,” wrote El-Ad.

“The destruction of an entire Palestinian community is the clearest recent expression of Israel’s unabashed disregard for the supposed shared values that presumably lie at the core of its relationship with the EU,” he added.

Right-wing Israeli activists clashed Friday with residents of the village. In footage taken by local Bedouins and Palestinian activists, the residents of the village could be seen exchanging angry shouts with the Israelis from the Im Tirzu organization in a passageway under the Route 1 highway leading to the ramshackle village.

Israeli police officers soon interceded and separated the groups, leading the Israeli activists out of the area.

The European Union on Thursday urged Israel to reconsider the razing, warning it would undermine efforts to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The consequences of a demolition of this community and the displacement of its residents, including children, against their will, would be very serious and would severely threaten the viability of the two-state solution and undermine prospects for peace,” the EU said in a statement. “The community of Khan al-Ahmar is located in a sensitive location in Area C, of strategic importance for preserving the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.”

“The EU expects the Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar,” the statement continued.

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

On Tuesday the UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov similarly warned that demolition of the village would impact peace efforts.

Mladenov said the planned demolition of the village would “undermine the prospect for two-state solution and is against international law.”

Opponents of the demolition 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.

In its ruling, which was in response to a petition from residents of Khan al-Ahmar, the High Court said an order preventing the village’s demolition would 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. Sitting east of Jerusalem, the village is located near several major Israeli settlements and close to a highway leading to the Dead Sea.

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

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 as another proposal that would have moved them to a site east of the Mitzpe Jericho settlement.

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

Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags as they protest against the upcoming demolition of the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

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 controlled 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.

 

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