A liberal pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of using the American July 4 holiday as a “cover” to advance the court-ordered demolition of a West Bank hamlet.
Clashes broke out earlier in the day between police and protesters at the illegally built Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, which is due to be demolished.
The J Street organization said in a statement it was “outraged by the Israeli government’s dispatch of bulldozers today.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government seems intent on using the July 4th holiday as cover to move forward with demolition plans that have been opposed by dozens of US lawmakers, hundreds of rabbis and thousands of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” the group said in a statement.
“Netanyahu and his government should know: Even on July 4th, Americans are watching their destructive actions in the West Bank, with deep frustration and concern for the damage they are doing to the future of both Israelis and Palestinians,” J Street said, noting that on July 2 it delivered a letter with 7,000 signatures to the Israeli embassy in Washington opposing the demolition.
Residents of Khan al-Ahmar and protesters attempted to block construction equipment from advancing as it was moved into the area to pave an access road to facilitate the demolition of the encampment, with a number of people climbing onto a bulldozer.
Eleven people were arrested, including an activist from the B’Tselem rights group. Three police officers were lightly injured in the confrontation, the force said, and some 35 protesters were hurt, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
After a years-long legal battle, the Supreme Court approved the demolition in May. The state says the structures were built without the relevant building permits and pose a threat to residents because of their proximity to a highway.
The hamlet has been the subject of international controversy over the years for, among other things, its elementary school, which is made of tires, mud and falafel oil.
Critics say building permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank and the demolition is meant to clear the way for new Jewish settlements.
Israel says it has offered the residents an alternative location, near a garbage dump belonging to the Palestinian town of Abu Dis. Bedouin villagers say the location is unsuitable for their way of life, and have asserted that residents of Abu Dis have warned them not to come there.
According to the UN, the village has 180 residents.