Khan al-Ahmar is one of a dozen Bedouin communities that lie between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim. Khan al-Ahmar sits at a crossroads in the E1 area between Kfar Adumim and the jobs in the Jerusalem area where most of its settlers work, and for more than a decade, Israel has been trying to evict its residents. Between 2006 and 2018, the Israel Defense Force’s Civil Administration has demolished 26 homes in Khan al-Ahmar, leaving 132 people homeless.
Since March 5, 2017, the village has been fighting a prolonged legal battle with the IDF Civil Administration, which issued demolition orders for the entire village, including a mosque and school. In May 2018, Israel’s High Court rejected the Khan al-Ahmar residents’ petition against the demolition orders, and it approved state plans to demolish the village and relocate residents to al-Eizariya on the opposite side of Maale Adumim. The Court heard a new petition from residents in August 2018 and asked both sides to settle, but ultimately determined the May ruling to be conclusive.
The European Parliament, International Criminal Court, Jewish community and religious leaders in the US, and various human rights organizations responded with statements against the demolition, deeming it a violation of international law. In October 2018, the Israeli government announced the village’s demolition would be delayed until the 2019 elections concluded, and a new government was put into place. There were ultimately three elections, the third took place in March 2020, and ultraright parties in Israel made an election issue of promising to finish the demolition that PM Netanyahu put off under European and ICC pressure.
While the Civil Administration has been rigorously demolishing any new structures in the area since September 2019, it has left Khan al-Ahmar alone so long as new structures are not built there. As of July 2020, the full-village demolition ordered by the court in 2018 has yet to take place, and the future of the village remains uncertain.
Khan al-Ahmar is home to the Jahalin Bedouin tribe. Although originally from the Negev Desert, the Jahalin were forcibly relocated to the then Jordanian-controlled West Bank by the Israeli military in 1951. The Jahalin leased Khan al Ahmar’s land from a Palestinian living in Anata. Israel took over the West Bank in the 1967 war, and in 1975 expropriated the land where Khan al-Ahmar sits, making it Israeli state land zoned for an industrial zone of the Maale Adumim settlement. The Israeli authorities have always denied the village permits for building and basic utilities, including water, electricity, and sewage, forcing the residents to live in squalid conditions. Israeli courts have ruled that the residents must leave because the village was constructed without permits, although the Fourth Geneva Convention states that the destruction of civilian homes in territory occupied through war constitutes a war crime “unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand.”
Israel Postpones Eviction of West Bank Bedouin Village of Khan Al-Amar until December, Haaretz, June 2019
The Demolition of Khan Al-Amar would have Disastrous Consequences, Delegation of France, September 2018
Khan Al-Ahmar: Israel Court approves demolition of Bedouin Village, BBC, September 2018
Israel delays Palestinian Village Khan al Ahmar Demolition Order, Al Jazeera, October 2018
Khan Al-Ahmar: School is Out, DCI Palestine, February 2014
Susya was a quiet, out-of-the-way Palestinian village of 350 residents in the South Hebron hills prior to the discovery of a historic Jewish synagogue nearby. Since 1983 the archaeological site has drawn Israeli settlers who wished to be near this historic place of worship. To accommodate the expansion of this settlement, the Ministry of Defense has demolished Susya three times. After each demolition the villagers have requested permits to rebuild their community, but they have always been denied. Not wanting to abandon their homes, the residents of Susya have rebuilt their community anyway. But the village lacks basic utilities and access to healthcare and education. Once again in 2016, the Israeli Ministry of Defense issued demolition orders for Susya. International intervention stalled the process, beginning a prolonged legal battle which continues to this day. Members of the United States Congress have taken an active role, asking the State Department to intervene in order to halt the impending demolition. Between July and December of 2017, eleven members of congress and ten senators sent a total of five letters of petition to the State Department and government of Israel. In November 2017, the Israeli High Court issued its final ruling against Susya. The demolition of seven of the village’s twenty structures began on February 1, 2018. The future of the remainder of the village is uncertain.
Located southwest of Bethlehem, the village of Wadi Foquin was reestablished in 1972 after being deserted for 18 years. During the first Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Israeli soldiers ordered the evacuation of Palestinians from Wadi Foquin. The village was completely demolished in 1954 and remained vacant until Israel permitted the displaced villagers to return in 1972. Since then, the growing Israeli settlement of Betar Illit has competed with Wadi Foquin for resources. Cut off by checkpoints and settler-only roads, Wadi Foquin’s land has steadily shrunk since 1987. It is estimated that since 1948 the village has lost 75 percent of its farmland. Untreated wastewater from the nearby settlement discharges directly into the villagers’ farmland, creating a public health and environmental nightmare. Currently Betar Illit is home to 50,000 Israeli settlers, and development plans indicate that the settlement is anticipated to grow to 100,000 by 2020. This expansion would further reduce the land available for development in Wadi Foquin.
Friends of Wadi Foquin
“The United Methodist Church, through its General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), supports a community development project in the Palestinian village of Wadi Foquin. The church’s involvement began in 2009 with modest fundraising for beehives to help offset damage inflicted on agricultural life by the nearby Israeli settlement of Betar Illit. The project was initiated by Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, Calif., with help from Janet Lahr Lewis, then UMC Liaison to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Trinity United Methodist Church, Berkeley Methodist United Church, other San Francisco Bay Area churches, and community members have joined the partnership since then, and a new project has been added every year. Operating under the name Friends of Wadi Foquin, the organization has worked to provide financial assistance for projects supporting the economic survival of the village, made annual visits to Wadi Foquin, and—as the village has come under increasing threat from settlement expansion—advocated for its survival on Capitol Hill. The Cal-Nevada Israel-Palestine Task Force of the United Methodist Church has also provided support for the partnership.” Learn More
The government of Israel officially annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, a little of over a decade after the municipal governments merged in 1967. Since 1967, Israelis have established a dozen major settlements (referred to as ‘neighborhoods’ by Israeli media) within the portion of Jerusalem falling east of the 1948 Green Line. Zoning maps of East Jerusalem designate 40 percent of the city as green space, limiting the ability of Palestinian neighborhoods to expand. Today, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, who make up 60 percent of the city’s population, live in neighborhoods accounting for only 13 percent of land. The housing density in these neighborhoods is almost double that of Israeli areas. An estimated one in three Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem are built without a legal permit placing 90,000 people at risk of displacement.
After 1967, Israel established settlements in lands captured from Egypt, including the Gaza Strip. These settlements remained in place until 2005 when the government of Israel announced a unilateral withdrawal of its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip. They dismantled 21 settlements and relocated 8,000 people back to Israel. While Palestinians in Gaza no longer face the challenge of expanding settlements, the economic impacts of the Israeli blockade and infrastructure damaged during the 2008/2009, 2012, and 2014 wars has created a humanitarian crisis.
Population growth within both Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages exacerbates tensions over the allocation of land and resources in the West Bank. Palestinian villages located in Area C of the West Bank (the areas of the West Bank that are still under full Israeli administrative and security control according to the Oslo Peace Accords) must apply to Israeli authorities for building permits. About 60 percent of all West Bank land falls under this category. Within the last decade, only 1.5 percent of these applications were approved. Consequently, almost all Palestinian new construction occurs without the required permits. Structures built without permits can be demolished by the Israeli military. The construction of the Separation Barrier and the restrictions on movement that it creates, prevents Palestinians in the West Bank from maintaining their land on the Israeli-controlled side of the wall. After laying uncultivated for three years, these lands can become Israeli state land under the Absentee Property Law of 1950.