By EA Sandra
Sandra served as an Ecumenical Accompanier from March-July 2015. Here she writes about the news of recent demolitions that took place last week in a community she came to know well during her service.
As an EA in East Jerusalem, my first encounter with a substantial number of Israeli forces acting contrary to international law was at the Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar on April 1, 2015 when solar panels were illegally and forcibly removed. You can read about that particular incident in the blog I wrote at the time.We visited the community regularly after the incident. We heard of the settlers coming into the community and the drones, which the community believed were being used by the settlement above them to track their movements. The members of the community belong to the Jahalin Bedouin tribe and originate from the Tel Arad area in the Negev, now part of Israel to the west of occupied Palestine. They were expelled by the Israeli army in the 1950s and have been living in their current location ever since.
We learnt that the solar panels taken on April 1 which belonged to a private individual had been returned, but that those donated by an NGO had not. How can you explain that?
Khan al Ahmer is famous for it’s “tyre” school. Funded by an NGO, and built by volunteers purely from tyres, it was hoped this means of building might avoid a demolition order. It did not, and the school which serves the neighbouring Bedouin communities got its demolition order. It is still standing with solar panels on the roof. We were told these panels had not been removed because the school itself was the subject of a demolition order.
How can you explain that?When we visited in July, the community leader told us they were expecting further demolitions on their homes.
And so it came to pass.
On August 18 the Israeli forces came again.
The UN issued a press release after the demolitions:
Today, (senior UN officials) , Robert Piper, and, Felipe Sanchez, expressed grave concern about demolition near East Jerusalem and called for an immediate freeze on demolitions in the West Bank.
22 structures were demolished in four communities (Khan al Ahmar Abu Falah, Wadi Sneysel, Bir Miskoob and Az Zayyem Bedouin), displacing 78 Palestinians, including 49 children, the vast majority of whom are Palestine refugees. All four communities are in the area of the planned E-1 settlement. According to UN records, this is the largest number of Palestinians displaced in the West Bank in one day in nearly three years. Concerns are also rising over reports of new demolitions today in the Jordan Valley community of Fasayil al Wusta.
Mr. Piper said. “The scale of displacement is particularly concerning – nearly 50 children lost their homes yesterday.”
“Many of these refugee families have now been displaced four times in the last four years” said Mr. Sanchez.
Israeli plans exist to transfer 46 Palestinian Bedouin communities to three designated sites. The UN Secretary-General has stated that the implementation of the proposed “relocation” would amount to forcible transfers and forced evictions, contravening Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under humanitarian law and human rights law.
“The strategic implications of these demolitions are clear,” said Mr. Piper. “These demolitions are occurring in parallel with settlement expansion. The relocation plan for these communities would effectively remove Palestinian presence in and around the planned E1 settlement project and construct thousands of new Israeli housing units in the West Bank on the outskirts of Jerusalem. E-1 has long been opposed by the international community as an obstacle to the realization of the two-state solution and a violation of international law.”
The owner of the demolished Khan al Ahmar house told EAs all the houses in the community have had demolition orders since 2012 but that he had no specific notice that his house would be demolished on August 18. With legal help the demolition had been delayed for three years, but in the spring he lost his court appeal and therefore had been expecting the demolition ever since. The cases of the other houses are still in court.
You can read an editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the demolitions: West Bank Demolitions Are Not Law Enforcement but ExpulsionsThe objective of the Israeli government seems to be to prioritise illegal settlement expansion much higher than basic human rights.
How can you explain that?
The demolitions at Susiya were delayed indefinitely because of international pressure. That pressure is needed again to save other Palestinian families from the cruel fate of home demolitions and forced displacement. Please take two minutes and write to your MP (in the UK) or TD (in Ireland) here asking them to act to halt these actions.