EU Countries File Protest Against Israel’s Upcoming Demolition of Bedouin Village

Diplomats from twelve countries visited Khan al-Ahmar after locals clashed with police. The diplomats were blocked from visiting a school in the village, after Israel declares the area a ‘closed military zone’

U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain submitted on Thursday an urgent official protest against Israeli authorities’ plan to demolish Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.

Diplomats from France, U.K., Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Ireland took part in the visit to the village on Thursday.

Israeli authorities banned them from visiting the symbolic decade-old school made of tires, which is in a closed military zone.

On Wednesday, eleven people were arrested after throwing stones at security forces and dozens of Palestinians were wounded, according to the Red Crescent, in protests against the demolition.

The Israeli Supreme Court authorized the demolition of the entire village in May on the grounds that the homes were built without permits.

The Civil Administration closed the area around Khan al-Ahmar to the general public until the end of July. Israeli authorities are planning to build a road to the place for the purposes of the eviction.
An Israeli defense source said that the evacuation is not expected to take place today, echoing statements by other defense officials who said the demolition would take place in several days or weeks, once the road construction is complete.

Authorities plan to move residents to Al Jabel, a village near the Abu Dis garbage dump that the state allocated for the permanent settlement of the villagers.

The European Union said on Thursday in a statement that the demolitions “together with plans for new settlement construction for Israelis in the same area, exacerbate threats to the viability of the two-state solution and further undermine prospects for a lasting peace.”

The statement further said that the EU “expects the Israeli authorities to reverse these decisions and fully meet its obligations as an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in response to the EU protest: “when the Supreme Court orders a demolition of a Jewish community in Judea and Samaria, they celebrate. But to destroy a Bedouin village? Heaven forbid. Such hypocrisy.”

Britain noted that it reiterated its concerns to the Israeli government over the planned demolitions, a fact that Alistair Burt mentioned in response to a parliamentary question from Labour MP Richard Burden.

“This morning, officials from our embassy in Tel Aviv and from our consulate general in Jerusalem visited Khan al-Ahmar to express our concern and demonstrate the international community’s support for that community,” said Burt. “In accordance with our long-standing policy, we therefore condemn such a move, which would strike a major blow to prospects for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.”

He revealed that the British ambassador had protested the matter on Monday to Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat. “This should not be happening and need not be happening,” added Burt.

Other members of Parliament joined in the discussion. While some spoke as friends of Israel who were worried about the lack of progress in the peace process with the Palestinians, others called for Britain to immediately and unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state in response to the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, and what they called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to abide by international law.

Earlier this week, Civil Administration officers, accompanied by police officers, took measurements in Khan al-Ahmar and reportedly counted the flocks of sheep as part of a close inspection.

The village houses several dozen families from the Bedouin clan of Jahalin, who moved there after their expulsion from the Negev in the 1950s. They then built their homes in Khan al-Ahmar on state-owned land. Though in theory their homes could be legalized retroactively, the state declined to go down that route and offered them alternative housing in Al Jabel.