On 1 February 2011 the deputy head of the Civil Administration visited Khan al-Ahmar and notified the community’s leaders that the buildings in the community, including the school, would not be demolished until an alternate site was agreed on by the community.
On 6 February 2011, in a discussion in the Knesset’s Joint Interior-Labor Committee on Health and the Environment, the head of the COGAT infrastructure department, Lt. Col. Grisha Jacobowitz, promised that “the process of settling” the Bedouin communities in the Ma’ale Adumim area would be carried out “in dialogue” and only after sites appropriate to these communities were found. Jacobowitz announced that the Civil Administration would conduct a risk survey of the Abu Dis site, followed by an environmental impact study, and only then would its decision be made on whether this site is appropriate for residential use and plans be prepared for residences in the site area. This process was expected to last several years.
On 7 August 2012 the Israeli High Court of Justice heard the petition by residents of Khan al-Ahmar and the Bimkom organization to cancel the plan to move the residents to the vicinity of the garbage dump. The petition was dismissed by agreement of both parties after the state undertook, inter alia, not to populate the area before preparing a hazards survey, surveying the environmental impact, and allowing the residents to raise objections to the plan.
On 4 September 2012, Civil Administration representatives proposed to the Khan al-Ahmar community two alternate sites to which they could move: one near the Aqbat Jaber refugee camp west of Jericho, adjacent to Area A, and the other near the village of a-Nuwei’ma, north of Jericho. The community rejected both proposals.
On 10 October 2012 the High Court dismissed two petitions regarding demolition and stop-work orders, including the school, in Khan al-Ahmar. One petition was submitted by residents of the Kfar Adumim settlement demanding that the demolition orders be carried out and the other petition was submitted by the residents, demanding that they be cancelled. Justice Fogelman rejected both petitions. Concerning the residents' petition, the judge determined that "given progress in the overall planning process initiated by respondents, their declaration that any alternate plan submitted by the petitioners will be examined on its merits and the fact that at the present and until the examination is completed on the schedule outlined by the respondents, there is no intention to carry out the demolition orders, I did not find that there is a reason for our intervention at this point in time." Justice Fogelman also rejected the petition submittted by the residents of the Israeli settlement, noting "I did not find in respondents' enforcement policy or in the priorities they presented, any flaw to justify our intervention." The settlers' argument for an identical decision in the case of Khan al-Ahmar to that of the Migron settlement outpost – where the court ordered the demolition of homes built illegally with no connection to finding other housing for the residents – was rejected by the court because that was a case of building on private land and damaging the property rights of the Palestinian landowners, whereas the case of Khan al-Ahmar concerned state lands.
As of October 2012, the communities appear to be under no immediate threat of forced displacement from their current location and it appears that the plan to relocate them near the Abu Dis garbage dump is no longer on the agenda. However, with the exception of Khan al-Ahmar, they still face the constant threat that the Israeli military will demolish structures in the villages.
The original text
The Civil Administration (CA) is planning to expel the Bedouin communities living in Area C in the West Bank, transferring some 27,000 persons from their homes. In the first phase, planned as early as January 2012, some 20 communities, comprising 2,300 persons, will be forcibly transferred to a site near the Abu Dis refuse dump, east of Jerusalem. These communities currently live in the area of the Ma'ale Adummim settlement and nearby settlements; half of them live in 1E, the area designated by Israel for future expansion of Ma’ale Adummim. In the second phase, the CA plans to expel communities from the Jordan Valley. One option being considered is building a new permanent town for these communities next to a-Nabi Musa, west of Jericho. According to the CA's schedule, the plan will be implemented in three to six years.
A Bedouin community near the Adummim settlement bloc. Photo: activestills.org
The CA announced its plan to "relocate" the Bedouin communities to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The main reason given was the claim that the Bedouins do not have rights to the land on which they currently live and that all their construction has been done without permits. The CA did not consult with representatives of the communities before adopting the plan, and ignored the anticipated harm to these communities’ way of life. Most of the communities informed the UN agencies that they would object to the plan.
About 80 percent of the Bedouins living in what Israel terms the "Adummim bloc", who are expected to be expelled in coming months, are 1948 refugees who once lived in the Negev, in southern Israel. Two-thirds are under age 18. All of them have lived for decades in unrecognized villages. Demolition orders have already been issued against most of the structures in the communities – tin structures and tents and a school in the Khan al-Ahmar community. In two communities – Wadi Abu Hindi (350 residents) and al-Muntar (300 residents) – demolition orders have been issued against all the structures in the community.
Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe near the Abu Dis refuse dump. Photo: activestills.org
None of the communities are hooked up to the electricity grid and only half are connected to the water system. They do not receive vital services in the areas of health, education and others. They live a traditional life based on sheep and goat farming, but their access to grazing land and to markets is limited. According to OCHA’s figures, most of the residents in these communities suffer from food insecurity.
The Civil Administration plans to transfer these communities to a site near the Abu Dis refuse dump, which is Jerusalem’s principal dump. In the early 1990s, members of the Bedouin Jahalin tribe were moved to this site to enable the expansion of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement. The refuse dump poses a health hazard to persons living nearby. Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry has warned that the site is a “source of environmental pollution, risk of fire and even explosions” due to the lack of a system for pumping out the gases created from unloading the waste. Burial of waste at the site is planned to end in mid-2012. The Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adummim municipalities and the Civil Administration have not yet agreed on a plan to rehabilitate the site.
The communities currently live in areas that are strategically important to expansion of the settlement enterprise in the area. Half of them live along Route 1, which connects Jerusalem with the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, and by the settlement of Qedar. The other half live inside and on the outskirts of E1, which is situated northwest of the built-up area of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement. Israel has already drawn up plans for construction in E1 of 3,910 apartments, and a metropolitan employment and business center that will serve both Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. Also, it has already built the SHAI Police District headquarters there and has paved wide roads in the area leading to the isolated police headquarters. The roads are also intended to serve the neighborhoods planned for E1.
The expansion plans have not yet been implemented, due to opposition of the US Administration, among other factors. If implemented, the E1 plan will create urban contiguity between the Ma’ale Adummim settlement and Jerusalem, will exacerbate the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, and will cut the territorial contiguity between the northern and southern sections of the West Bank, thereby creating two completely separate areas.
The other ten Bedouin communities live alongside Highway 1, which runs between Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, and adjacent to the Qedar settlement.
The Civil Administration’s plan blatantly contravenes international humanitarian law, which prohibits the forced transfer of protected persons, such as these Bedouin communities, unless the move is temporary or is necessary for their safety or to meet a military need. The Civil Administration’s expulsion plan meets none of these conditions. Israel, as the occupying power, is obligated to act for the benefit and welfare of residents of the occupied territory. Expansion of the settlements does not comport with this requirement.