Children start classes in Khan al-Ahmar school facing Israeli demolition

Palestinian children in Khan al-Ahmar started classes weeks earlier than usual on 16 July, in an effort to forestall Israel’s imminent demolition of their school. 

Shadi Hatem APA images

Children started their first day of classes in Khan al-Ahmar’s school on Monday.

The Palestinian school year typically starts at the beginning of September, but classes began early to try to halt the imminent demolition of the school in the occupied West Bank village.

The school was built in 2009 out of rubber tires and mud in an attempt to evade Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians using cement for construction. It has been under constant threats of demolition by Israel.

It is the only school in the area that is accessible to 160 children from five villages, Human Rights Watch stated.

Israeli occupation forces set up roadblocks at the entrances of the village, making it difficult for students from nearby communities to reach the school.

In an illustration of how Israeli military occupation affects Palestinian children everywhere, students in Khan al-Ahmar held up posters of the three children Israel killed in Gaza since Friday.

Uthman Rami Hillis, 14, was fatally shot by an Israeli sniper during protests east of Gaza City on Friday, when he posed no direct or mortal danger to anyone.

And on Saturday, Amir al-Nimra and Louay Kuhail, two friends both 14 years old, were killed by an Israeli air raid on the al-Katiba area of Gaza City.

Demolition delayed

The demolition of the entire Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar has been delayed at least until 15 August.

Attorneys for Khan al-Ahmar’s residents have filed two petitions with Israel’s high court in an attempt to halt the destruction.

The court accepted one of the petitions and will hold a hearing by mid-August.

On 5 July, Israel’s high court temporarily halted the demolition of the Palestinian Bedouin community in the face of fierce protests from residents and solidarity activists, and mounting international criticism.

The court gave the Israeli government until 11 July to respond to the community’s contention that it has been denied building permits.

But Palestinians are still wary of the temporary injunction given by the court on that occasion.

The same court has previously blessed their forced removal.

Israel rejected the community’s contention and proceeded with preparations to demolish the village by building roads. The Israeli authorities also made a request to carry out the demolition of the village’s only school.

Israel’s civil administration – the military bureaucracy overseeing the occupation of the West Bank – “has already stationed 10 mobile homes in al-Jabal West for a replacement school,” according to the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

Al-Jabal West is the name of an area near a garbage dump to which Israel wants to forcibly displace the residents of Khan al-Ahmar – a war crime.

Wages for a war crime

Workers for Israel’s civil administration announced a strike that includes suspending the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar.

The employees are not striking against the demolition and the forced transfer of Palestinians. Rather, their protest relates to pay and conditions under which they would carry out the destruction.

In other words, “for the right sum of money, the employees would be willing to commit a war crime,” Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has stated.

Planned for decades

Haaretz revealed that Uri Ariel, Israel’s agriculture minister from the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, has been planning the eviction of the Khan al-Ahmar community for decades.

Ariel is a religious extremist who supports building a Jewish temple in the place of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock.

A document Ariel signed about 40 years ago outlines a plan to annex more than 100,000 dunums of Palestinian land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, creating what he called a “Jewish corridor,” according to Haaretz. A dunum is 1,000 square meters.

In the document, Ariel admitted that there were Palestinian Bedouin communities living on the land and cultivating it.

That is “contrary to the claims voiced today by settlers that the Bedouins only recently popped up and ‘took over’ the land,” Amira Hass reports in Haaretz.

Ariel suggested that ethnically cleansing the land of its Bedouin inhabitants could be carried out under the pretext that the area was being used by the Israeli military.

The European Union, which purports to oppose the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, has embraced Ariel despite his record of extremism:

“Standing in solidarity”

Jahalin Bedouin families – whose members live in Khan al-Ahmar today – were evicted from their homes in 1977 and 1980, and with the approval of Israel’s high court in the 1990s.

The Palestinian Bedouins were seen as a mere obstacle in the expansion of the neighboring settlements of Maaleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim, which were considered by past Israeli governments “to be part of metropolitan Jerusalem,” Hass reports.

Planning for Maaleh Adumim – now a huge colony – began when Golda Meir was Israel’s prime minister in the early 1970s. Israel Galili, a minister in Meir’s government, told a reporter that the press should not be involved in the “exciting and interesting” issue of planning the settlement “because it could cause damage,” according to Haaretz.

Palestinians in Gaza dedicated protests held as part of the Great March of Return last Friday to Khan al-Ahmar and the Bedouin community living there.

This video shows a man in Gaza express that support.

“We are all with you,” he says. “Standing in solidarity with Khan al-Ahmar.”


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.