High Court Reverses Demolition Order on Illegal Bedouin Village

Palestinian boys look at the Bedouin village of al-Khan al-Ahmar, Thursday. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

The High Court on Friday froze demolition orders for an illegally built Arab village near Maaleh Adumim. The court had previously, in May, given its permission to go ahead with the evacuation and demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. The state has until Wednesday to show cause why the demolition should proceed.

The case has been before the court for nine years, and the decision to demolish came in response to a petition by local community groups and the Regavim organization, which acts as a watchdog on illegal Arab building. Khan al-Ahmar is located right off Road 1, between Kfar Adumim and the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. Its residents were originally traditional Bedouin wanderers who settled in the area after the Six Day War. They had originally been seasonal residents of various areas of southern Israel, moving to different locations along with the seasons, and in the 1950s were moved further north by the IDF.

Many Bedouin now prefer permanent housing, and the state has developed a plan that would provide legal housing for the village’s residents, which they have turned down. However, the court said that the solution proposed by the state was “not so radical as to be called unreasonable,” although it does agree with the defendants that the plan “is not perfect.” Nevertheless, the solution is sufficient to justify enforcing the state’s rights to use the land for public purposes.

The demolition decision became a cause célèbre among leftists and European governments. Last year, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU’s ambassador to Israel, said “The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law.”

It was the pressure from Europe that apparently caused the court to change its mind, Regavim said Friday. “The hypocritical governments of Europe were the ones who funded this illegal building in order to enable the Palestinian Authority to control the area around Maale Adumim, and it cynically uses the Israeli court system to violate our laws, via the fanaticism of Israeli leftist groups,” the group said in a statement. The case is “a litmus test for the Israeli legal system, which must stand firm in the face of the pressures and fulfill its original decision.”

Dozens of protesters both against and in favor of the demolition were demonstrating outside the court Friday. Among the latter were residents of Tapuach West, Amona, Netiv Ha’avot, and other communities that the High Court had ordered demolished. The protesters carried signs demanding that the village be demolished, as their homes had been for being illegally built.

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