The people of Khan Al Ahmar, a small village in the occupied West Bank, have lived as refugees for half a century. Although their village is located 10 minutes from Jerusalem, their households have no running water and no electricity. Now Khan Al Ahmar, situated in an area earmarked for future expansion of the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim, is being targeted for demolition and its people for forcible transfer. The village of Susiya, located in the South Hebron Hills, also faces demolitions orders. It has been demolished and displaced several times, most recently in 2001. Susiya’s 340 residents, including 120 children, are at imminent risk of forced displacement.

Khan Al Ahmar is home to 173 people, including 92 children. The community’s school, built in 2009, serves more than 150 children between the ages of 6 and 15 from Khan Al Ahmar and other nearby communities. Though not its official name, the school is known as the “Tire School” since it was partly built from tires and mud. In the event of demolition, the school’s children would need to seek other ways of accessing education—the majority of them most likely in Jericho, some 20 km away.

In the film Nowhere Left to Go, an elderly resident of Khan Al Ahmar states: “We have an empty life. We have no land, no home. And now they’re threatening to transfer us—what can we do?” In 2016, 12 structures in this same community were demolished, leaving 60 residents homeless (including 35 children).

Israel’s High Court had stated that there is “no avoiding the demolition of Khan Al Ahmar” and scheduled demolition for October 1, 2018. Since then, more than 500 people from surrounding areas have gathered at Khan Al Ahmar, day and night, in solidarity and to bear witness should the demolition take place. Observers in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI, a World Council of Churches program in which the United Church participates) have been a part of this 24/7 protective presence; for more details, see news from the World Council of Churches.

According to an October 23, 2018, report from Telesur, the office of the Israeli Prime Minister and Khan Al Ahmar’s legal representatives have reached an agreement to move Khan Al Ahmar 180 metres from its current location. After this, Khan Al Ahmar will be officially recognized by the Israeli authority and will not be moved again. Tawfiq Jabareen, a lawyer for Khan Al Ahmar, attributed this outcome to “the steadfastness of the people of Khan  Al Ahmar and international solidarity which spoke against the demolition of the village by Israel.”

The villagers of Khan Al Ahmar had previously stated that the only option for rehoming they would accept is to return to their original grounds in the Negev. All locations that had previously been offered for the planned forced transfer are unsuitable for Khan Al Ahmar’s Bedouin herder lifestyle. Bedouins’ livelihoods, culture, and social structure are built around herding livestock; all other locations offered have neither the land nor the resources to support herding. According to B'Tselem, “the forcible transfer of residents of an occupied territory is a war crime” under international humanitarian law.

If the demolitions and forcible displacement of the villagers go ahead they will be in grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and will leave hundreds of men, women, and children homeless. B'Tselem says that the forcible transfer of an entire Palestinian community in the occupied Palestinian territories would be “virtually unprecedented” since the Israeli military occupation began in 1967.

Photo of evening prayer vigil in Khan Al Ahmar
Evening prayer caps off the day under the large tent giving shelter to those gathered to spend the night at Khan Al Ahmar.
Credit: 
Albin Hillert/World Council of Churches

Take Action

On October 3, 2018 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that the Canadian government has spoken against the demolition of Khan Al Ahmar to the Israeli government and is particularly concerned regarding the destruction of the Tire School.

Use social media to tell the Prime Minister that you share Canada’s concerns. Ask Canada to call on the Israeli government to reverse all planned and threatened demolitions of Palestinian villages in occupied territory, including the villages of Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya, and to cancel all transfer plans.

  1. Use the following texts to craft a social media message about the imminent demolition of Khan al Ahmar and its Tire School. Include the picture of children’s handprints on the wall of the school.
    - On Twitter, tag Prime Minister Trudeau (@CanadianPM) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland).
    - On Facebook, tag Justin Trudeau (@JustinPJTrudeau) and Chrystia Freeland (@freelandchrystia). Use the hashtags #UCCan, #KhanAlAhmar, #Israel, #Palestine.
    Feel free to use the “handprints” photo above (available for download here).

    Sample social media posts:
    150 children will lose their school if #KhanAlAhmar is demolished. Call on #Israel to stop this demolition and forced displacement of Palestinians.

    The handprints of 150 children whose school is slated for destruction. Tell #Israel: call off the demolition of #KhanAlAhmar.

    I stand in vigil with the hundreds of witnesses at #KhanAlAhmar. Tell #Israel no more home demolitions. Save the Tire School.
     
  2. Pray for #KhanAlAhmar. You may wish to use this prayer.
  3. Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #KhanAlAhmar, #Israel, #Palestine.
  4. Write to Minister Freeland and urge her to request that Canadian diplomatic missions in Palestine and Israel visit Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya immediately. In 2015, European Union representatives visited the village of Susiya, which was then also threatened with demolition. International publicity from this visit was vital in halting the planned demolitions at that time.

Background

The United Church of Canada has a long history of working with others to seek peace with justice in Israel and Palestine. This work is rooted in the gospel mandate to be peacemakers and in response to the calls of Palestinian and Israeli partners.

The repeated threats of demolitions in Bedouin Palestinian villages—such as Susiya, Khan Al Amar, and Ein ar Rashash—are a violation of international law. As the occupying power, Israel is bound by international humanitarian law to protect the Palestinian civilian population and administer the territory for their benefit. International law also prohibits the destruction of private property and the forced transfer or displacement of civilians.

According to Canadian policy, all Israeli settlements, including Ma’ale Adumim, are illegal. Demolitions and forcible displacement of Khan Al Ahmar and similar communities are a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and leave hundreds of people homeless.

For more information about current activities, see Unsettling Goods: Choose Peace in Palestine and Israel.

Send your letters and e-mails to:

The Hon. Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6
E-mail: chrystia.freeland [at] international.gc.ca

Erin O’Toole
Conservative Party of Canada
E-mail: erin.otoole [at] parl.gc.ca

Hélène Laverdière
New Democratic Party
E-mail: helene.laverdiere [at] parl.gc.ca

Elizabeth May
Green Party of Canada
E-mail: elizabeth.may [at] parl.gc.ca

Mario Beaulieu
Bloc Québécois
E-mail: mario.beaulieu [at] parl.gc.ca

Luc Thériault
Québec Debout
E-mail: luc.theriault [at] parl.gc.ca

Troy Lulashnyk, Director General, Israel, West Bank and Gaza, Egypt and Maghreb
E-mail: Troy.Lulashnyk [at] international.gc.ca

H.E. Deborah A. Lyons, Ambassador of Canada to Israel
E-mail: Deborah.Lyons [at] international.gc.ca

Douglas Scott Proudfoot, Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority
E-mail: Douglas.Proudfoot [at] international.gc.ca

Send copies of your letters and e-mails to:

Christie NeufeldtProgram Coordinator Public Witness416-231-7680 ext. 4078
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4078
cneufeldt [at] united-church.ca

For more information contact:

Patti TalbotTeam Leader Church in Partnership416-231-7680 ext. 4018
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4018
ptalbot [at] united-church.ca