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.

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).

On July 4, 2018, several Israeli Civil Administration officials came with a police escort and heavy construction vehicles, to a spot by the Palestinian community of Khan Al Ahmar. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, a solidarity partner of the United Church, reports that the officials began paving an access road to the community, in order to ease access to the site in preparation for transferring the community. The police arrested several people who were staging a non-violent protest and blocking a bulldozer from getting through. 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 maintaining a 24/7 protective presence in Khan Al Ahmar; an EAPPI blog post shares more details.

Israel’s High Court has stated that there is “no avoiding the demolition of Khan Al Ahmar.”

On September 5, 2018, Israel's Supreme Court rejected appeals against the demolition. An injunction against the demolition is set to expire, and Khan al Ahmar could be demolished as soon as September 12.

Israel has already twice before transferred the residents of Khan Al Ahmar: The first time was in the 1950s, when it transferred them from where they were living in the Negev (within Israel proper). The second time Israel transferred them in order to construct the settlement of Kfar Adumim. Now Israel is poised to expel them from their homes for a third time.

Civil Administration personnel also arrived with a military escort at the Palestinian community of Susiya, apparently in order to plan the razing of seven structures whose demolition the Israeli Supreme Court approved in a ruling it handed down in February.

The villagers of Khan Al Ahmar (173 people, including 92 children) have stated that the only option for rehoming they would accept is to return to their original grounds in the Negev. All locations that have been offered for the planned forced transfer are unsuitable for Khan Al Ahmar’s Bedouin herder lifestyle. Bedouin’s 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.

Men in uniform intervene with protestors in front of a bulldozer
Palestinians protesting the planned demolition of the West Bank hamlet of Khan Al Ahmar.
Credit: 
AP/Majdi Mohammed

Take Action

The impact that ordinary people who seek justice can have when they take action is clear. Write to your elected representatives, asking them to act urgently for the sake of justice for the people of Khan Al Ahmar.

  1. Write to the Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and your member of Parliament:
    • Ask Minister Freeland to call on the Israeli government to reverse the decisions to demolish the villages of Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya and relocate the people of Khan Al Ahmar.
    • Ask Minister Freeland to urge Canada to call on the Israeli government to immediately freeze all settlement activity and demolition orders.
    • Request that your MP call on Minister Freeland during question period to ask what actions Canada is taking to press the Israeli government to reverse the demolition orders.
  2. Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #KhanAlAhmar, #Israel, #Palestine.
  3. Urge Minister Freeland 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