The Illegal Bedouin Village of Khan al-Ahmar

(JNS) Naomi Kahn - Khan al-Ahmar is a Bedouin village that has been in the news - and in the Israeli courts - for more than a decade. Its residents were nomadic shepherds who moved their herds and tents around southern Israel with the changing seasons until the mid-1970s when they began to abandon their nomadic lifestyle. The problem is that they began to put up illegal structures and tap into municipal water and electricity lines in a strategically critical area adjacent to a major highway - Route 1, the main artery connecting Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. In the 1990s, the Palestinian Authority began to use the residents as pawns in their bid to take control of the area. The Israeli government initiated a dialogue with the residents more than a decade ago, offering them alternatives, and they signed a relocation agreement. Then the PA and EU jumped in, pumping money into Khan al-Ahmar and reinventing the narrative of the residents. In four separate lawsuits, Israel's highest court confirmed that the Bedouin encampment at Khan al-Ahmar is illegal and must be evacuated. While the residents never made any claims of ownership of the land, the court required the state to "swap" Khan al-Ahmar for alternative property. The government set aside state land for a new neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem and offered a package that includes a large plot of land with infrastructure for water and electricity. The new neighborhood will offer services that the residents can only dream of today - including health clinics, public transportation, proper schools, and access to employment. In off-the-record conversations, the residents will tell you how eager they are to relocate, but they are threatened by the PA which will not allow them to relinquish their hold on the strategic piece of land on which Khan al-Ahmar sits.

2018-05-11 00:00:00

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