Israel planned the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar to make room for illegal settlements 40 years ago, newly-emerged documents have revealed.
The revelations show that Uri Ariel, now Israel’s agriculture minister, approved plans for a “Jewish corridor” of illegal settlements that would require the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, a Palestinian Bedouin village situated east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz has revealed.
The plan, believed to have been written in the late 1970s, intended to establish the settlements on some 100,000 to 120,000 dunams (25,000 to 30,000 acres) of Palestinian land. This land included the villages of Hizme, Anata, Al-Azariya and Abu Dis, all outlying villages of Jerusalem, as well as other Palestinian lands in Wadi Qelt, the Kidron Valley and Horkania Valley between Jerusalem and Jericho.
The document in question states “in the area there are many Bedouin involved in the cultivation of land,” which Haaretz sees as undermining claims made by modern-day illegal Israeli settlers that Bedouin only recently “took over the land”. The document also states that “since the area is used by the military and a large part of the industry there serves the defence establishment, the area must be closed to Bedouin settlement and evacuated.”
The plan intended for the land to be cleared of its Bedouin residents to make way for Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, two illegal Jewish-only settlements situated on the Jerusalem-Jericho road. Save for the final eviction of Bedouin living in these areas, most of Ariel’s plan has already been accomplished. Israel has long sought to officially annex Ma’ale Adumim and has pushed a “facts on the ground” policy in the E1 area, which remains largely inhabited by Palestinians. If settled, Israel believes this would create a contiguous area of Jewish settlement and thus facilitate Ma’ale Adumim’s annexation.
Khan Al-Ahmar has been the focus of attention in recent weeks after it was slated for demolition by Israeli occupation forces. Soldiers visited the site on 2 July, taking measurements, inspecting the village’s school made of tyres and counting livestock in preparation for the demolition. Residents of Khan Al-Ahmar were told to leave after the area was declared a closed military zone, and mobile homes were installed in nearby Al-Azariya to relocate the them. On 5 July, following international outcry, Israel’s Supreme Court delayed the planned demolition.
Khan Al-Ahmar is home to Al-Jahhalin Bedouins, who are refugees from the Negev desert that have lived in the area since their displacement by the Israeli army in 1967. Israel has refused to recognise Al-Jahhalin Bedouin communities or grant them building permits, a strategy often used by Israel to term any Bedouin home illegal.