Palestinians and rights groups condemned a decision by an Israeli court giving the green light for the military to demolish a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, forcibly evicting its 180 residents.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority said the decision to raze Khan al-Ahmar village consolidates Israel’s “colonial project” of building “an arc of settlements” that effectively cut off occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
“This illegal decision uncovers the colonial DNA of Israel’s institutions that work to confiscate Palestinian lands … effectively alienating it from the West Bank and killing any hopes for a future contiguous Palestinian state,” it said.
Khan al-Ahmar is situated a few kilometres from Jerusalem between two major illegal Israeli settlements, Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, which the Israeli government wants to expand. The removal of the Bedouin village enables the Israeli government to cut the West Bank in two.
The High Court rejected petitions against the demolition and said a temporary injunction that had put a hold on the move would lapse in a week.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the justices’ decision on Twitter calling it “brave”.
“Khan al-Ahmar will be evacuated. I congratulate the Supreme Court judges for their brave decision. Nobody [is] above law. Nobody can prevent us from consolidating our sovereignty,” Lieberman said.
The mood in the village, where residents attended a protest after the ruling, was despondent.
“We have gone through all the procedures in court, now we can do nothing more,” said Tawfiq Jabareen, a lawyer for the community. “If anything can prevent the demolition, it is the political process.”
‘Courts of the occupiers’
The villagers are members of the Bedouin Jahalin tribe which was expelled from their lands in the Naqab (Negev) desert by the Israeli military in the 1950s. They were displaced twice more before they settled in Khan al-Ahmar, long before the illegal settlements around it existed.
The small community of 40 families lives in tents and shacks on what is classified by the 1993 Oslo Accords as Area C, which accounts for 60 percent of the West Bank and is under total Israeli administrative and security control.
The court’s decision was largely based on the premise that the village was built without Israeli permission, which Palestinians say is impossible to obtain because of the expansion of illegal Jewish-only Israeli settlements there.
United Nations figures show Israeli authorities have approved just 1.5 percent of all permit requests by Palestinians between 2010 and 2014.
In early July, Israeli bulldozers destroyed a number of tents and other structures in Khan al-Ahmar, sparking confrontations with local residents.
Hagai El-Ad, director of Israeli rights group B’Tselem, told Al Jazeera the court’s ruling was “cowardly, immoral, and outrageous”.
“This decision only demonstrates the Israeli High Court is working not in the service of justice but is simply working in the service of the occupation,” he said, speaking from Jerusalem.
“This is yet another example where we can see that the occupied people cannot find justice in the courts of the occupiers.”
The Israeli government plans to relocate the residents to an area about 12km away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis.
But the new site is next to a landfill, and rights advocates say a forcible transfer of the residents would violate international law applying to occupied territory.
“Forcible transfer of protected people in occupied territory is a war crime, plain and simple,” El-Ad said. “And now we have even more High Court justices that are backing the implementation of a war crime.”
Appeal to international community
El-Ad said displacement and settlement expansion have been the policy of many Israeli governments but the current one “is acting with a glaring green light that it sees from Washington”.
In response to the court’s decision, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) organised a demonstration in Khan al-Ahmar on Wednesday.
“We are holding this sit-in today to show solidarity with the people of Khan al-Ahmar and pressure Israel to reverse its decision,” Walid Assaf, head of the PLO’s commission on settlements, told reporters there.
“Israel continues to impose restrictions on the Palestinian people and expel them from their homes. We have exhausted all domestic legal channels, so we must resort to international law to safeguard our rights.”
El-Ad called on the international community to act, saying it has the responsibility “to safeguard human rights anywhere”.
“Especially in this reality where Palestinians have been living for more than half a century under a military occupation that desires to advance settlements and displace Palestinians – a process that is happening in broad daylight,” he said.