Monday, August 20, 2018

Israeli activists inside the West Bank: discovering the truth about Khan al Ahmar


By Naomi Kundera - July 23, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Bedouin] [demolition] [activist]

The continuous battle between the bedouin and Israeli military over Khan al Ahmar has sparked incredible international attention.

Activists from around the world have been coming to the village to show their solidarity and stand with the people of Khan al Ahmar, despite violent repression from the military.
 
A number of Israeli activists have also shown their support of the bedouin by making their way into the small village which lies on the road to the Dead Sea.
 
“I don’t want to stand idly by when people’s houses are being demolished,” said Ofek Ravid, 25, an American-Israeli living in Haifa. “And I really don’t want to stand idly by when people are being treated like this.”
 
But what many people don’t know is that Khan al Ahmar’s destruction goes beyond house demolitions and human rights abuses. It’s strategic.
 
The Israeli military isn’t just planning on confiscating the land of the “tiny” village Khan al Ahmar. “They want all the land,” Hussein, a 54-year-old bedouin from the area, told Palestine Monitor.
 
“The soldiers are lying to the Israelis.”
 
For this reason, Hussein welcomes Israeli activists to Khan al Ahmar. “For sure it’s good to have Israeli supporters, more than international supporters, because we live together.”
 
“They should come and show their support against the mafia [Israel].”
 
Hussein emphasized, however, that they don’t trust all Israelis that come to show their support. Just showing up isn’t enough. They want Israelis to come and talk to them - to try and understand truly who they are and what the Israeli government is doing to them.
 
Having Israeli activists physically at Khan al Ahmar can help combat the dishonest narrative the Israeli military propels about what they’re doing in the area.
 
Khan al Ahmar falls in the area known as “E1,” roughly 4.6 square miles of land adjacent to the Ma’ale Adumim bloc, and Israel wants all of it as a part of its “Greater Jerusalem plan.”
 
 
Map of E1 area slated by Israel. Source: OHCHR
 
E1 is the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. Its annexation would connect the settlement Ma’ale Adumim with Jerusalem, effectively splitting the West Bank in two and separating Palestinian-controlled areas.
 
The cohorts of Palestinian and non-Palestinian activists that have been visiting and staying at Khan al Ahmar are crucial in casting an interrogative light against Israel. It is also large reason as to why the village hasn’t been destroyed yet.

Israeli activists have created a WhatsApp group that organizes overnight trips to Khan al Ahmar. The group’s administrator sends a message asking for a certain number of people needed each night and they organize pick-up points for their carpools.
 
Its apparently quite common in the Israeli “activist scene” to rangle together groups of individual activists that “pop in, mostly for small term struggles,” Ofek explained.
 
Organization affiliation or larger scale mobilization of Israelis seem to be few and far between inside '48.
 
“I think that it’s good people affiliate themselves with larger groups and create political power bases. But there are a lot of people who are like, 'okay, I feel like being in solidarity now’” and will randomly join a group to spend the night in Khan al Ahmar, for example.
 
Combatants for Peace, who do a lot of on-the-ground work but don’t really pressure the Israeli government, and the Israeli Peace Camp, which has been on a downward spiral over the past 20 years, were the only examples Ofek could give when asked about organized actions being taken inside his country.
 
More telling of activism inside Israel is the fact that Ofek and his fellow WhatsApp mobilization crew are outliers in Israeli society.
 
The average Israeli, even if they want the military out of Khan al Ahmar and complain about how bad the situation is there, won’t actually do anything to call their government out, Ofek told Palestine Monitor. Maybe only a few dozens are willing to go into the “perilous” West Bank.
 
“I think what I could mostly make of why I see this kind of paradigm, is because... there is very little talk of human rights as a value within Israeli society.”
 
Ofek explained that people are still “suffering” from the effects of the Second Intifada and are taught in their society that the Palestinians are “somewhat dangerous.”
 
Most Israelis aren’t told that Palestinians are also human and deserve rights.
 
“Our local phenomena is a security issue where people will tell themselves, '[if] it’s my life or a random Palestinian’s human rights, well I’ll go for my life.’”
 
Despite the weak political organizations that put on the pressure inside Israel, these groups of individual Israeli activists can still make an impact at least on the lives of those living in Khan al Ahmar.
 
Ibrahim Abu Dahuq, a bedouin and tribal elder living in the soon-to-be demolished Khan al Ahmar, told Palestine Monitor that there are two types of Israeli activists that he has experienced in the last few weeks.
 
There are the “free ones,” or the Israelis who come by themselves. These people are not coming in the name of Israel. Rather, they are trying to say “we are not Israel” and they want to see with their own eyes what their taxes are contributing to.
 
Then there are the “group ones,” or those that come in swarms via charter buses.
 
Abu Duqab exclaimed that he isn’t sure why these groups come to his village. “We don’t see the support in their eyes.” If the military were to instigate anything, these groups would most likely be the first ones to run.
 
While Kahn al Ahmar has been in the limelight, it has been reported the Israeli military has, “demolished 12 structures in the adjacent bedouin village of Abu Nuwar, leaving 62 people — half of them children — without a roof over their heads.”
 
Israel is forcing multiple Bedouin families from these different villages in E1 to live together in the provided area next to a known garbage dump in Abu Dis.
 
Another fabrication by the Israeli military to its population is its “gracious” arrangement of air-conditioned mobile homes and running water for the “backward” bedouin.
 
But confining dozens of traditionally nomadic families, who rely on vast spaces for their animals to graze, to a single space threatens the continuation of their centuries-old lifestyle.
 
Having Israelis, like Ofek, visit the bedouin is a perfect opportunity for them to learn about the bedouin way of life.
 
It’s an opportunity for Israelis to see exactly what is threatened by the military of their government.
 
In the end, the bedouin of Khan al Ahmar welcome any supporters that come to learn about their situation and stand with them. And since they have to live together, they especially want to see Israelis.
 
“When someone stands with me, they are like a crunch when you have a broken leg,” Abu Duqab said.
 
“So when they come I can keep standing.”
 
Lead image: Israeli bulldozer preparing the ground during the day in the now-closed military zone of Khan al Ahmar.

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