(27 September 2017) Destruction of Palestinian Bedouin villages would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity


On 24 September 2017 the Israeli government informed the High Court that it plans to destroy Khan al-Ahmar and expel all of its residents by mid-April 2018.[1] The Palestinian village, located in E1 area has a population of 172 Palestinian Bedouin. Israeli high-level officials also announced this week they are planning to destroy the Palestinian village of Susiya, in the southern West Bank. Susiya has been subjected to numerous Israeli policies of displacement for the past two decades, and many of its residents have already been forcibly transferred as a result of the coercive environment imposed on the village. It has been reported that Israeli authorities plan to expel all remaining residents of Susiya within a few months.[2]

If realized, the forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya residents by Israel will constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, regardless of motive, as well as a war crime and a crime against humanity under international criminal law. The Fourth Geneva Convention defines “the extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” as a grave breach. The implementation of these plans would also violate numerous fundamental human rights in contravention of the core tenets of international human rights law. The forcible transfer and destruction of property affect the most basic of rights such as; the right to adequate housing, right to health, right to education and right to non-discrimination.

Additionally, the threatening to carry out an illegal act is prohibited under international law, and such threats are made all the more serious by the recent spate of home demolitions and forcible transfers in the area. Palestinians, as an occupied people, are protected persons under Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and as such, must be protected against all acts of violence and threats and “shall at all times be humanely treated,” as enshrined in Article 27 of the same convention. Moreover, the threat of transfer further intensifies the already coercive environment under which residents of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya live.

The forcible dimension of forcible transfer is not limited to physical force, but can include coercion or duress intended to transfer those affected. As such, the unbearable circumstances inflicted by Israel on those two communities have created an environment through which the residents are coerced to leave. In February 2017, for example, Israel issued demolition notices to every single home in Khan al-Ahmar.[3] By forcing the transfer of Palestinians through coercion, Israel is also perpetrating international crimes.

The demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and other coercive acts must be viewed in the context of the Israeli government’s ‘Nuweima Plan’, which would see all remaining Palestinian Bedouin communities in the central West Bank forcibly transferred to three urban townships: one in Al Eizarieh, and the two largest, with a planned combined capacity of 12,500 individuals, to be built in the Jordan Valley. The aim of these plans is to facilitate the merging of the Maale Adumim colonial bloc, erected in the vicinity of the village, to Jerusalem. This connection would amount to a de facto annexation of the colonial bloc to Israel.

The complete demolition and transfer of these communities, an act that has almost no comparable example since 1967,[4] could be used by Israel as a precedent for future relocations of Palestinian villages throughout the oPt. The Israeli plans for Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya form part of a wider Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing and colonization throughout the oPt, aiming to control the maximum amount of land through annexation, with the minimum amount of Palestinians.
[1] “Another Palestinian village to be ‘emptied’ within months, Israeli media reports”, Middle East Monitor,  26 September 2017, available at: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170926-another-palestinian-village-to-be-emptied-within-months-israeli-media-reports/
[2] Yotam Berger, “Another Palestinian West Bank Village to Be Emptied, Israeli Security Official Says,” Haaretz, 26 September 2017, available at:https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.814239
[3] “UN officials visit Bedouin village slated for demolition, call situation 'unacceptable'”, Maan News Agency, 23 February 2017, available at: http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=775619