Many Israeli policies beyond the Green Line are discomforting. Even those that are legally and morally justified seem odd and needlessly complicated to many outside observers. This is especially true for observers who are accustomed to democratic government-to-citizen interaction, the norms of which differ significantly from those of military occupation.
Upon inspection, many policies are at least somewhat problematic, including some that are blatantly wrong. The more a policy relates to land itself, the more likely it is to be unreasonably aggressive and inflexible. This shouldn’t surprise us – Israel controls the physical land of the West Bank more directly and intensely than it does any other resource in the area. Additionally, while Israel is often willing to ignore certain indignities that Palestinians suffer, the state is significantly more interested in guaranteeing land for itself than in making Palestinians miserable (thus making Israel more interested in denying building permits than, say, cutting off access to water or electricity).
The standing order for the IDF to demolish Khan al-Ahmar is reprehensible. At a time when many Jewish Israelis are spending evenings in the temporary housing fixtures to which the holiday Sukkot owes its name, approximately 180 Palestinians who pose no greater threat than the average Israeli Jew stand to lose the only homes they know. Khan al-Ahmar’s presence does not contravene anyone else’s property rights. Rather, it simply interferes with the interests of Israel’s ruling coalition.
In the mid 1990s, a vast majority of the Israeli Right decried the Oslo process, including its demarcation of Areas A, B, and C in the West Bank. Today, the same Right-wing elements are now accentuating the Oslo demarcations in order to confine the presence of non-Jews in Judea and Samaria. The same politicians that offer hackneyed references to peaceful Arab-Jewish relations in the Galilee are willing to treat the residents of Khan al-Ahmar as if their very presence next to Route 1 amounts to a pogrom against Jews that live nearby.
To whatever extent Israel’s ruling coalition is excited to cut the West Bank in two, it certainly feels no shame in uprooting the lives of 180 people, half of whom are children that learn in a school made out of tires. If you’re going to carve up a heavily disputed area, at least have the decency to grant citizenship to the few people who live on whatever chunks you claim as your own.
It’s important to be thorough when explaining the complex reality on the ground, but even when there’s plenty of blur and grey, one should still acknowledge the crystal clear. As far as I’m concerned, this one’s a no-brainer. Please don’t demolish Khan al-Ahmar.