On September 20, the Israel Defense Forces handed a final notice to the villagers of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank: Vacate the land on your own by the end of month, or we’ll forcibly remove you.
Fewer than 200 people live in this village just five miles east of Jerusalem. Yet the smattering of tents and tin shacks has been the center of a 10-year legal dispute between the Israeli government and its residents. At the heart of this is a struggle for land that could change the demographics of the West Bank — pushing more Palestinians farther away from Jerusalem.
In 2009, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar but held off when the villagers filed for an injunction. Since then, nearby settlers have filed four petitions urging the government to act on its plans. Earlier this month the Israeli Supreme Court intervened, ruling in favor of the Israeli government, upholding the order to demolish and forcibly relocate the families.
The Israeli government cited zoning and safety concerns in demolish the village. Khan al-Ahmar is close to Route 1, a major highway connecting Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. But Palestinians have a much simpler explanation: Israel wants to kick them off the land to build more settlements.
“This court's judges are settlers, and its policies are pro settlements,” said Yousef Abu Dahouk, a life-long resident of Khan al-Ahmar, “And [they’re] insisting on dislocating these people.”
Khan al-Ahmar is sandwiched between two major Israeli settlements, Kfar Adumim and Ma’ale Adumim. If the government does succeed in removing the villagers, it could create a giant block of settlements physically separating Jerusalem from Palestinians in the West Bank.
The number of settlements approved by Israel’s government has spiked since President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016. In the West Bank, Palestinians make up about 88 percent of the population but have been allocated less than 1 percent of public land.
Vice News visited the village as it faces its final standoff with the Israeli government for Khan al-Ahmar.
This segment originally aired September 19, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.