Prevailing Reactions to Khan Al-Ahmar Are Harming Palestinians

Residents of Khan al-Ahmar block Israeli bulldozers to stop the demolition of their village. (Photo: Activestills.org)

By Ramona Wadi

The silence generated over the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar should be provoking an outrage of different proportions. Last year, the village was a focal point to the exclusion of all other ongoing demolitions. Ahead of the Israeli elections on April 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly delaying the demolition until a convenient time in his campaign “to garner political capital on the right”.

In January, Khan Al-Ahmar made headlines twice in Israel and Palestine. One mention was tied to Israel’s blocking access to Khan Al-Ahmar to Palestinian Authority (PA) officials. The other highlight – which indicated yet again the government’s intention to displace the Bedouin community – announced that the Israeli High Court of Justice is upholding the previous ruling of the territory’s classification as “state land” and its dismissal of a Palestinian bid for land reclamation.

It is no secret that the international community has played the human rights card for the sake of conforming to standard procedures. Having carried out such a travesty of duty, the discussion of Khan Al-Ahmar may surface yet again when it is time to update the statistics on forced displacement.

There are recurring flaws in support for the Palestinian struggle. Any delays announced by Israel are assimilated as a victory by the majority of politicians and the public alike. It exposes transient reactions to rhetoric and action, with the result that Palestinians are further marginalized from their rights.

Activism follows this trend of maintaining consistent focus until a lull in decision-making is announced. While this behavior is not restricted to the Palestinian cause and is reflective of most solidarity activism, the contrast between the ongoing colonization of Palestine and the fluctuating activist attention needs to be pointed out. The current default mode is reminiscent of the political “waiting” which is witness to Palestine’s territorial depletion.

In addition, activism still sees itself as beholden to the parameters established by international law, when the same boundaries are not upheld by the international community, let alone enforced. To assert support for Palestine, pleas replete with references to international law are directed to the same powers that turn a blind eye to Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights due to complicity in maintaining the colonial state. Israel is not oblivious to the cycle – decades of internationalist solidarity appealing to the same institutions have wrought the same results.

Reacting to Israel’s violations is failing Palestinians time and again. Yet even these reactions are sporadic. So far, Netanyahu’s intentions have been met with silence. What is Khan Al-Ahmar’s value in terms of internationalist solidarity? Is it a cause to flaunt at intervals or the epitome of what the modern trajectory of displacing Palestinian communities looks like? If the latter, what is being done to ensure that Palestinians are always at the helm of their own narratives?

Khan Al-Ahmar is now tied to Netanyahu’s electoral possibilities. That such opportunism is wielded should come as no surprise. On the other hand, it is abominable that there is no collective reaction to the current silence over Khan Al-Ahmar. There is ample rhetoric of “giving Palestinians a voice” which is mostly tantamount to representing, or misrepresenting, Palestinians as opposed to creating spaces for Palestinian voices, regardless of what channels the UN dictates. Khan Al-Ahmar is revealing a prevailing choice between “voice” and “presence”; if not realized, the outcome will end up depriving Palestinians of both.

– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to the Palestine Chronicle.

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