Photo Credit: wiki
An internationally-funded and school building for Khan al-Akhmar, with Israeli Highway 1 in the background.

{Originally posted to the Gatestone Institute website}

What the Palestinian Authority, the European Union, Israel’s High Court of Justice, three Israeli towns, and the Jahalin tribe have in common is the Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Akhmar.


The battle for this Arab settlement has been waged in the international media and the Israeli Supreme Court for more than a decade, and its story is a microcosm of the Arab-Israel conflict, complete with alternative narratives, shifting alliances, unclear lines of responsibility and murky vested interests.

The first problem is that Khan al Akhmar is located in an area, unpoetically named Area C, where, according to the United Nations, “Israel retains near exclusive control, including over law enforcement, planning and construction.”

This small cluster of Bedouin homes is actually sitting on land in an Israeli township, Kfar Adumim, at a strategic crossroads between Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the outlying Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, making it crucial both to the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Until fairly recently, the residents of the Arab settlement — a branch of the Jahalin tribe of Bedouin — had lived in southern Israel. At some point in the 1970s, a feud broke out between different branches of the tribe, and the Jahalin fled northward, and arrived in the Maaleh Adumim region in the late 1970s, where they have remained ever since.

Like almost all other Bedouin in the Middle East, they began to abandon their nomadic lifestyle in favor of more permanent settlements and livelihoods not dependent on shepherding. Unfortunately, this branch of the tribe set up camp in a strategically critical area near a major highway, and began tapping into municipal water and electricity lines for subsistence.

Here is the other problem: since the 1980s, when their squatter’s camp began to take shape, it has always been illegal as well as impractical. Its proximity to the highway has been posing a safety hazard for the Bedouin children who play alongside it, as well as for the motorists who must avoid being hit by the rocks thrown at their vehicles. Out of literally dozens of these incidents reported in the press, here are a few examples:

From the day the Jahalin set up camp on this spot, they knew that they were squatting inside an Israeli municipality, and that it was not a long-term solution for their housing needs.

What they did not know was that the Palestinian Authority had designs on the same piece of land, but for different reasons, and that international forces would soon begin to use them as chess pieces in a high-stakes game against Israel.