Over 300 elected officials, legal scholars, academics, artists, faith leaders, and activists from around the world and Israel published an open letter voicing opposition to Israel’s plans to forcibly transfer thousands of Palestinians living in farming-shepherding communities in the West Bank. The letter focuses on Khan al-Ahmar in particular, a community under imminent threat of demolition and forcible transfer.
Signatories include 90 members of parliament, many of whom are from the EU and UK Parliaments. Other notable signatories include ten Israel Prize laureates, playwright Eve Enslar, film directors Ken Loach, Amos Gitai, Costa-Gavras and Aki Kaurismäki, artists Marlene Dumas and Ai Weiwei, authors Alice Walker, Assaf Gavron and Iris Leal, choreographer Ohad Naharin, industrial designer Ron Arad, academics Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler, and musicians Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters and the members of Mashrou’ Leila.
The letter states: “Forcible transfer – by direct physical force or by creating a coercive environment that makes residents leave their homes – is a war crime.” It goes on to detail the measures Israel employs to create this coercive environment, including “not allowing to build new private or public buildings, to be connected to the power grid, or to pave access roads. When, in the absence of any other alternative, residents build without permits, they face threatened – or actual – demolition, and confiscation of essential equipment.” The letter counters Israel’s attempts to relegate these policies to a mere issue of law enforcement, calling it disingenuous since “Israel’s planning policy in the West Bank all but precludes Palestinians from ever receiving the required permits”.
The letter clarifies that all people responsible for this war crime bear personal liability for it. This includes the Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, as well as the High Court Justices, whose recent decision to approve the demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar community implicates them “in what is nothing short of a war crime, no matter how much legal formalism is enlisted in an effort to excuse the inexcusable.”