French-American law professor and activist Frank Romano, 66, has come to Palestine to show solidarity with residents of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin community in occupied East Jerusalem threatened with the specter of demolition.
Romano arrived in Khan al-Ahmar last month. Since then, he has been staying in a Bedouin tent and has been assaulted and detained by the Israeli authorities.
Nevertheless, he is determined to stay in the embattled village until his visa expires on Sept. 25.
“I hope to bring more activists and concerned people here,” Romano told Anadolu Agency.
“Before I came, some people said, ‘You’re wasting your time; Israel will destroy Khan al-Ahmar no matter what you do’,” the activist said.
“But I believe we can end the destruction by bringing people together,” Romano added.
“Every night in Khan al-Ahmar, you will see Palestinians, people from Israeli [human rights] groups, and activists from all over the world, who are all here to show solidarity with the local residents,” he said.
According to Romano, Khan al-Ahmar has become a symbol of the ongoing popular struggle against illegal occupation.
“These people [i.e., village residents] are not nomadic; this is their home,” he said.
“It’s unfair that Israel has decided to destroy the village and replace it with a colony of Jews who are waiting right next door to come take the land,” Romano asserted.
He added: “This is nothing less than ethnic cleansing.”
At one point, Romano was detained by Israeli police and placed -- along with hardcore criminals -- in a Jerusalem penitentiary, where he says he was attacked for his political views.
“The police tried to make me sign a document with a view to having me deported -- but I refused,” the activist said.
“I was able to contact my lawyer, and by the end of the trial the judge issued a release order,” he recalled. “So I immediately returned to Khan al-Ahmar to continue the struggle.”
“As an American, I feel responsible for these people,” Romano said. “The Israelis walk around here like kings because of the never-ending U.S. financial support.”
“So now I’m staying here with my friends -- Bedouins and activists -- to fight this awful occupation,” he added.
Kristen Foss, a 43-year-old Norwegian activist also staying in the area, fears that if Israel razes Khan al-Ahmar, it will lead to the demolition of neighboring Bedouin villages as well.
“They [i.e., the Israeli authorities] will be able to link all the area’s [Jewish-only] settlements to Jerusalem, effectively splitting the West bank in two and further restricting the Palestinians’ movement,” Foss told Anadolu Agency.
“The displacement of these people by Israel violates international law,” she said. “The whole world should be here and stop what is happening.”
Under the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and Palestine, the West Bank was divided into Areas A, B and C.
Khan al-Ahmar is located in area C, which constitutes 20 percent of the West Bank and in which Israel is responsible for both administration and security.
By visiting Khan al-Ahmar, Foss hopes to deliver a message -- to both Israel and the Palestinians -- that the Norwegian people do not support Israel’s decades-long occupation.
“Unfortunately, my visa will expire in two weeks, but the International Solidarity Movement will continue to support Khan al-Ahmar,” she said.
“Activists will continue to come -- from all over the world -- to show solidarity,” the activist added.