[West Bank, July 2, 2007] On June 6, 2007, a final Israeli Supreme Court hearing was held on the appeal of the Palestinian residents of Susya, in the southern edge of the West Bank. The deliberations – carried out since 2001 (appeal # 7530/01) – was against the destruction of the Palestinians’ homes.
The Court accepted the state’s argument, that the indigenous Palestinians are squatters, although they are the legal owners of the land. Israel reasons that because the indigenous people have rebuilt their homes -after previously being evicted- without a permit, their dwellings must be destroyed. The village of Susya is in “area C” and the authority to issue permits in entirely up to the settler-run Civil Administration bureau, which routinely denies permits to Palestinians to build on their legally owned land.
The State actually admits the land is private Palestinian land, but in their Orwellian illogic they deny Palestinians the right to live on it, while the settlement outposts in the same region are continuing to expand on private Palestinian land.
The first Jewish settlements in the area of South Mount Hebron began in the 1980's and the indigenous Palestinians were employed in construction and other jobs to build the settlements.
BACKGROUND FACTS ON THE GROUND:
"The Palestinian inhabitants of Khirbet Susya, who now live in huts and tents on the edge of the Jewish settlement of Susya originally lived in Susya Al-Qadime…In the mid 1980's, the site was declared a “National Park,” and the Palestinian inhabitants were expelled by the IDF. Powerless to resist the expulsion, the Palestinians continued to cultivate their private plots and settled some 500 meters from the Israeli settlement of Susya in what is known today as Rujum. This was too close for the comfort of the Jewish settlers, who instigated a second expulsion. One night, the Palestinians were herded into trucks and dumped some 15 kilometres to the north, in the area of the Zif Crossroads, where they stayed for some time. Eventually, unable to return to their real homes, the families built small huts and put up tents on a hilltop close to their lands on the periphery of the Susya settlement.
"Friction between the Jewish settlers and the Palestinians escalated as settlers, together with the army, harassed and terrorized [them]. This concerted, ongoing persecution reflects a policy clearly aimed at cleansing the area of its Palestinian population. The mid-1990's saw the spread of Jewish farms and illegal "outposts" in the region, all established in areas previously seized by the army.
"Thus, under the protection of the IDF, Jewish settlers managed to grab more and more land belonging to the Palestinian inhabitants of Susya. Increasingly violent in their actions, settlers stopped Palestinian farmers from cultivating their plots of land…Another eviction took place in July 2001 following the murder of a Jewish settler, Ya’ir Har- Sinai. The pretext for the eviction was the claim that the Palestinians had trespassed the boundaries of the Jewish settlement of Susya. Labeled as trespassers in their own historic lands, these Palestinian families were evicted without notice from the area of Susya – Gawawis, between the Yatta-Samu'a road and the Green Line. Many were beaten and/or arrested, [their dwellings] were demolished, wells blocked up, fields destroyed and livestock killed….Still undeterred, some of the Susya families returned to their lands. Since 1999 Israeli activists (particular from the Ta'ayush movement) have joined their struggle…
"The Jewish settlement of Susya is built on so-called State Land. In 2001 the army established a Special Security Area around the settlement designed, of course, to keep out the local Palestinian inhabitants. The size of the forbidden area far exceeds that of the settlement proper. De facto, it increases the area of the settlement by several orders of magnitude. It extends entirely over private lands owned by local Palestinian families…
"Recent years have seen countless violent incidents perpetrated by armed settlers. These include the destruction of fields, the uprooting of trees, the poisoning of wells and fodder, the systematic molestation of shepherds and children on their way to school, even assaults on families at home in the dead of the night. Ta’ayush activists and international volunteers have had to evacuate the injured to hospitals on a number of occasions.
"It goes almost without saying that the Israeli Police has shown utter impotence when called upon to enforce the law against the settlers of Susya and Havat Maon (an outpost of Susya). The few arrests, almost never leading to trial, which the police did carry out have not deterred the settlers, whose aim remains to "encourage" the Palestinian inhabitants of Susya and other hamlets in the region to abandon their lands. And yet the Palestinian inhabitants of Susya continue to cling to their land and homes.
The threat of eviction hangs over their heads. Susya is a test case for the whole region of the south Hebron hills. The fate of countless homes hangs in the balance." [ For more Background Information and to support in the Susya struggle: email@example.com ]
"Since the beginning of the Occupation in 1967, at least 18,000 homes have been destroyed in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of other homes have been left uninhabitable. Altogether around 50,000 people have been left homeless." http://icahdusa.org/facts/faq
During my first interview in Jerusalem, with Jeff Halper, Founder and Coordinator of ICAHD/Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and a Noble Peace Prize Nominee for 2006, he informed me,
"Israel is a not a democracy but is an Ethnocracy, meaning a country run and controlled by a national group with some democratic elements but set up with Jews in control and structured to keep them in control…
"95% of the [home demolition] cases have nothing to do with security. All these homes are on Palestinian private property. The Israeli government will not grant permits for them to build on their own land, and in reality are quietly transferring the Palestinians administratively from the land. They make conditions so intolerable that the Palestinians give up and leave and this is exactly what they are after. Not only do the Palestinians receive no warning when their homes are to be destroyed they are fined $1,500.00!