Saturday, September 23, 2017

Susiya‘s residents fear imminent demolition again


By Zuzana Brezinová - July 25, 2015
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Settlement Expansion] [South Hebron Hills] [demolition]

 

An Israeli demolition and eviction order issued for Susya May 5, 2015 has brought the small Palestinian village near the West Bank city of Hebron to the centre of international attention.

 

The Bedouin community residing in Susya, which is adjacent to an Israeli settlement in contravention to international law, has been fighting for its survival for several decades. But with Israeli authorities renewed efforts to remove the village, the international community is aligned in its support for the Palestinian community, with the US and EU leading the way.

 

“Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes, would be harmful and provocative,” said the US State Department spokesperson John Kirby during a weekly government briefing on July 16.

 

“We are concerned that the demolition of this village would set a damaging standard for displacement and land confiscation particularly given settlement-related activity in the area,” Kirby added.

 

According to Israel National News, the US position on Susya is “particularly hypocritical,” given that the State Department has decided to condemn the “legal Jewish presence in the region” and rather defend “an illegal Arab settlement” in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.

The Bedouin village of Susya is an embodiment of the problems incurred by Palestinian towns situated within Area C, which as of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords remains under Israeli Civil Administration in terms of planning and zoning.

 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories (OCHA) suggests that the demolition order affecting the entire village might be misleadingly interpreted.

 

According to the OCHA June 2015 report, only half of the residential buildings are located in Area C and the remaining half belongs to Area B, wherein Israel and the Palestinian Authority should have equal rights.

 

In response to the court ruling, the Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Yoav Mordechai, said that representatives of both sides have met and “discussed alternative solutions in accordance with the planning considerations.”

 

The COGAT statement also newly acknowledged that out of all houses in the area only 15 directly violate Israeli planning laws and are subject to potential demolition.

 

The eviction order sanctioned in May is not the first that the Bedouin community has encountered since 1986, when Israel proclaimed the area an ancient archaeological site. The same orders were enacted in 2001 and 2011.

 

On Friday, July 24, over 500 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists rallied in Susya to demonstrate against the village’s demolition and expulsion of its approximately 340 residents into Area A of the West Bank.

 

According to Rabbi Arik Ascharom, president of Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israel-based NGO providing legal support to Susya, the demonstration showed that there Israelis who distance themselves from official government policies and support the Palestinian cause, Mondoweiss reported.

 

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary General of Al-Mubadara, who was one of the few politicians participating in the protest, told journalists that this combination of, “popular resistance on the ground, international solidarity and boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli policies is very productive and effective at this stage.”

 

“Israel will not stop its aggressive policy and Netanyahu will never make peace. He has to be brought down,” added Barghouti.

 

On Monday this week, a delegation of 28 EU member states representatives visited Susya in display of solidarity with the local Bedouin community and to express strong opposition to illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank area.

 

John Gatt-Rutter, the EU’s representative in Jerusalem, told The Telegraph that Susiya “had become a by-word for a policy that has deprived Palestinians of their land and resources. But [that it] is not an isolated case.”

 

Speaking at Susya, Gatt-Rutter said, “It is hard not to draw parallels with what is happening elsewhere in the West Bank and with Bedouin communities.

 

“Our presence at the village indicates how seriously we in the EU view the intention to demolish this village and its structure and evict its residents.”

 

Aside from government-led initiatives, there has also been signs of popular solidarity among Israeli, Palestinian as well as international citizen community.

 

On Monday, representatives of the Israeli cultural sphere, including artists, writers and performers, signed a petition titled “No To Deportation” calling “the destruction and uprooting [of houses in Susya] cruel, immoral and illegal,” The Times of Israel reported.

 

Simultaneously, the case of Susya went viral through Twitter. Village supporters launched a hashtag campaign #SaveSusiya in an attempt to foster international solidarity and expose Israeli violations of international law.

 

Despite the heightened international pressure, the fear of demolition and eviction remains present among Susya residents.

 

“If they demolish this village it will be a disaster. It is clear that the main goal is to evict the Palestinians and take the land for the expansion of the settlements,” head of the village council Jihad Nawajah told The Telegraph.



 

 

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