As you surely noticed, the Israeli siege of the village of Susiya in the occupied Hebron Hills looks like it’s being stymied by international pressure. The village was set to be demolished in the next few days to make way for a settlement. Israel is almost certainly going to back off under the international assault on the plan, signaled by the State Department’s vehement objections a week ago. The State Department surely found its spine because of Europe, and the larger spirit of impatience with Israel’s endless colonization. All of this may be in time to save Susiya. And maybe after that we can hold off demolitions in the Negev and outside Jerusalem?
Here’s a wrapup of the latest support for Susiya.
First, Diaa Hadid in the New York Times has an excellent piece today about Susiya: “How a Palestinian Hamlet of 340 Drew Global Attention”
How did a hamlet of 340 Palestinians in a dusty corner of the southern West Bank find its way onto the global stage? Residents point to a chain of events that began two decades ago with visits from sympathetic foreigners and that have now made Susiya a symbol for pro-Palestinian activists of how Israel has sought to maintain control over large parts of the West Bank.
“We could not have imagined all this,” Mr. [Nasser] Nawajaa said as two of his 12 children argued over a toy helicopter.
“The Israelis used to destroy our village, and we slept in the wild, in the rain, and nobody knew anything about us.”
Hadid points to years of activism, including by Christian Peacemaker Teams, and also the support of the European Union.
On Monday, the European Union called on Israel to allow Palestinians to build in Area C and to halt plans to make people move and to demolish housing and infrastructure in Susiya.
I’d mention that Breaking the Silence and the Rebuilding Alliance and the EAPPI, Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, were around when I went to visit. And hundreds of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers have spent time in Susiya over the last decade. The case is particularly unpleasant too, because the village was moved 30 years ago because settlers found an ancient synagogue on their land.
The Hadid piece is the second in two days in the paper of record. “Israel Don’t Level My Village,” was an op-ed by Nasser Nawaja in yesterday’s New York Times. He describes the removal of his grandfather and father from their lands, but points to the overall issue:
The situation in Susiya is only one of many such situations in Area C of the West Bank. Several villages near ours have pending demolition orders as well. If Susiya is destroyed and its residents expelled, it will serve as a precedent for further demolitions and expulsions through the South Hebron Hills and Area C of the West Bank. This must not be allowed to happen.
This story is not a story of Jews against Muslims, or even a story of Israelis against Palestinians. We’re grateful for the many messages of support our village has received from Jewish communities around the world, and the groups and activists working by our side include many Israelis. This is simply a story of justice and equality against dispossession and oppression.
Let’s don’t forget the journalists and activists who’ve been tireless on the issue. Charlie Jadallah in the San Jose Mercury News rallied political opposition to Israel’s plans and spoke openly of Israel’s racial inferiority/superiority ideas, which Americans would find anathema.
An international outcry is the best means to stop the cruel action against a desperate Palestinian community that has lived under Israeli occupation for decades.
Their crime? They are the wrong religious/national group. As Palestinians, their rights in the West Bank are inferior to those of Jewish settlers living illegally on their land and intent on pushing them into smaller and smaller Bantustans. In a 2010 report, “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Human Rights Watch reports, “Israel operates a two-tier system for the two populations of the West Bank in the large areas where it exercises exclusive control.” A two-tier system has been labeled apartheid and Jim Crow in other contexts..
Fortunately, our local Congressional representative, Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is pushing back. She has written a Dear Colleague letter
That letter was signed by eight congresspeople.
Allison Deger did a bangup report on the threatened village back in April.
“Now we live here like prisoners,” said Mohammed [Ahmed Nasser al-Nawaja] as he motioned to the settlements next door.
Palestinians from Susiya have tried to purchase an admission ticket to now archeological Susya a handful of times. They say they have been denied entry each time.
I have returned to Susiya at the invitation of the World Council of Churches to be part of a team of internationals providing ecumenical accompaniment and protective presence to the village in hopes that a demolition and removal may be put off.
Demolition of Palestinian property and the forced removal of residents is a violation of international humanitarian law set out in the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
My team and I are here to shed light on this ongoing violation of human rights by standing in solidarity with our Palestinian host and by giving voice to their lived experience of oppression and abuse.
The Nawaja family was also featured in a report on BBC from seven years ago, when B’Tselem was first getting cameras to Palestinians in order to film settler attacks.
And here’s an audio report produced by Canadian journalist David Kattenburg back in 2012, on Susiya showing the death of the two-state solution. Still very timely. Kattenburg’s documentary places Susiya’s fate in the context of Area C — the 62% of the post-Oslo West Bank where the Jewish State has complete control, and where most Jewish settlements currently lie.
Kattenburg’s audio doc begins and ends in the village of Bir-al-Eid, in the south Hebron Hills, where an elderly Bedouin has just been brutally assaulted by a Jewish settler. Rabbis for Human Rights founder Arik Ascherman explains the situation. At 7:58, the story moves to a pair of Jewish settlers who insist Palestinians are to blame for the mess they’re in, and that a Palestinian state will never come to be. RHR lawyers Kumar Assad and Avital Sharon appear at 10:45, navigating across an Area C checkpoint to visit a Palestinian farmer whose land has been seized by a local settler — with support and protection from Israeli police. Ha’aretz columnist Amira Hass and Israeli activist Jeff Halper provide historical background and analysis at 15:48 and 18:53, respectively. It’s all part of Israel’s grand plan to annex Area C, they argue. Ariel University chancellor Yigal Orgat-Cohen agrees. Beginning at 21:18, Orgat-Cohen argues that “Judea” and “Samaria” belong to Israel, and that the purpose of Jewish settlements is to make a Two-State Solution impossible.
At 26:10 the story arrives in Susiya, in the company of the great Ezra Nawi, founder of the Israeli group Taayush. An elderly farmer and the local schoolmaster describe the trials and tribulations little Susiya has faced. Of course as Kattenburg reminds me today, The worst may yet be in store. But we all have our fingers crossed.