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Susiya gets backup from ‘NYT’, EU, and State Dep’t — will Israel dare to demolish the village?

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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.

Rev. David Etherington wrote about Susiya for our site and in the Gainesville Sun a few weeks after that:

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.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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20 Responses

  1. Pixel on July 24, 2015, 12:55 pm

    I’m pretty sure I found an ancient synagogue in my backyard in Wyoming last weekend.

  2. annie on July 24, 2015, 1:17 pm

    i recommend phil’s bbc link to everyone. it reveals, in 2008, how crucial the “Shooting Back” project has been: “The thinking behind the project is that when trouble flares, rather than just giving a statement to the Israeli police or army, video carries much more weight.”

    remember back then, before video? the video is of course horrific, but the text…everyone should read it.

    also, today there’s a 600 people protest there.

    On Friday at 1:30 midday Palestinian villagers were joined by more than 600 Israeli and international supporters to protest the Israeli military decision to demolish half of the homes of Susiya village in the southern Hebron plains south of the west Bank.

    they have photos of the protest.

  3. Henry Norr on July 24, 2015, 2:57 pm

    For a different take on the NY Times piece, don’t miss Barbara Erickson’s “New York Times: Outcry Over Susiya Nothing but Clever PR” at

    The Times story suggests that Susiya has received this backing because of its skill in winning attention, and by imposing this angle on the story, the newspaper is attempting to divert readers from the real issues at play: the fact that Israel’s treatment of the villagers is blatantly racist and defies the norms of international and humanitarian law.

    Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages. Hadid fails to give any sense of this. She writes only that activists have used the village as a symbol of how Israel “has sought to maintain control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.”

    • Shmuel on July 25, 2015, 3:27 am

      Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages.

      Thanks, Henry. With all of the talk of politics and PR and even racism and human rights, we often lose sight of the actual human experience of repeated dispossession. How can a human being ever recover from trauma if the trauma is relived every few years? The occupation doesn’t merely bulldoze homes; it bulldozes souls.

      • bintbiba on July 25, 2015, 3:49 am

        @ Shmuel

        ” How can a human being ever recover from trauma if the trauma is relived every few years? The occupation doesn’t merely bulldoze homes; it bulldozes souls. ”

        Thank you, Shmuel ! Never a truer word …..

  4. heb on July 24, 2015, 3:35 pm

    What none of the press has picked up on, as far as I know, is that at least part of the nearby illegal Jewish settlement of Susiya is built on privately-owned Palestinian land (ie stolen). Even the vile outfit Regavim which has been pressing for Susya’s extinction acknowledges that 23 houses in the settlement are built on land belonging to Palestinians !

    See here

    • annie on July 24, 2015, 4:14 pm

      thanks for the link heb. i wrote about Regavim (mentioning relation to Susiya) a while back (they are the worst!!!)

      Influential Israeli org ‘Regavim’ focused on expelling Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line
      September 5, 2012

      There is a frightening article at +972 about an extremist national-religious social movement  whose influence is on the rise in Israel. They are being recieved with open arms by much of the government apparatus.  They call themselves Regavim.

      Their goal is to promote “a Jewish Zionist agenda for the State of Israel” but what that agenda amounts to is the expulsion of the Palestinian population from what they consider to be Jewish Land.

      +972: Rightist group’s creeping state influence, on both sides of Green Line

      Regavim does not deal with settling the land with Jewish Israelis, but rather with the expulsion of the Palestinian population on both sides of the Green Line. The association is active in Area C of the West Bank, in the Negev, the Galilee and the “mixed cities.” In all of these arenas, Regavim has one clear goal: the brutal and selective implementation of planning and construction laws, encouraging the state to demolish Palestinian homes or public buildings. The demolition orders issued lately for the entire Palestinian village of Susya in the South Hebron Hills are the fruit of its labors.

      Their rhetoric about ‘Arabs taking over the land of Israel’ in the video is blatant. We referenced Regavim recently in Michael Sfard: Addicted to the process, seems they’re in like flint with Gerald Steinberg and his NGO Monitor.

      A central theme of its recent critiques has been of NGO “lawfare,” achieving “political” goals through the courts. There are at least three examples of pro-settler Israeli NGOs engaged in “lawfare,” as defined by NGO Monitor: the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, the Israel Law Center and Regavim, but you will not find even an acknowledgment of their existence among the hundreds of documents on its Web site. We have another option. Steinberg’s and Dermer’s cynicism has created an opportunity to dismantle the power structure that forces Israelis to continue defending Palestinian human rights, 42 years after the “temporary” occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began.

      Regavin makes some outlandish allegations on their website claiming Israel’s Supreme Court shows ‘extremely’ preferential treatment for the ‘Extreme Left‘. Interestingly, unlike B’tselem, nowhere do they link to their ‘data’ backing up these allegations.

      more at the link

  5. Steve Macklevore on July 24, 2015, 4:03 pm

    “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.”

    Sorry that Phil left our lot out – hundreds of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers have spent time in Susiya since approximately 2005.

    I was one of them in 2008 – as so often with activism in Palestine my 5-day visit was a mixture of overwhelming hospitality from the people of Susiya, vicious settlers who seemed genuinely deranged at times, and chillingly one sided Israeli Army.

    • annie on July 24, 2015, 5:45 pm

      steve, i added your lot, i’m sure phil won’t mind. thanks for stopping by.

      • Steve Macklevore on July 25, 2015, 9:50 am

        Thanks Annie!

        In fairness to Phil, the ISM doesn’t maintain a permanent presence in Susiya, so it’s perfectly possible that no ISM volunteers were there when he visited the village.

      • annie on July 25, 2015, 10:34 am

        my pleasure. i don’t think phil meant to imply those were the only groups who’ve worked with the villagers over the years, and i’m sure if ISM had been there when phil was there he would have mentioned them. either way, ISM does incredible and crucial work — any recognition is well deserved and an honor for us to include.

  6. JWalters on July 24, 2015, 6:36 pm

    This is a great development! It looks like the international community is finally standing up for justice against the Zionist war scam. If this crime is blocked, can future such crimes be accepted? I don’t see how. The battle for public attention has always been a key front in this struggle. That’s why the Big Money behind the Zionists captured strategic media companies, to shut out the Palestinian side of the story. The financial power doing that has been as impressive as its goals have been evil.

  7. JLewisDickerson on July 24, 2015, 11:37 pm

    RE: “Susiya gets backup from ‘NYT’, EU, and State Dep’t — will Israel dare to demolish the village?”

    ANSWER: Yes, but only in due time/course!*

    * FROM JOEL KOVEL (1-20-13):

    [EXCERPT] . . . As with everyone I know of in official political culture, [Thomas] Friedman assumes that Israel is a rational actor on the international stage who will obey the calculus of reward and punishment that regulates the conduct of normal states.
    The presumption is that if you tell it the truth, and even pull back US support, it will get the message, reflect, and change its ways. But Israel is not a normal state, except superficially. It will make adjustments, pulling back here, co-operating there, making nice when necessary, crafting its message using a powerful propaganda apparatus employing the most up-to-date social science. But this is simply tactical and no more predicts or explains the behavior of the Zionist state than an individual sociopath can be explained by the fact that he obeys traffic signals while driving to the scene of his crime. . .

    SOURCE –

    • JLewisDickerson on July 25, 2015, 12:41 pm

      P.S. BOB DYLAN: “Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill – Running out the clock” ~ from Neighborhood Bully, 1983

      Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
      His enemies say he’s on their land
      They got him outnumbered about a million to one
      He got no place to escape to, no place to run
      He’s the neighborhood bully . . .
      . . . He got no allies to really speak of
      What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love . . .
      . . . Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
      That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him

      ’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
      And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
      He’s the neighborhood bully . . .
      . . . Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill [i.e., Hilltop Youth]
      Running out the clock
      , time standing still
      Neighborhood bully

      SOURCE –

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Israel, the ‘Neighborhood Bully’: Deconstructing the Lyrics of Bob Dylan in the Light of the Gaza Crisis”, By Adeyinka Makinde, Global Research, July 28, 2014
      LINK –

      P.P.S. AND SEE: “Bob Dylan turns 70; still hasn’t Recanted Praise for Rabbi Meir Kahane”, by Amago,, 5/24/11
      LINK –

      • JLewisDickerson on July 25, 2015, 12:55 pm

        FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

        [EXCERPT] . . . Israel’s vice-premier, Moshe Ya’alon, was candid when asked in an interview this year: ‘Why all these games of make-believe negotiations?’ He replied:

        Because … there are pressures. Peace Now from within, and other elements from without. So you have to manoeuvre … what we have to do is manoeuvre with the American administration and the European establishment, which are nourished by Israeli elements [and] which create the illusion that an agreement can be reached … I say that time works for those who make use of it. The founders of Zionism knew … and we in the government know how to make use of time.

        SOURCE –

      • JLewisDickerson on July 25, 2015, 1:20 pm

        P.P.P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “Bold West Bank land grab may have been on drawing board for decades, by Bethan Staton,, 9/15/14
        If developed, nearly 1,000 acres seized by Israeli authorities last month could link Israeli settlements, some that started as tiny outposts, between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

        [EXCERPT] In one of the boldest moves of its kind, Israeli authorities confiscated 4,000 dunums – 990 acres – of West Bank land in late August. A chorus of frustration and disapproval from international bodies met the declaration: on land that borders both the 1949 Armistice Green Line and Palestinian villages of al-Jab’a and Surif, the seizure is likely to pave the way for settlement expansion, and could seriously stifle Palestinian development.

        While it might change the reality of the West Bank dramatically, however, the news shouldn’t be surprising; plans for this area have long been on the drawing board of Israeli authorities. In fact, a critical look at a map of the region shows these intentions have been perceptible for years.

        Located in Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem, the confiscated land is bordered by a scattering of settlements: Beitar Illit, Kfar Etzion and Gvot. And following this month’s land grab, the closest, Gvaot, has been cast into the settleament spotlight. Established in 1982 as an Israeli army Nahal base, where residents combined military service, volunteering and agriculture, it was turned into a religious Yeshiva community in the 1990s. Now it’s inhabited by a handful of families, and because it’s never been officially recognised by the government, the homes and buildings in the community are all technically illegal under Israeli law.

        The tenuous status of this tiny settlement means it might as well be referred to as an “outpost”: a small Israeli community established by radical, often religious groups without government authorisation, or as a military base, some distance from major settlements. After establishing a presence at these strategic points in the West Bank, these outposts are supported and developed by nearby settlements. Steps are taken to make them stronger, larger and even legal, setting the scene for a permanent presence and further expansion into the West Bank.

        This is just what the confiscation is set to do for Gvaot – and it seems clear that Israeli authorities wish big things for the tiny settlement. In the past, the Israeli NGO, Peace Now, revealed a government plan to turn it into a city of 15,000 housing units: although that blueprint was never promoted, the minister of defense has approved two separate plans that would see the construction of 584 buildings around the settlement. The seizure of 4,000 dunums will mean plenty of room for Gvaot to expand. Even more importantly, it will link the settlement up to the Green Line – creating Israeli continuity between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement blocs, and making Gvaot feel much more like part of Israel.

        The thinking behind the seizure is no secret: representatives of Gush Etzion have been quite clear about the strategy. “If you look at a map today, you can see that there are no Jewish communities between Beitar Illit and Gush Etzion,” Shani Simowitz, a resident of a nearby settlement, told Middle East Eye. “So you connect them. Those 4,000 dunums connect Gvaot, Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim and the Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit.”

        Simowitz lives in Tekoa, a cluster of settlements to the east of Gush Etzion. She sees that community – which, like Gvaot, started life as a Israel army Nahal base – as exemplary of an outpost rationale, which strikes out “to the northernmost tip” of the area that Israeli developers and communities want to claim, before “joining the dots backwards.”

        Filling in the gaps between isolated settlements and creating continuity across the Green Line, as Simowitz describes, means that if a peace agreement is ever reached, Israel will keep Gush Etzion, said Suhail Khalilieh, who heads up the settlement monitoring team at the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), a Palestinian NGO.

        “This is playing a crucial part in the long-term claim to the greater Jerusalem area, and it will have a big effect on the geography and the demography of the area,” Khalilieh explained. “This has been planned, I think, since the Oslo Accords. It did not come out of the blue. The Israelis have been waiting for the perfect timing to fill in all the gaps. Everything is now coming into final play and everyone is revealing his own cards. The Israelis are looking to force facts on the ground that cannot be easily disputed.”

        Gvaot’s potential story, of a tiny, illegal outpost evolving into a densely-populated, red-roofed city, is not an unusual one. Since 1967, the tale of settlers striking out independently to set up tents that claim land for the Jewish state has been a narrative that’s shaped the West Bank. Ma’ale Adumim’s website, for example, is proud to state that the settlement was founded in 1975 by 23 families who worked “diligently” and without government authorisation to build a city in the newly occupied West Bank. Today, Ma’ale Adumim is a settlement of some 39,000 people, built on thousands of dunums of confiscated Palestinian land.

        “Gvaot is a military post that’s become civilised officially and they have plans that it’ll become a big city: this is the story across the West Bank,” Lior Amihai, at Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, said.

        The policy of allowing, and even encouraging civilians to set up outposts, Amihai explained, began in the 1990s, when the government decided to stop establishing new settlements. It was at that point that Ariel Sharon, then Foreign Minister, urged Israelis to “run and grab as many hilltops” as they could.

        “Everything we take now will stay ours,” Sharon said at the time. “Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”

        Many obeyed the call quite literally, establishing small, isolated caravan communities on the West Bank’s rugged hills: according to Peace Now statistics, 99 outposts are now home to over 4,000 settlers.

        “These outposts would be supported from the settlement regional councils with roads, water, electricity and so on,” Amihai says. “But the official policy was to disregard them: to say they’re illegal, they’re small, insignificant, they don’t have the power to change the political situation. So the outposts continue to grow. This begins with illegal construction, so the buildings have demolition orders, but they won’t actually be destroyed. On the contrary, they’ll be allowed to expand.” . . .

        SOURCE –

  8. Blownaway on July 25, 2015, 1:19 am

    The answer is yes they will do it because they know there won’t be any consequences…extreme displeasure unhelpful blah blah blah but no penalty. They may wait till the heat is off but make no mistake they will demolish it

  9. iResistDe4iAm on July 25, 2015, 7:58 am

    Susiya gets backup from ‘NYT’, EU, and State Dep’t — will Israel dare to demolish the village?

    Yes. When the State Department refocuses on its core imperial challenges, and media attention has faded, Israel will strike like an UNnatural disaster.

    Israel has form …it has demolished the village of Al Araqib 83 times (unfortunately for Susiya, Al Araqib is located within the green line so they at least had recourse to Israeli law).

    So where are the former celebrity activists who once stood on the right side of history, but now prefer to sing Kumbaya songs?
    Haven’t they learnt that Kumbaya songs sung straight after massacres do nothing to prevent even worse massacres?

    I’m talking to you Bono. If activists sang Kumbaya songs to the South Africans, the world would still be pleading with the regime to stop demolishing those sprawling ghettoes & shanty towns (built “without permits”), and a man named Mandela would have died a convicted terrorist in a colonial prison.

    Kumbaya Pride (from 3:45 to 5:09)

  10. Qualtrough on July 25, 2015, 9:13 am

    My money would be on Israel destroying the village. Israel is like a child who has never heard the word ‘NO!’ and never had to face any consequences for its actions. Why wouldn’t they destroy it if it so pleased them?

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