Living with the threat of demolition of their village
An Ordinary Day in Susiya?
Living with the threat of demolition of their village
By Leah Levane EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme For Palestinians and Israelis)
The lightening sky gradually wakes up the residents of Susiya, most of whom have chosen to sleep under the stars A cool breeze and the crowing cock wake us and so the day begins, animals are fed,. women fetch water and bake bread and breakfasts of bread, hummus, tomatoes, cucumber and plums are shared under the partial shade of a grapevine. Children play, washing is done, floors are swept. After breakfast, Mussa Nawaja’a visits his remaining olive trees across the valley and laments the earlier destruction by settlers of up to 120 of his other olive trees, a significant source of income.
But today may not be a day like any other for today the villagers await to see if there is any more news from the Israeli Court. July 1st is the deadline for submitting the appeal and there is concern that the Demolition Orders issued in last month will be carried out. The. orders have been issued, effectively on more than 50 structures in the village; if carried out this would be the entire village.. The demolition orders are on structures including homes, an internationally funded Clinic, internationally funded Solar Panels, sheep sheds and a school. The Court approved the demolition orders in June 2012, following a submission by Regavim, a Settler organisation. This is effectively to activate earlier demolition orders issued in the 1990s and early 2000s. On 7th May,the Israeli High Court ruled that that a Settlement Outpost, Ulpana in Beit El near Ramallah, needed to be evacuated and demolished by 1st July since it was built illegally on private Palestinian land and therefore the people living there would have to leave. The evacuation has happened but there has been a delay until November for the demolition. The Israeli Prime Minister announced that 300 new housing units would be built in the Settlement itself for those families evacuated.
The illegal Israeli outpost 'Regavim' claimed in its petition to the Court in March 2012, that Susiya was an illegal Palestinian Outpost since it was built without permission. Demolition orders were issued in June. Rabbis for Human Rights rhr.org.il/eng are providing legal aid and submitted the appeal by the deadline.
A brief History of Demolitions and Evacuation
There has been a Palestinian village of Susiya for many years, since long before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In 1986, the community was forcibly displaced from their home when the main residential area was declared an archaeological site by the Israeli authorities. In 2001, the village was entirely demolished again and rebuilt and in 2011 there were 4 waves of demolitions affecting 41 structures, including 31 homes (tents and shacks) and 2 water cisterns.
In 1983, the Israeli Settlement of Suseya was established close by and is still expanding; in 2002, a settlement outpost, Suseya synagogue, was established on the original Palestinian Susiya village site. (OCHA factsheet[i])
Water in Susiya
To give one example of the difficulties for the people of Susiya, the villagers pay 25 shekels per cubic metre of tankered water, which is 5 times what residents in the nearby Settlement pay for networked water. The villagers spend one third of their income on water and consume on average 28 litres per person per day, compared with the Palestinian average of 70 and the WHO recommended amount of 100. (OCHA factsheet, link below)
There are two key ways in which Israel is not meeting its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which it is a signatory.
Firstly,article 49 states that ‘The occupying power shall not deport or transfer members of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. This means that all Settlements are illegal under International Law and not just outposts.
Secondly, under the same Geneva Conventions that governs the treatment of civilians in conflict zones, the occupying power (in this case, Israel), has an obligation to ensure the welfare of the civilian population and must ensure the welfare of the civilian population and must ensure that they are provided with or allowed to secure the basics for survival including food, water, medical supplies and shelter. We can see from the example of Susiya that these needs are not being met and. Indeed, many needs that are being met are being met not by Israel but by international donors.
(Links: OCHA Factsheet 30.03.12
Link to transcript of UK Parliamentary debate on Area C (04.07.12) mentioning Susiya and EAPPI http://www.scribd.com/doc/99171728/Area-C-in-British-Parliamentary-Debate
Link to You Tube Video – Abu Jihad and his son Nasser Nawaja’a try to revisit Old Susiya
Leah Levane, Ecumenical Accompanier with children from Saadet Thaa’lah, tented village in South Hebron Hills, several of their structures have been demolished and their solar panels are currently under a demolition order.
Leah Levane is serving for three months with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). EAPPI brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.
Over 300 faxes were sent on Tuesday morning alone to the Defense Ministry offices as part of the “S.O.S. Susya” campaign launched by several Israeli anti-occupation organizations to raise awareness and actively oppose the planned demolition of the small Palestinian village of Susya, in Area C of the southern West Bank. A simple click on the campaign’s website automatically sends 5 faxes to the relevant authorities. Thus far, 12,500 faxes have been transmitted to the Defense Ministry and the Civil Administration, which has apparently severely disrupted both institutions’ ongoing work. (When Haaretz‘s report in Hebrew came out earlier today, they were at 10,000 faxes.)
According to Israeli activist Sahar Vardi, the Defense Ministry is so annoyed by the inpouring of faxes that one of the secretaries there has even threatened to call on the police to intervene and put a stop to it. Vardi sent her fax this morning along with her personal contact information, in case someone at the ministry wanted to consult with her about how to solve the issue in Susya. Ten minutes after she sent the fax, she was surprised to get an email from a secretary asking if they could talk on the phone. She called Vardi and told her that they got over 200 faxes today alone that are jamming their machines and disrupting their work and told her it has to stop.
“I told her that I only sent one fax, and that the demolition of an entire village kind of disrupts people’s lives so maybe the Defense Ministry’s work ought to be disrupted a bit,” Vardi recounted to +972. “She demanded I tell everyone to stop sending faxes or she would involve the police. I asked her if she was threatening to call the police because I sent a fax in a democratic country. She replied by commenting, ‘Isn’t it a waste of paper?’” Apparently the Israeli military complex does not grasp the notion of the right to grassroots activism and lobbying that are supposed to be granted by liberal democracies.
On June 12, the IDF Civil Administration issued 52 demolition orders for Susya based on the claim that Palestinians residents are building illegally without permits – a claim made practically everywhere in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank – where Israel has an explicit policy of prohibiting Palestinians from building. (Read Amira Hass’ instructive article on the double standard of the application of this principle.
The faxes are part of a broader campaign launched last month by five Israeli anti-occupation organizations: Ta’ayush, Combatants for Peace, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement and Rabbis for Human Rights. The coalition organized a large protest in Susya on Friday June 22 which brought together hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians in solidarity with the tiny village of only 350 residents.
The groups then launched a Facebook campaign asking people to take a photo of themselves inside or outside of their house (a place they wouldn’t want to be demolished either ) and then upload it to the campaign’s Facebook page: “I Stand With Susiya: No to Demolition!” So far thousands of people have engaged in this action, and thousands more have been exposed to the campaign page, which has produced six different posters, like this one:
The faxes campaign launched a week ago is currently operating only in Hebrew, which means the 12,500 faxes are all from Israelis. The success thus far seems to indicate that more Israelis are becoming aware of the state’s policy of discrimination and land theft in Area C (60%) of the West Bank, which may have gotten an extra push after a report Monday that Defense Minister Barak ordered the demolition of eight villages in that area to make way for IDF training exercises.
The coalition told +972 it is talking about extending the campaign to foreigners.
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Call to action: Protest the demolition of entire Palestinian village
Palestinian from Area C describes a life in constant need of rebuilding
South Hebron Hills: A military regime for none or for all