SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — On Friday, around 350 Palestinians, Israelis, and international activists assembled to protest the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) recent decision to demolish a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Susiya, located in the South Hebron Hills, is home to several hundred Palestinians.
The village is nestled between Jewish settlements, illegal settler outposts, and numerous military checkpoints.
Last week, the IDF delivered demolition orders that notified the villagers that Susiya will be destroyed in its entirety. In Area C of the West Bank, Israeli authorities have full jurisdiction. The demolitions orders said 56 of Susiya’s buildings were constructed without the proper permits.
Many of Susiya’s residents have owned their land since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. They argue that the Israeli Civil Administration refuses to grant building permits to most Palestinians in Area C, including those of Susiya. Most of the buildings, they add, are in fact mere tents constructed from cinderblocks and rain tarps.
Susiya’s residents have already been displaced at least five times. The villagers were first displaced after a demolition that took place in 1985, when Israeli archeologists found remnants of an ancient synagogue in Susiya. The village was also demolished in 1991, 1997, and twice in 2001.
Israel acquired control over the Palestinian territories in the June War of 1967. Since the Oslo Accords, which divided the West Bank into separate zones of legal administration, the Palestinian Authority have striven to establish an independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Yet, over 500,000 settlers now live in West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities facilitate the expansion of Jewish settlements throughout Area C. Even “outposts”—Jewish settlements built without the permission of the government, and considered illegal under Israeli law—usually receive free water, electricity, and utilities. Settlement expansion frequently requires the destruction of Palestinian villages.
Susiya’s villagers have been regularly attacked by the nearest Israeli settlement, which is also called Susiya. They say the settlers have slaughtered their sheep, on which many depend for the bulk of their income, and poisoned their water wells.
The IDF also destroys the village’s water wells. Palestinians in Area C are not allowed to dig deeper than three feet without permits. Military spokesmen claim that terrorists could use the wells as tunnels to launch attacks.
In 2008, a resident of Susiya spoke with Amnesty International.
“Water is life. Without water we can’t live—not us, not the animals, or the plants,” he started.
“Before we had some water, but after the army destroyed everything we have to bring water from far away; it’s very difficult and expensive. They make our life very difficult, to make us leave.”
Many of the residents work with Israeli and international nongovernmental organizations in order to spread awareness of the frequent human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Breaking the Silence, a group of former IDF soldiers who speak out against the occupation of the West Bank, regularly brings a tour of Israelis and internationals to Susiya. Shooting Back, an NGO that attempts to document settler violence in the West Bank, distributed handheld cameras to Susiya and other West Bank villages.
One protester told Bikyamasr.com that the military attempted to break up the protest by using stun grenades and tear gas, and then threatened to spray the crowd with high pressure water hoses.
“When I got off the bus there were soldiers and policemen everywhere. I was astonished because it was a peaceful demo,” said Roberto, an international activist who came to demonstrate in solidarity with Susiya.
“Once the march started, the soldiers began to shoot tear gas and noisy bombs. We were peaceful, but they blocked the road and threatened us with more tear gas and the water hoses.”
Six buses of Israeli activists who oppose the military occupation of the West Bank participated in the demonstration. Several dressed in clown suits and mocked the soldiers. The buses were organized by NGOs such as Rabbis for Human Rights, Combatants for Peace, and Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah.
“It is important for people to see Susiya. You can see how Palestinians are forced from their land and into tents. You can see their close proximity to the settlement. And you can see the militarization of geography and space. Before your eyes is what the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe called the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” Roberto continued.
“The presence of Israelis is very important. Only cooperation between two peoples will be the basis for a just solution.”
The destruction of Susiya, according to the United Nations humanitarian office, will displace some 350 people, 120 of which are children. Furthermore, a clinic, a kindergarten, and several solar panels that provide the villagers with electricity will be demolished. —www.shafaqna.com/english/