Report on the Recent Distribution of Demolition orders in Susiya

Our visit a week ago on Thursday, June 27th in South Mt. Hebron was going to be a particularly happy one. With summer vacation having recently started, our son, who is 15 and half years old, and our daughter, 14 years old, could join us again to visit the area, and so did our friend, Tamar. Indeed, we arrived at Susiya as planned, around 10 o’clock in the morning, but from then on, the visit was entirely different than the one we planned and hoped for…

We were glad to meet Nasser on the path leading to the village, on horseback, and we entered the village together, Nasser’s son on the horse with him and the other kids cheerfully following. After greeting the women of the Nawajah family, which took a few minutes, suddenly entered the village a Civil Administration car and a Border Police jeep. Both stopped by the dwelling of Nasser and Eyam and two Civil Administration officers came out, accompanied by three Border policemen, armed with guns. Family members, adults and children, came out and we all gathered in front of the vehicles, anxiously waiting to see what it was all about. I asked, in Hebrew, one of the two young men who came out of the car and wasn’t in uniform: “What’s going on?” and he blurted: “Nothing.” I tried again: “What is it?” and he played the wise guy: “Why, is it forbidden to come here for a patrol?”

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The Border Policemen who “secured” the operation

After a few more minutes we all understood what was going on. The two young Civil Administration officers started going around the village, stopping at nearly every tent, goats’ pen or any other construction – briefly filling out a form describing it, posing for a photograph near it, for documentation purposes, nervously clearing away whoever got in the frame, and placing the piece of paper between two big rocks next to each family dwelling. These were “cease-work” orders, which means they are the precursors of demolition orders and their subsequent implementation. I asked Nasser why “cease-work” when most of the tents or constructions are not in building stages but have been used by the villagers for quite some time? Nasser told me I am not wrong, and I realized it’s just the way of the Civil Administration (and one might say, of the occupation authorities in general) to remind the village residents that the Supreme Court proceedings (taking months already) will not interfere with manifesting domination, and also to remind them of the imminent threat of their homes’ demolition, already pending for years (for a summary and an update on the proceedings regarding the village and for a newspaper report on this event, see [http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-orders-west-bank-village-to-tear-down-tents-solar-panel-set-up-by-eu.premium-1.532369]). As is customary, the orders were not given by the Civil Administration officers personally to the owners, although the owners were standing right next to them, but were placed on rocks, as if to say: For us there aren’t any people here, just rocks.

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The Civil Administration officer places…

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… and presents the order

Nasser accompanied the patrol with his video camera, so he was subjected in the beginning to reprimands and threats from the Civil Administration officers: “Don’t disturb us”, to which he answered: “I am not the one disturbing – it’s you who are disturbing us in our home, invading it.” Other residents were very anxious that such an order will reach their homes too, and indeed, when the patrol stopped by the home of Samiha and Jihad, Samiha burst out screaming and cursing, expressing her pain… we tried to calm her down and offer support: “guard your soul; you are making it harder on yourself, not on them.” But it isn’t hard to understand her feelings in those moments … in addition to the feelings of the village’s people, I was wondering what do these young men from the Civil Administration and the Border Police are feeling? Are they only obeying orders? Do they see the injustice and pain their actions are inflicting? Looking at them, it seemed they are completely detached from the events, manifesting nothing but indifference and cynicism towards the villagers – this hurt me no less, and maybe even more, than Samiha’s screams.

During that morning there were many “cease-work” orders delivered in the village: to dwellings, storages, sheep and geese pens, cisterns and the solar panels providing electricity. Finally, an order was delivered to a recently new tent used as a medical clinic near Susiya’s elementary school. The school, which was opened three years ago, had already got a demolition order a while ago. Recently, the walls have been painted, to the delight and pride of the school’s headmaster and teachers.

In each place, the orders’ messengers took photos of themselves with the forms, to document their activity, and at the same time Nasser and Ophir also documented the conduct of the Civil Administration and Border Police officials and the way they treated the locals. Sometimes the children and youngsters joined in the documenting photos, smiling and signaling “V” with their fingers, and, as my son said to me, there was a lot of strength in this gesture, more than in the screams of anger and pain.

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Children from Susiya step in as a demolition
order is being issued to a tent donated by

 

We tried to follow the patrol of delivering orders and to visit the families for support. We sat in the home of Azzam and Wadha with Sara, their young daughter who was alone at home on that day. We sat in their pleasant bower together with two other young women – her neighbors-relatives, drinking tea and talking on what’s happened, and on other things too. For a while it seems like this is a normal and pleasant visit, and life goes on …

From afar, Ophir saw the jeep continuing to the next hill and to other dwellings in the village, and we decided we should also go and be there. The small children of Jamal and Youssuf greeted us happily. The patrol has already continued to the home of Haja Sara and a few of the family members went with it. We sat with the elderly parents and listened to their feelings: “This is our land, my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather lived here, I have land registration papers from the time of the Turks, we will never leave, although there are attempts to drive us away from our homes all the time,” so said Haj Isma’il. “We are here to be here and support you,” we said. “And we love you,” said Isma’il. “We love you too,” we replied, “and we will continue to come and be with you.”

Indeed – we will continue to visit our friends in Susiya (almost) every week, as we have been doing for a long time now. We will come when orders are delivered, when the hearing in the Supreme Court will take place, in difficult times and also in happy times…

Yours,

Limor Mintz-Manor, in the name of the members of the Villages Group

 

Detention on Saturday Morning

To our dear friends,

Between our weekly visits to South Mt. Hebron things happen, things that happen during a week, quite ordinary things.

People wake up in the morning to a new day – they wash, pray, eat, discover that settlers cut down 62 trees in their olive grove, as a “price tag” action; or they go to sleep and wake up to the violent presence of 20 soldiers and one policeman in their living room, a visit that was not pre-coordinated with and approved by the house owners; or they go to shepherd their goats, get detained for two days and released with a court summon, after paying bail they will never get back.

These and other are the happenings between one weekly visit to the next, in an ordinary week, one among many in which a daily routine like this takes place. Mere footnotes, maybe similar in their importance, as Ophir says, to getting a parking ticket in Tel Aviv. Even Gideon Levi will not write about it in his newspaper column.

And so, 20 years old Ammar and Odeh, and 16 years old Akram, from Umm al-Kheir, who went out with the goats in the morning of the 1st of June 2013, as they do each Saturday, to the grazing areas close to their home, and were detained – they too will surely fold their pain, store it in the storeroom for unprocessed pains, and continue their life, their daily routine, as if such a pain is an ordinary matter, like breakfast, like brushing your teeth or going to the toilette.

We, on the other hand, when we came to visit 3 days after they returned from their detention – chose to talk with them, in order not to let it happen.

Ammar told: “We were with the goats not far away from a place where a metal railing was built; Police came, they handcuffed us; we asked why, they said we stole iron. When they handcuffed us and answered our question, they also beat us.

I kept quiet. I was afraid that if I open my mouth they would beat me more. Akram said the same.

They took us to the police station in Kiryat Arba [the biggest settlement near Hebron]. Three hours they left us without water, and 13 hours without food. From 9 o’clock in the morning, when they detained us, until 10 o’clock at night when they moved us from Kiryat Arba to Gush Etzion (cluster of settlements near Bethlehem). In Kiryat Arba they handed me a document and told me to sign it.

The document was in Hebrew and I asked what is says. For this they beat me again. Still, I did not sign.

We slept in the detention station in Gush Etzion with other detainees.

In the morning they transferred Akram, who is considered a minor, to Ofer detention facility.

We slept another night in Gush Etzion. In the morning, Khalil [Amar’s cousin, Oda and Akram’s brother] came with a car and 4,500 NIS bail (1,500 NIS for each of us).

At that time, Aziz picked up his brother Akram from Ofer camp.

In September each of us will have a trial.

Before they confiscated our mobile phones, Odeh managed to call home and notify that we are detained.”

From that moment on, efforts to release them took place: the family called Buma Inbar (Israeli humanitarian activist) and Rabbis for Human Rights, and Avital, RHR’s lawyer, managed to release them on bail until the trial.

I asked Amar and Akram how they feel now, after 3 days at home:

Amar was angry for being beaten up without a reason and for being left without food. But that is already over. Now he is angry about the 1,500 NIS and about the trial. But the hardest thing for him is that they took away for 3 years the special permit that allowed him to work in settlements. His father is paralyzed; his eldest brother is in jail, so in recent time, by working in a settlement’s supermarket, Ammar was the main provider for his mother, father and ten brothers and sisters.

Akram said that he remains angry about everything and scared too.

Akram missed an end-of-year exam that was held in his school on Sunday, when he was detained.

The headmaster allowed him to skip it because Akram is an exceptionally good pupil.

When we left them, to continue our day, we thanked them for sharing their story with us. They thanked us so much for wanting to see them and to hear their story – the story of what happened, and its emotional soundtrack.

As we distanced from them I knew we allowed their pain to be conveyed, to be contained – by us and maybe also by them – and in this way to air a bit the storerooms of pains that do not get attention and might turn into stiff and violent rage, damaging to its possessor and to the entire surroundings.

On grounds of protecting the reader, I do not continue and describe our visit in Salem, the following day; I am leaving it to my next letter.

Yours, Erella (in the name of my friends in the Villages Group)

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Ammar, Khalil, Ophir, Odeh, Limor and Erella (Akram is not in the picture)

Salem’s Music Center

Dear friends and Supporters,

We accompanied Salem’s music center since it was started more than three years ago. Walking hand in hand with the center’s staff and students was and is a challenging and rewarding experience for us. There is hardly anything that can match the satisfaction of exposing the children of a poor, neglected and brutally occupied village to the wonders of learning to play on musical instruments.

From the beginning of this program we were very much aware of our limitations as a small group of volunteers we can’t carry for long a project which expand and grow year by year, such as Salem’s music center, neither organizationally nor financially. Our colleagues in the staff of the center are sharing with us the awareness of those limitations. At this stage we all feel time has arrived for them to take full responsibility for the center’s financial needs as the responsibility they took from the beginning concerning the professional aspects.

Returning to his hometown Nablus after several years of studies abroad, the center’s new coordinator, Abdullah Kharoub is seeking to use his natural charm and wit as well as his acquired skills, for the benefit of the children of his area. The time when the center would be able to walk on its feet with the help of well-established organizations has not  arrived yet; it is on its way. In order to fulfill this goal the center still needs to pass through some stages such as official recognition; they work hard to get it. In the meantime the maintenance of the center’s activities still requires support.

In this attached file you will find a newsletter written by Abdullah with the cooperation of the Villages Group.

This by itself is a huge step of the center towards maturity.

Those of you, dear friends, who want to relate, please contact Abdullah abdkharoub@gmail.com  (we can be added as addressee). That is one of the ways through which we seek to enable the center’s staff to grow into a new phase of independence.

Erella Dunayevsky and Ehud Krinis in the name of the Villages Group villagesgroup1@gmail.com

Support Needed for An Enrichment Class at Mufaqra – A Letter from Ali al-Hamamde

Dear Friends and supporters,

Since the beginning of our relationships with villagers from South Mount Hebron and from the Nablus area, we have been trying to work with the people, and not instead or for the people. At the beginning, we, members of the Villages Group, took upon us to maintain the connections with people around the world. Gradually, the villagers themselves begin to take responsibility for these connections, something that is  really foreign to their culture. This and language barriers (Hebrew and/or English) are some of the challenges we are facing and so we still have a long way to go in this regard.

Last year we shared with our friends in Israel and abroad a request for assistance in funding a learning enrichment program for the children Mufaqra (see here). The annual budget of the project is estimated at 4,500 USD / 3,300 Euro / 2,600 Pound; most of the budget is needed for salary and the remainder for supplies. We would appreciate any donation; please contact us at this email if you are able to donate. We realize that we keep on sending request for support but at the end of the day this is indicative of the dire conditions in South Mount Hebron. Hopefully together we would be able to support our fellow Palestinians friends.  

With much love, 

Erella (in the name of the Villages Group)

 

In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate

Hello and greetings,

I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the members of the Villages Group and to everyone who helps them help us. All of you are dedicating much attention to the people of South Mount Hebron and investing a lot of effort in trying to get to know the situation in which people are living, their needs and the areas in which they need support. 

Among other fields in which we received support, the people of the Villages Group have helped us in education. One of the ways to assist in this field is to financially support university students so they can finish their degree within reasonable time (usually studies take a long time because of financial difficulties), and return to their villages and contribute to the advancement of education there. I am one of the students who benefited from your assistance. I spent six years in university, because of financial hardships, actions of the Israeli occupation and transportation difficulties. Without your help my studies would have taken at least ten years. 

After graduating and receiving my degree I didn’t find a job, like many of my fellow students. The members of the Villages Group knew that the children of Umm Fakra need support in their studies and offered me to teach them after school hours in order to strengthen their abilities. I built a learning enrichment program and we have implemented it and maintained this framework during the passing year. Meetings were held three times a week. During these meetings we would repeat the material studied in class and solve problems the children encountered. I would identify the children who are weaker in their studies and I invested in them in order to advance them. The stronger ones also got their share, thanks to the small size of the pupils’ group. I felt that this framework answers real needs – the children came willingly and made progress. I myself felt great responsibility towards them. As someone living in the village I know how much the children need learning and educational support, in addition to what they manage to acquire at school.

What enabled this enrichment were the funds we received from you. The children, the parents and I would like this enrichment program to continue. This year too – we need your help.

I thank in advance everyone who would enable the learning enrichment program in Umm Fakra to continue this year.

With much respect,

Ali al-Hamamde

Demolition in Mufaqra

Dear friends,
Perhaps you have read in recent days about the decision of the Israeli government to build more houses in settlements throughout the West Bank as a response to the Palestinian appeal to the UN. But most probably you have not heard (and probably will not hear in the media) about the actions of the occupation authorities that early today demolished a mosque in the cave-dwellers village of Mufaqra. The police, representatives of the civil administration and soldiers of the IDF (read: Israeli Demolition Forces) arrived at the village at sunrise, closed down the area surrounding the mosque and used two bulldozers to demolish the building. It is worthwhile mentioning that the mosque that was demolished today was built on the ruins of a former mosque that was destroyed roughly a year ago.
As soon as the information reached us we called Fadel, a friend from Mufaqra who described the fear among the people of the village and especially among the kids that were on their way to school when the demolition occurred. Fadel told us that he asked one of the army officers why do they demolish the mosque and the response was: “today we demolish the mosque but as soon as we get the court order we will demolish your house as well.”
Below is a picture of the mosque that we took a few weeks ago and photos that were taken today by activists from Operation Dove during the demolition.
We will visit the people of Mufaqra later this week and hope to communicate to you more information and impressions from the field.
On behalf of the other members of the Villages Group,
Ophir Münz-Manor

תמונה מוטבעת 7

תמונה מוטבעת 5
תמונה מוטבעת 6
תמונה מוטבעת 3

A Short Report from the Cave Dwellers Village of Tuba

Dear friends,

 

Wednesday Nov. 14, 2012

In the midst of sirens and bombs in our area as part of the recent war between Israel and Gaza, I received a telephone call from Hamed from Hebron asking if we are safe. Five minutes later we received a telephone call from Eid inviting us to come to Um el Khair in South Mount Hebron because it is safer there. “It is Thursday tomorrow” I told him, “and we come at any rate.”

 

Thursday Nov. 15, 2012     

We go to South Mount Hebron. Dany and David from Tel Aviv, Ophir from Jerusalem, David Clinch from North Devon in Britain and myself from Shoval coming after a night without much sleep, trying to cope with  the ugly music of the sirens.  It is a bit surrealistic to go to South Mount Hebron in the West Bank  and feel safer… I thought to myself. It was a short while thought since I knew already that it was not safe at all for the kids of Tuba two days ago while walking to school and being attacked by four masked settlers throwing stones at them.

We enter the cave of Omar’s family. Some of his kids are there. Inshirakh tells us how she, amongst a group of fifteen kids of all school ages, went to school the day before yesterday and how the settlers came from the trees and attacked them; and how the soldiers who accompany the kids by a jeep send the settlers away (without taking their names or arresting them.) She says she was afraid but continued to walk to school that day and the other days to come. They are used to be afraid, she says.

Does it matter to whom it is not safe? Since it is not safe to the kids it is not safe to me as well. And then it turns even more surrealistic. I am sitting in the cave in Tuba listening to Inshirakh’s  story , calling Mustafa (my friend in Gaza) asking how is he, and calling my husband to ask him if Shoval has been bombed…

I remember a paragraph of a story I wrote some years ago after the Cast Lead war in 2009: 

“…The First Intifada has ended. The Oslo Accords have evaporated. Israel has already sent in its army to occupy the Occupied West Bank and come out from this second Occupation into the first. The Second Intifada, too, has ended. The suicide bombings are over, for the time being. The First Lebanon War concluded the list of its buried. The Second as well. Rabin is already dead. Arafat is already dead. Sharon lives his own death. The elections in the Palestinian Authority brought the Hamas to power in Gaza. “Cast Lead” would take place in two years’ time, and when its wounds begin to heal, there will be “Cast Copper” or “Cast Silver” or any other appellation given in awe to the next war, the one that has not yet taken place but will surely come after “Cast Lead” that has not yet been cast, either, in 2007. We already know it was, however, because this story is being written now, in 2010. And the war that has not yet been will later be, and then will have been. In our region, for sheer wars for life, life is no longer sanctified. Only death.”

Hope for better days,

Yours with love, Erella (in the name of the other members of the Villages Group)

 

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Inshirakh in her family’s cave

Military & Settler Vandalism Escalates as Court Battle over South Hebron Hills Heats Up

We continue to follow, report and support the struggle of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank’s southernmost region, to continue living on their ancestral lands which they legally own.

One would think that in an enlightened society such a simple request would be guaranteed beyond doubt. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. For an entire generation, the Occupation regime, aided and egged on by the settlers that regime has introduced into the region, has been trying to uproot a few thousand indigenous residents. The mechanisms have ranged from military edicts, bad-faith legalistic arguments in court, pressure on the ground, and naked violence and vandalism.

On the court front, residents have last week achieved what seems like a minor victory. The Occupation regime now insists that “only” 8 Massafer-Yatta villages be evacuated and destroyed, instead of the 12 that the original 1999 edict declared to be part of an IDF “firing range”. According to lawyers who represent the residents, during the court battle the regime offered this reduction from 12 to 8 in exchange for stopping the struggle. Now the regime has been (apparently) forced to do so in exchange for nothing. The regime probably sees now that its flimsy – no, outrageous – arguments that it can declare a “firing range” over an entire stretch of populated land and pretend the people there have never existed, has very little chance of winning the day, even in the skewed playing field of Israel’s own courts. Therefore, it perhaps tries to appear more “rational” and “reasonable” by excluding 4 villages from the count. The High Court has responded by erasing the original 12-village petition, and inviting plaintiffs to resubmit an adjusted one for the 8 villages within several months, without any impact on their petition rights.

That victory noted, the IDF still controls the region very tightly, and has continued to try and inflict misery and intimidation upon residents, in the hope that they leave of their own accord. This summer’s campaign has started, as reported here, with sweeping evacuation and demolition decrees, in apparent violation of the pending court case. Now, during the first week of August the IDF raided two of the 4 villages removed from its evacuation edict! Then, on August 7 it raided Jinba village, which is among the 8 still included in the court case. Images of this “heroic” use of military might and resources against defenseless civilians, are below.

The pictures were taken in Jinba by Btselem activists, and transmitted to us by Guy Butavia. The raids were implemented using helicopters, which landed and took off in the village 6 times.

The cave dwellers’ hamlet of Jinba is one of the largest and oldest of this type of locality in the cave region of the South Hebron Hills\Massafer Yatta region. This being summer, many children who normally stay in Yatta during the school year (because no adequate secondary school exists in the cave-dwelling region) were in the village. The residents’ sheep, as usual, were also around, receiving the military’s attention as well:

Intimidation alone was not enough for the brave soldiers, so they also tossed out the contents of some closets, and spilled large jugs of milk and cream.

Amira Hass reported this raid on Haaretz, but apparently that newspaper’s English mirror is now attempting again to charge a premium for reading the only somewhat-independent mainstream Israeli source for news on the Occupation.

Then, on August 16, the region’s settlers once again pitched in. As Operation Dove reports:

In the afternoon of August 16th some Palestinians discovered that an olive grove situated in Humra valley had been recently destroyed during the night, according to a Palestinian. Thirty olive trees were broken or severely damaged. The olive grove belongs to a Palestinian family that lives in Yatta, a Palestinian town close to At-Tuwani. The area in which the olives trees were cut is located in front of Havat Ma’on, an illegal outpost.

The amount of Palestinian trees tore down and damaged [in the region] since January 2012 rises to 97: a largest number is located in Humra valley. The olive grove’s destruction represents several problems of subsistence for Palestinians. Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

Once again, the settlers and the military Occupation prove in action that they are two arms of the same beast: the beast of nationalist supremacy, dispossession and violence. In addition, over the past few days the military has confiscated private Palestinian vehicles in the region, under the pretext of “unauthorized driving inside a firing range.” The Occupation makes a joke of the concept “issue pending court decision”, and uses its power on the ground to intimidate and forcibly drive people off their land.

So far, the residents, aided by concerned citizens of Israel and around the world, have remained determined to stand up for their rights.

More images from the two vandalism incidents can be found below (credit for both sets goes to Guy Butavia).

A New Bio-Gas System in Palestinian Susya

in May 2010, the Bio-Gas project was launched to install systems for producing gas from sheep and goat dung for the domestic energy needs of the Palestinian hamlet of Susya (Susiya). This project was the initiative of Yair Teller, together with The Villages Group and Arava Institute. The first sytem was installed in the dwelling compound of the Hajj Ismail Nawaj’ah family, in Susya. Subsequently, two similar systems were installed in the dwelling compounds of another two families of the same clan in Susya. These are small systems of 4 cubic meters, each providing one family’s cooking needs.

In the two years since, Yair Teller continued developing his expertise in bio-gas. He joined three partners – Erez Lantzer, Oshik Efrati and Danny Dunayevsky, who together formed the Ecogas company. Ecogas and the Arava Institute are now pursuing the development of additional bio-gas systems in Palestinian Susya. Currently, together with the villagers, they are working to install a new 16-cubic-meter system in the area of the Hasan Shinran family in the western part of Susya.

The eastern part of Susya is inhabited mostly by families of the Nawaj’ah clan and is in Area C (in which permission for construction has been temporarily left in the hands of the Israeli Occupation authorities according to the Oslo Accords).

Last month, the Occupation regime’s “civil administration” issued demolition orders for most of the dwellings in that part of Susya. The residents, with the help of the Village Group and many other Paletinian, Israeli and international partners, are fighting these unjust orders in court and in the public sphere.

The western part, inhabited mostly by families of the Shinran clan is in Area B (where construction is authorized mostly by the Palestinian Authority). The new bio-gas system is constructed in this part of Susya, and is relatively safe. Unlike its predecessors, this system is meant to supply not only gas for family needs, but also for winter heating of the local schoolhouse – is also under threat of demolition by the “civil administration”, who claims it lies about 150 meters inside Area C.

According to plan, as soon as the bio-gas system itself will be completed, the second phase will begin, whereby two green-houses will be created at this site: one for educational purposes, in the area of the school. The schoolchildren of Susya will cultivate this greehouse under guidance from Arava Institute instructors. Thus they will learn to apply ecological principles in farming. The second green-house will be built in the Hasan Shinran compound, and to grow vegetables for both local consumption and marketing. Crops of both planned green-houses will be fertilized by compost produced from the surplus production processes of the gas system.

In conclusion, to the best of our understanding, when the heart listens, other hearts are heard, and fertile cooperation ensues. Even if the demolishing hand carries out its threats, the hearts will go on beating. Hearts are not to be demolished.

Ehud and Erella, on behalf of The Villages Group

My Home is Everything: the People of Susiya Speak to the World, and other updates

Dear Friends and supporters,

The latest news from Qamar, the lawyer from Rabbis for Human Rights representing Palestinian Susiya: the occupation’s “Civil Administration” agreed to extend the period for the submission of the juridical objections to the demolition orders issued for most structures in Susiya (Susya) last week, until the beginning of next month (1.7).

We take the opportunity to thank the many of you who contacted us during the last few days, expressing your solidarity with the people of Susiya, and informing us about various actions taken by them in protest against the demolition orders threatening the existence of Palestinian Susiya. A new website named “Susiya Forever” has been launched. It is dedicated to the people of Palestinian Susya and their ongoing struggle to continue living on their lands.

Meanwhile, after hearing about Susiya residents in the third person, now we finally have a chance to hear from the people of Susiya themselves.

Ibrahim Nawaja, a young local leader of the Susiya community and a student for documentary films in a colleague in Bethlehem, asked five women and four men in Susiya to share their feelings and fears about living under constant threats of demolitions and deportation waged against them by the Israeli occupation. The result is a unique short documentary that brings the simple message of the persecuted people of Susiya directly to you. The wonderful still photos embedded in the video have been taken by members of the families of the people interviewed in it.

Please watch and distribute widely, this is a crucial document for Susiya’s survival!

For many more videos from Susiya, check out http://susiyaforever.wordpress.com/movies/

Ehud Krinis on behlf of the Villages Group

“Civil Administration” and Settlers Join Forces to Destroy Palestinian Susya. Did the Court Wink and Nod?

In March, we reported here about an unusual Israel High Court petition by Israeli settler-run groups, demanding that the (fraudulently named) “Civil Administration” carry out demolition orders in Palestinian Susya (also transliterated “Susiya”). Settler pressure upon the government to make Palestinian life more difficult, and to drive Palestinians out of their homes, is nothing new. The two main innovations in that petition spearheaded by the NGO “Regavim”, were 1. Turning the reality and the human-rights terminology on its head, calling the Palestinian residents, whose presence predates the Israeli arrival in 1967, “illegal outpost settlers” and casting the settlers themselves as the indigenous, oppressed and discriminated party – and all that in a formal legal document!
and 2. For some reason that I still cannot understand, the settler plaintiffs had dug up a wealth of “Civil Administration” documents, and proved beyond reasonable doubt that its demolition policy in Palestinian villages has nothing to do with security.

Since the “Civil Administration” is a military body, unaccountable to the Palestinian residents and for all practical purposes inaccessible to them, and since “Security” is the only pretext under which such a pretense at governance can justify itself – one can only wonder why the settlers thought that exposing the fraud of the “Security” charade hiding the oppression, outright robbery and destruction meted out by the “Civil Administration” would help their case and not the Palestinians’. Regardless, in view of the very harsh words against the “Civil Administration” in that settler petition, one might think that settlers and “Administration” are bitter rivals.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the extremely worrisome events of the past two weeks suggest that the entire court petition itself is being used as a charade, in order to provide the “Civil Administration” with a pretext to destroy Palestinian villages such as Susya, once and for all.

It should be emphasized, that Susya’s immediate neighbors, the Israeli residents of its namesake settlement Sussya built on Susya’s lands, are not passive bystanders by any means. The “Sussya Co-operative Association” is co-plaintiff in the Regavim appeal, and ostensibly it is the settlers themselves who called Regavim in, to help them clear their surroundings of those pesky Arabs for good. More details about this settler “lawfare” action, are in the first post.

According to recent events, Israel’s High Court of Justice has been cast in the role of an (unwitting?) accomplice. Here is how and why.

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On June 7, the Court issued an injunction (Hebrew original, pdf) on “Regavim”s frivolous, anti-Palestinian petition. Rather than be laughed out of court for filing a petition full of distortions, racist statements, guilt-by-association accusations and outright lies, “Regavim” has been treated as a respectable plaintiff. However, the injunction in itself sould not necessarily spell doom for the Palestinian residents. Here are the main excerpts from the court’s interim decision:

2. From the material and the discussion, it turns out that there are other petitions pending at this same Court, by [Palestinian] people who have built structures around Susya, petitions that among other things attack the demolition orders. In other words, petitions diametrically opposite to this one. …This matter should be discussed as a single one, with the participation of all sides [to the various cases]. We expect a joint statement [presumably by Palestinian plaintiffs]….within 45 days…

Another statement should be submitted by respondents 1-3 [“Civil Administration”, minister of security and IDF central-command general], with an update regarding treatment of [Palestinian] permit requests, approval of development plans, and so forth.

3. Another matter…. we accept the plaintiffs’ request. We hereby grant an injunction, forbidding respondents 4-34 [Palestinian residents] to carry out any construction without permit in the two areas discussed in the appeal. The injunction will stand until our verdict.”

At face value, despite (again) the disheartening respect with which a mendacious assortment of lies and incitement has been treated by Israel’s highest legal authority, there is nothing particularly alarming in this interim decision; arguably the opposite.

The Court did not ask the “Civil Administration” to go ahead and destroy Palestinian property. On the contrary, it mentions “permit requests” and “development plans” – hinting the justices know full well, that these are categorically denied from Palestinians by the fraudulent “Administration”. Even the stop-work injunction itself is a moot point. The “Administration” which scarcely hides its view of South Hebron hills Palestinian residents as illegitimate squatting pests, takes care to issue a demolition order on practically every two stones put together by a Palestinian in the region. By definition, any action by local Palestinians, except leaving the area for good, is deemed “illegal” by the “Civil Administration”.

In other words, in view of the injunction and the Court’s declared intention to shine a light and put some order into the sordid business of Susya’s construction permits or lack thereof, perhaps the “Civil Administration” might start to want to clean up its act, before it is publicly shamed?

Well, of course, the opposite has happened. The “Administration” is now in an all-out a rush to destroy as many Palestinian structures as possible before the Court weighs in – possibly, all of Palestinian Susya. These intentions were hand-delivered to residents a few days ago, together with high-resolution photographs delineating the areas in which all structures are to be destroyed. Residents were given only a few days (first 3 days, then 14, and now back down to 7) to submit an appeal.

Below is some more background from Rabbis for Human Rights, who together with many other groups are organizing a demonstration at Susya this Friday, June 22. The “Administration”, meanwhile, seems determined to start the destruction even before that. Will Israel’s High Court of Justice intervene to remind the “Civil Administration”, that cases pending in court should not be pre-empted by violence on the ground – or will the honorable justices sit on their hands and become part and parcel of the ongoing land-robbery charade? Please stay tuned.

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Following “Regavim”s petition, which requires the state to destroy the village of Susya, yesterday the “civil administration” issued six immediate demolition orders. These are based on old orders from the 90s and from 2001. Orders that Israel chose not to implement so far. Although original orders applied to individual structures, these new orders are applied to continuous, thousands of square meters, includes dozens of buildings in some of them. The orders apply to most of the village of Susya. Among the expected to be demolished, kindergarten, clinic and renewable solar systems, the only electricity source in the village.

In those six compounds live about 200 persons and hundreds of animals. They are expected to become homeless.

While Palestinians residents worry about the coming of bulldozers to destroy their lives, a few hundred meters away in Sussya – the namesake Israeli settlement built and funded by the government — bulldozers continue to prepare and build (image below).

Some background on the village of Susya and “Regavim” petition:

The Palestinian village of Susya has existed for centuries, long before the modern Jewish settlement of Sussya was built in 1983. In 1986 the Israeli authorities expropriated part of the village’s residential land in order to establish an “archeological site”. Several villagers from Susya were evicted from their land and homes and suffered incalculable anguish.
Immediately after the eviction, having no alternative, the villagers moved to nearby agricultural areas that they owned in an attempt to rehabilitate their lives.

However, in 2001 several families from the village (the Nawaja’a, Halis, Sharitach, Abu Sabha, and other families) became the victims of a second eviction. This time it was exceptionally violent: tents, caves, and cisterns were destroyed and blocked. Agricultural fields were dug up and farm animals put to death.
At the same time, the settlers established their own outposts. In 2001 the “Dahlia Farm” was set up and in 2002 an outpost was put up in the “Sussya Archeological Site” where the Palestinians had been evicted on the pretext that the land was intended for public use.
On September 26, 2001 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the structures torn down and the land returned to the villagers. Despite this, the army and settlers continued to attack the Palestinian villagers and prevent them from reclaiming the 3000 dunam (750 acres) around the Jewish Sussya settlement.

The prevention of this reclamation was the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court (5825/10) in 2010. The aim of the appeal was two-fold: to allow the villagers to reclaim their land and to stop the settlers from attacking the villagers.
In October 2011 the military commander announced that large tracts of the appellants’ land were “off-limits to Israelis”, hoping in this way to end the flagrant trespassing and the takeover of the land.

A few months after this appeal was submitted, the settlers submitted a counter-appeal in return.
The upshot of the counter-appeal was a third eviction of the Nawaja’a family that had managed to return to its own land in 2001.
Susya today: At least 42 orders to halt work and 36 requests for building permits have been submitted. At least 19 cases are still in the courts.
The “Regavim” plea was submitted against anyone who joined the Supreme Court appeal on Susya, and in revenge for that appeal. Evidence of this is that the plea was submitted automatically without examination, it was aimed at anyone who cooperated with the Palestinian appeal (land owners) even though only a few of them live in the village and/or have buildings in the village.
In this appeal, the settler appellants are trying to paint a false picture of symmetry between homes in the Palestinian village of Susya and the Jewish outposts. The transfer of a civilian population, the settlers, to the occupied territories runs counter to international law. The Palestinian villagers did not “take over” their land. This has been their private land for generations.

In the appeal, the charge was raised regarding the villagers as a “security risk.” Reality challenges the logic of this claim.
The Sussya settlement purposely doesn’t have a fence. Closing the area to Israelis illustrates the Palestinians’ need for protection from the settlers. Within the framework of the original Susya appeal, 93 events were presented as cases of violence perpetrated by the settlers, some of them as masked vigilantes. Since then many more incidents have occurred.

There is a basic failure by the authorities responsible for the planning in the region. This is especially obvious in Area C. The authorities are pursuing a policy whose goal is to transfer the Palestinian population to areas outside of Area C. This is apparent in the number of building permits, number of building demolition orders, and lack of planning for the protected population. At the same time, Jewish settlements and outposts are expanding, and more are on the way.
Since the 1970s there has been a drastic reduction in the number of building permits given to the Palestinians. In 1972, 97% of the 2134 requests submitted were approved. In 2005 only 6.9% were approved (13 out of the 189 requests submitted). The sharp reduction in permits parallels the dramatic decrease in the number of requests. In the same period 18,472 homes were built in the Jewish settlements!
This trend has continues and has even intensified. In 2009 only 6 permits were granted to Palestinians; and 7 in 2010.
In 2000-2007 one-third of the demolition orders in the Palestinian sector were eventually carried out, compared to 7% in the Jewish settlements. In recent years there has been a disturbing growth in the number of building demolitions. In 2008-2011 the Civil Administration pulled down 1101 buildings in the Palestinian sector and rejected every single building plan that the Palestinians submitted! The settlements have their plans approved and development made possible.

If the figures for building permits were reasonable and compatible with the population growth and natural growth rate of the village, as was done in the 1970s and 1980s, this would solve the lack of housing for Palestinians. In addition, it would eliminate the perpetual fear of expected demolitions.


The planning failure is also reflected in the lack of basic infrastructures for the Palestinian population, such as electricity, water, education, and health services. The settlers, on the other hand, are recipients of exemplary urban planning.
These facts show that this is not a case of legal constraints, but of intentional government policy. It is nothing short of the hushed-up transfer of Palestinians out of Area C.

As noted, these days, residents of Susya are fighting for their right to continue living on their lands. Please help them.

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The political elephant in the room in this case, is of course the “Ulpana Hill” affair rocking Israeli’s political and government circles. At the Uplana Hill expansion of the Bet El settlement, the developers built some of the homes in full knowledge that this is private land that had not even been bought from its Palestinian owners. The owners went to the High Court of Justice, winning decision after decision ordering the government to stop construction and hand back the land. The “Civil Administration”, whose headquarters sit at the same Bet El settlement, issued demolition orders, but apparently with no intention to carry them out. And so construction was completed, settlers populated the buildings, all the while with crystal-clear court decisions that the land is outright robbed. Finally in 2012 the Court found the government in contempt.

Now “creative” solutions are being debated: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s idea is to saw off the entire buildings, and transplant them whole into another location in the settlement, to the tune of some 100 million shekels. And he has publicly declared that “we will not allow the courts to be used as an axe to grind the settlement movement.”

The suspicion among Palestinian and Israeli activists, is that the High Court, feeling threatened, might want to score some easy political grace points with Israel’s government and the settlers, at the expense of Susya and other Palestinian towns and villages. With two new right-wing appointees sitting in the Court, including its chair who heads the Susya case, there are reasons to be suspicious.

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