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Deputy defense minister: Embattled Palestinian village doesn't exist

The man charged with managing the day-to-day life of Palestinians in the West Bank calls Susya, a village facing imminent demolition, a ‘ploy by leftist organizations to take over Area C of the West Bank.’

Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan (Photo: Natisabu/CC)

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan. (Photo: Natisabu/CC)

Deputy Defense Minister and new head of Israel’s Civil Administration Eli Ben Dahan openly denied the existence of Susya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, while speaking to the Knesset on Wednesday.

“There has never been an Arab village called Susya,” Ben Dahan said, calling the village “a ploy by leftist organizations to take over Area C [of the West Bank].”

Ben Dahan, a Rabbi from the Jewish Home party — who previously said that Palestinians are sub-human and that even homosexual Jews are superior to non-Jews — was responding to a formal query lodged by Joint List Member Dov Khenin, who inquired as whether it is true that the Civil Administration plans to demolish half of the village’s structures.

Khenin, who was visibly enraged by Ben Dahan’s remarks (you can view a video of the exchange here, in Hebrew), responded: “I have not heard such a response so detached from reality in a long time.” He then went on to quote Plia Albeck, a pro-settler former government official who oversaw legal decisions regarding West Bank land, and who herself admitted in 1982 that the old synagogue in what is now the Jewish settlement of Susya is “surrounded by an Arab village,” and that the land is registered in the Israel Lands Authority as being privately owned by Arabs.

Susya made headlines earlier this week after both the U.S. State Department and the EU warned Israel against any demolitions there. Israel’s Civil Administration notified residents of its intention to demolish half of the village’s structures following the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Mohammad Mousa Abu Ghanam passes in front of one of his animal shelters which was demolished earlier in the day by the Israeli army, in the village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills, August 28, 2012

Mohammad Mousa Abu Ghanam passes in front of one of his animal shelters ,which were demolished earlier in the day by the Israeli army, Susya, South Hebron Hills, August 28, 2012. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

The story of Susya, however, did not begin last week. Israel first expelled Susya’s residents from their land in 1986 in order to build a Jewish settlement of the same name, and to establish an archaeological site on top of the Palestinian village. The displaced Palestinians moved the village to their adjacent agricultural lands and have been fighting to subsist there ever since.

The Israeli army, however, never gave Susya’s residents permission to build their homes on the current location. Susya is located in the south Hebron Hills, in Area C of the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords is under full Israeli control.

The reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally is because Israeli authorities systematically refuse to grant them building permits or recognize any planning rights. The Israeli army rejects 90 percent of Palestinian planning requests in Area C, and most villages in the area face almost identical restrictions and demolition threats. Settlements for Jewish Israelis, however, continuously pop up in the area.

Last May, the High Court of Justice gave the state the green light to destroy the village at any moment by refusing to issue an injunction until an appeal is heard.

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    1. Ben

      ‘Khenin, who was visibly enraged by Ben Dahan’s remarks…responded: “I have not heard such a response so detached from reality in a long time.” He then went on to quote Plia Albeck, a pro-settler former government official who oversaw legal decisions regarding West Bank land, and who herself admitted in 1982 that the old synagogue in what is now the Jewish settlement of Susya is “surrounded by an Arab village,” and that the land is registered in the Israel Lands Authority as being privately owned by Arabs.”‘

      Oh my, the hasbara machine will have to go into double overdrive now. This plainly undermines every “no Arab Susya ever existed” claim made here–and there were many–but then again, what’s a mere village to people not above saying “What occupation?”

      Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      The Jerusalem Post on July 22, 2015 published the “The invention of the village of Susiya”. Here is part of the article which deals with the assertion that an Arab village of Susiya existed.

      “The High Court found that these assertions were demonstrably false, based on comprehensive objective historical and geographical accounts. Historical aerial photography, detailed mandatory maps, travelogues from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the population registry all established that their assertions were a fabrication. Fact: no such village ever existed. The High Court has ruled repeatedly against these false assertions (HC 7530/01, 430/12, 1556/12, 1420/14).

      However, the Nawajah family’s “struggle” has become a cause célèbre of the cadre of foreigners and foreign-funded NGOs intent on harming Israel and its standing worldwide through untruths, misrepresentations and outright lies.

      Second, apparently the State Department failed to realize that the High Court established that the Nawajah family members have permanent homes in Yata, a city in Area A, under full Palestinian Authority rule (HCJ 430/12 and HCJ 1556/12).

      Moreover, Regavim’s research has established that like other PA residents from Areas A & B, the Nawajah family are being encouraged by the PA in accordance with the Fayyad Plan (2009) and assisted by the EU (EU report “Area C and Palestinian State Building”– 2011) to illegally establish facts on the ground in Area C (under full Israeli authority, as per Oslo Accords).

      Regavim has documented at least 20 illegal structures in the encampment, funded directly by the EU and proudly bearing the EU flag. The encampment is strategically placed between the Jewish community of Susiya and the Susiya archaeological site. Their agenda is clearly intended to obliterate the fact that an ancient Jewish community, including a magnificent ancient synagogue, thrived in this area before Islam even existed.

      The fact is that the area occupied by the squatters has only served as grazing land. In 1982 Plia Albeck, the state’s land expert, documented some private land in the area and confirmed it as agricultural land only. Anthropologist Yaacov Havakook researched the area the 1980s when he lived there for several years. As an expert witness he stated: “The Arabs never lived permanently in these caves… the caves have been used only as temporary dwellings by shepherds for two weeks to a month a year during the grazing season.”

      Two days prior to the State Department statement, B’tselem, an NGO well-funded by the EU and foreign governments including France, the UK and Germany as well as by the New Israel Fund, published a press release saying that pressure from Regavim is forcing the government’s hand and quoting the illegal encampment’s counsel, saying “that this kind of thinly veiled threat to demolish homes in Susiya before the planned court hearing is an unacceptable form of coercion”.

      Reading this quote one would conclude that the hearing on August 3rd is intended to adjudicate the legality of the demolition orders. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead, and unfortunately, the US State Department was again apparently misled. In fact, the legality of the demolition orders has been confirmed by the High Court many times over the protracted litigation, and the High Court denied a request for an injunction against the orders despite the pending hearing: “Taking the law into one’s own hands even after filing this petition precludes granting an interim order.” (HCJ 1420/14)

      The State department also stated, “We urge Israeli authorities to work with the residents of the village to finalize a plan for the village that addresses the residents’ humanitarian needs.” The State department purposefully ignored the true state of affairs or was woefully ill informed in this regard as well. In fact, even though they have homes in Yatta, the Civil Administration had agreed to establish a new village in Area C, a mere 2 miles from their current illegal encampment, more than providing for their “humanitarian needs”.

      It is crucial that the facts be told and the law upheld despite the extreme pressure being applied by the EU and US State Department.The Israeli government dare not cede the rule of law in this blatant and misguided attempt to usurp the authority and power of our courts and legal system. If the government appears powerless in the face of pressure from such outside forces and continues to sacrifice the country’s interests, Israel will, indeed, invite additional pressure, while weakening its own resolve to pursue justice.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Tell it to Plia Albeck. Tell her she was hallucinating.

        Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        Pedro: I don’t see how this would work. They own agricultural fields in Susya. But they have permanent homes in Yata? How would they get from Yata to their fields in Susya every day? Do their livestock travel with them? Why isn’t their permanent home on their own land in Susya?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      David Shulman:

      “Susya is a microcosm of the Israeli occupation, a lucid embodiment of its norms and habits. Only the scale of the planned expulsion is a little unusual; normally the process, though relentless, proceeds in smaller steps. Note that the legal aspect of the situation, which I’ve only outlined, is little more than a superstructure, one might even say a distant theory; on the ground what one sees is a refined form of human malevolence, incapable of justification in rational terms. The Israeli army, the police, the bureaucrats of the Civil Administration, the government, the cabinet, the Knesset, the military and civilian courts, and large parts of the Israeli press—all are deeply implicated in an act, or a series of acts, of gratuitous violence inflicted on innocent human beings, in broad daylight. No one should pretend that any of this is anything but a crime.”


      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: the Areas A, Band C. The distinct areas were given a different status, according to the amount of self-government the Palestinians would have over it through the Palestinian Authority, until a final status accord would be established.

        Area C (full Israeli civil and security control):

        …and what do you know? Susya is in area C. So even according the Oslo accord, it comes under Israeli civil control. Ergo, Israeli law prevails there. And what a surprise, Israeli law does not permit tent cities to spring up unilaterally.

        Wanna change that? Sign a peace deal with Israel. And under that peace deal, it would be up to the Palestinian Arabs to approve, or not approve tent cities which would spring up overnight by squatters, on territories under Palestinian Arab jurisdiction.

        Don’t wanna sign a peace deal coz ya would rather see Israel disappear? Well then, put up with Israeli laws. Coz we ain’t gonna disappear just to please anyone.

        Reply to Comment