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Diplomats, activists rally to save Palestinian village from 'forced transfer'

Officials from the EU and the UN joined the Palestinian prime minister in the West Bank village of Susya, where 340 Palestinians are at risk of being pushed out of their homes.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visits the West Bank village Susya. (photo: Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man)

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (center-right) and EU Head of Mission to Palestine John Gatt-Rutter (center-left) visit the West Bank village Susya, which is slated for demolition. (photo: Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man)

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the head of every European Union member-state mission to Palestine visited on Sunday the south Hebron Hills village of Susya, which is facing an imminent threat of destruction.

The diplomatic show followed an Israeli High Court decision not to issue an injunction against the demolition of the village and the transfer of its residents. An appeal on Susya residents’ right to remain on their land is pending in the Israeli High Court.

Noting that Palestinian and international efforts and public campaigns have prevented planned displacements of Palestinians in the past, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Daniela Owen said that Israeli plans to destroy the village could amount to forced transfer. Such a move “would be contrary to Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, International Humanitarian Law and human rights law obligations.”

Head of EU Mission to Palestine John Gatt-Rutter noted that it is difficult not to draw parallels between Israel’s plans to destroy Susya and other plans displace Palestinian Bedouin elsewhere, including in Israel.

The European Union opposes the demolition of Susya, he said, and advocates increased planning rights for Palestinians in Area C, which comprises some 62 percent of the West Bank.

“The fact that every head of mission of every one of our member states was here shows that the EU has a common position on this particular issue,” Gatt-Rutter said.

Head of EU Mission to Palestine John Gatt-Rutter. (photo: Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man)

EU Head of Mission to Palestine John Gatt-Rutter. (photo: Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man)

The 340 residents of Susya have for years been fighting in court for the right to stay on their land. 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. Its residents were first expelled from their lands in 1986 after the Jewish settlement of Susya was established and an archaeological site built on its former location. The Palestinian villagers then moved the village to their adjacent agricultural lands and have been fighting to subsist there ever since.

The Israeli army has issued repeated demolition orders in the village on the basis of illegal construction and zoning. The only reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally, however, is because Israeli authorities have never granted them building permits or 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, including an adjacent settlement that also named itself Susya.

In their petition for an injunction, the residents argued that the army is obliged to legalize their village since it confiscated their land and their caves in 1986, leaving them without any housing solution and forcing them to move to their adjacent agricultural lands.

Susya, West Bank, Palestinian village under threat of destruction (Activestills)

Palestinians from the village of Susya, West Bank. (Activestills)

The visit by Prime Minister Hamdallah and the European Union diplomats was only one of a number of solidarity events taking place in Susya.

This weekend, some 70 young Jews from the United States and other countries are planning to spend two days participating in building projects for the impoverished village.

“Diaspora Jews and other partners who are living in, and visiting Israel and Palestine, are answering the call to oppose the occupation and learn with Palestinian non-violent activists in the area,” the group, “All That’s Left,” said in a statement.

The community of Susya is representative not only “of the general injustice facing Palestinians under occupation, but their isolation leaves them incredibly vulnerable,” said Robin Levy, one of the organizers of the weekend direct action. “The sort of practical work we can do to help them is worthwhile.

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    1. Pedro X

      The Hypocrites of Europe and 972mag.

      While Europeans are in area “C” trying to save the make shift camps of Arab squatters, other Europeans are destroying the homes of thousands of refugees in and near Calais France. The Europeans just bring in the police and bulldozers and doze the homes down.

      Meanwhile Israel has given the Palestinians years to present a coherent master plan and years of court proceedings to prove any right of claim to the territory upon which they squat. The Europeans just bulldoze, no court, no opportunities for master plans.

      This is going on now and has been going on for years. A report by the rainbow warrior site talks of police armed with flame throwers against children and adults.

      “September 22, 2009

      These are refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan who traveled to Calais, hoping they could make it to Britain.

      278 people have been detained by the French police, 132 are children.

      This is the day they destroy the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle. French riot police were apparently armed with flamethrowers, stun guns and tear gas.

      At 7.40 am, dozens of vans accompanied by bulldozers began circling the camp.

      Approximately 500 officers were at the site.

      Camp refugees, many of whom were children, were dragged away by police officers and put into waiting buses. Others were escorted out.”

      Just a week ago the French destroyed the homes of 385 refugees in Paris and 140 in Calais. the French are reported to be planning to intern 2500 migrants in an abandoned port area of Calais without any connection to water, sewer or other services.

      So why are the Europeans not building water and sewer infrastructure, and building projects in Calais or Paris? Why are they not advancing master plans for the settlement of the refugee population, including the building of schools, hospitals and business areas?

      The Arabs in Susiya are squatters from Yatta. They have no right to erect and maintain a make shift village in area “C”. They have been given every chance time and time again to prove their claims or to present a master plan which complies with planning law. They have failed to do so and are subject to having to go back to their homes in Yatta.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      Elder of Ziyon reports on Jordanian hypocrisy.

      “An eye-opening report from the UN’s IRIN news site, May 25:

      Until November, it is alleged that Jordan routinely deported Syrian refugees who had broken the law back to Syria… Most Syrians are now sent to the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan instead. However, this is not the case for Palestinians, whose deportations do not appear to have been halted.

      Jordan has denied entrance to Palestinian refugees living in Syria since January 2013, although this had already been the unofficial policy for months prior to the official announcement.

      “They should stay in Syria until the end of the crisis,” Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said in an interview at the time with the pan-Arab daily newspaper al-Hayat.

      Many people fleeing Syria’s civil war have, however, been smuggled across the border, and Palestinians found to have entered the country illegally have been detained and are often deported back to Syria.

      At least 42 Palestinians from Syria have been forcibly deported this year, in addition to 117 in 2014, according to sources familiar with the cases. Rights groups say those deported are at high risk of being arrested and tortured.

      Here is the full quote from Jordan’s Prime Minister:

      Al-Hayat: But why are you preventing the Palestinian refugees fleeing from Syria from entering the kingdom, while knowing that they have Syrian travel documents?
      Ensour: There are those who want to exempt Israel from the repercussions of displacing the Palestinians from their homes. Jordan is not a place to solve Israel’s problems. Jordan has made a clear and explicit sovereign decision to not allow the crossing to Jordan by our Palestinian brothers who hold Syrian documents. Receiving those brothers is a red line because that would be a prelude to another wave of displacement, which is what the Israeli government wants. Our Palestinian brothers in Syria have the right to go back to their country of origin. They should stay in Syria until the end of the crisis.”

      So where are the Arab and European diplomats trying to save Palestinians from the actions of the Jordanians to forcefully deport Palestinians from Jordan who were not prevented from getting there in the first place?

      Of course the European diplomats did nothing when Abbas blocked the bringing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the West Bank, saying it was better for them to die in Syria, which they have been doing with alarming regularity.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Pedro X this is getting embarrassing. Let’s see….

      Pedro X: “Israel has given the Palestinians years to present a coherent master plan”

      Michael Omer-Man: “The Israeli army has issued repeated demolition orders in the village on the basis of illegal construction and zoning. The only reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally, however, is because Israeli authorities have never granted them building permits or 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, including an adjacent settlement that also named itself Susya.”

      Hmmm, now who should I believe? Michael or Pedro? On the sheer face of it, how credible do you think Pedro’s claim is that Israel has sat around just waiting conscientiously for those Palestinians to present a master plan and sending them monthly reminders and offering the Civil Administration’s assistance? I know, let’s actually read the B’Tselem report Michael links to. Turn to page 15:

      “Restrictive planning processes25

      The prohibitions that prevent Palestinians from building on state land, in military firing zones, in nature reserves and alongside major roads leave only about 30% of Area C land on which constructions is not a priori prohibited. The Civil Administration, however, imposes severe restrictions even in these areas and, in practice, allows Palestinians to build on only about half of one percent of Area C (approximately 1,800 hectares), a considerable portion of which is already built up.26

      Under international law, the occupying power must honor the law that is in effect in the territory it occupies and may change it only when necessary for military purposes or for the benefit of the local population. Hence, planning and construction policy for Area C ought to continue to rely on the Jordanian planning law that was in effect in the West Bank when Israel occupied it in 1967. Notwithstanding, this law was altered substantially by order of the Israeli military. The military order did away with the local and district planning committees which enabled representation of the local population in the planning process, and transferred exclusive authority over planning processes to the Civil Administration.27 These changes were made despite not serving any military need and certainly not benefiting the Palestinian residents.

      To date, the Civil Administration has avoided approving any master plan at all for over 90% of the villages located entirely within Area C.28 …

      …currently there are master plans for only 16 – less than a tenth – of the 180 Palestinian villages located entirely within Area C.35 …

      All of the master plans approved were drafted by the Civil Administration without participation by local residents. Instead of formulating a plan that would permit a community to develop, the boundaries set forth in these plans were determined according to the already built-up areas of each village, based on aerial photographs. The entire area of the plans – both those for the villages wholly within Area C and those for villages only partly in Area C – covers only about one half of one percent of Area C.37″….”

      *

      In other words, while Pedro X would have us believe that the Civil Administration “has given the Palestinians years to present a coherent master plan” the truth is that the Civil Administration has never let the local residents participate in any of the master plans–all 16 that it bestowed upon 180 villages–all 16 of which it drafted entirely by itself without participation of local residents–and with all the further endless nonsense detailed in the B’Tselem report–and this is entirely aside from the original base violation of international law specified in the second excerpted paragraph above.

      If my local planning commission behaved this way to even a fraction of a degree there would be the fastest recall referendum in the history of the entire country and the national guard would be needed to protect city hall. Apparently, “some 70 young Jews from the United States and other countries” agree.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Ben says: “the truth is that the Civil Administration has never let the local residents participate in any of the master plans”. Yet the people of Khirbet Tawani filed objections to their master plan. The people of Susiya submitted a flawed master plan.

        Ben ignores that the Oslo Accords give Israel military and civil control over all of area C. People in area C will have to abide by building and planning laws. Squatting on a piece of land does not give rights.

        The Jerusalem post on August 27, 2012 laid out the facts about Susiya:

        “IN TRUTH, this is just a matter of squatters illegally trying to grab state lands. These illegal squatters will always be portrayed as helpless, weak and vulnerable, but they are nothing of the sort. They all have alternate, permanent homes in Yata and are encouraged by the PA to grab land.

        The area occupied by the squatters has been state land since the days of the Ottoman Empire. It has only ever served as grazing land and the caves found there have only ever been used for temporary dwelling by the shepherds for two weeks to a month a year during the grazing season.

        Aerial photo archives prove that the squatters have not lived there – or anywhere in the environs of Sussiya – for decades.”

        The PA has encouraged Palestinians to attempt to seize State land in Area “C”. Susiya is just one of many areas in which Palestinians have squatted not only in contravention of planning and zoning laws but in contravention of the Oslo Accords which gave Israel civil administration of the Area.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “IN TRUTH, this is just a matter of squatters illegally trying to grab state lands….” So says the agent of the illegal occupation regime that has spent 48 years illegally transferring squatters into the land! Calling the indigenous Arab people who live there “squatters”is a meaningless exercise in name calling by a regime determining all its own “facts.”* And using a temporary “accord” that has long since become the opposite of what it was intended to do, that has long since become primary legal tool for relentless occupation and de-facto annexation. Yes I know full well that “the Oslo Accords give Israel military and civil control over all of area C. People in area C will have to abide by building and planning laws.” THAT statement in itself is a necessary PREMISE TO not an EXCUSE NEGATING B’Tselem’s finding that the Civil Administration has never let the local residents participate in developing any of the master plans. Yes the Israeli military fully controls the Palestinians and uses that full control to do all the things Michael Omer-Man and B’Tselem document it does to relentlessly deny the people living there any ability to plan and through endless nonsense “imposes severe restrictions…and, in practice, allows Palestinians to build on only about half of one percent of Area C…a considerable portion of which is already built up.”

          “Yet the people of Khirbet Tawani filed objections to their master plan.” To a master plan developed and thrust upon them by an occupier? And that occupier fairly considered their objections and oh, so sorry, surprise surprise, rejected those objections, in a wonderfully objective and fair process and did so for the benefit of the local population as required by law?!
          You can’t be serious Pedro X!

          —————–
          *Justice Sohlberg consciously chose to ignore the context in which the petitioners allegedly “took the law into their own hands.” He knows very well that the residents of Khirbet Susya, like the vast majority of Palestinians in Area C (the 61 percent of the West Bank that is under Israel’s full control), have no ability to take part in the civil planning process. By accusing the villagers of that, he reveals that the judicial process over which he presided has nothing to do with justice.
          http://972mag.com/the-palestinians-judge-jury-and-house-demolisher/106844/

          Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            Ben, if I have the time I will try to explain how the planning process works. Plans are usually drawn up at the request of government agencies or arms of governments. Planning committees and/or government planning branches are involved. In the process public consultations take place, plans are drawn, presented and calls for objections issued. Plans are accepted, changed or rejected (like the plan in Jerusalem for a new tourist centre).

            There is nothing unusual that plans for communities in area “C” would be drawn up committees or agencies of the government. This is how planning usually works. People in area have been given the right to be heard. They have even been given the right to submit their own master plans for planning commissions and committees to review.

            Reply to Comment
          • A supporter of international law

            Pedro, you write as if the Israeli government is acting in the West Bank with the same legal authority as in the internationally-recognised territory of Israel. Remember, the West Bank is occupied territory and so the conduct in regard to the actions of the occupying government there is subject to restrictions imposed by international law, which will not apply to sovereign territory. I know that Israel is promoting the West Bank as part of its own sovereign territory, but that does not change the legal status of the territory.

            As Ben says, displacing the indigenous population resident in that territory – and particularly if it is for the benefit of the occupier – is illegal (as well as cruel and callous)and, believe me, it certainly doesn’t just happen in Susiya. Whatever the law is pertaining to planning and who should and should not be consulted within the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel, different criteria apply in the case of the West Bank.

            I will add that I visit the West Bank every year and stay in a Palestinian village. The cruel, racist treatment of Palestinians there that I witness is truly shocking – particularly so as I am of Jewish descent with my own history of displacement, persecution and inequality in the eyes of the law. I am so happy that in the country where I live, there is absolutely no distinction made in the eyes of the law in all its forms between different ethnicities, creeds, etc. living here. What a shocking irony it is that the actions of the Israeli government, the legal system and armed forces all discriminate so cruelly against a particular ethnic group in a way that would be considered intolerable by Jewish communities living in other countries.

            However, I do agree with Pedro about the appalling destruction of the homes of refugees around Calais.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            First of all, the status of the territories are not occupied territories but unsettled territories. In 1922 the international community unanimously agreed to reconstitute the Jewish home in Mandate Palestine. Mandate Palestine was set over for Jewish settlement and development and the exercise of political rights. The British cut off 80% of Mandate Palestine for the establishment of Jordan which gained statehood in the 1940s. Israel gained statehood on part of the remainder of Mandate Palestine in unstated borders. The British Mandate ended with no trusteeship over the remainder. Jordan and Israel in 1949 signed armistice agreements which stated that the armistice lines were not borders and each side had not given up any sovereign claims. Jordan then annexed what was to become the West Bank and made Judea and Samaria Judenrein.

            In 1967 in a war of defence Israel liberated Judea and Samaria. In 1988 Jordan gave up its claims to sovereignty over the West Bank. Israel is the only nation state with a claim to sovereignty. However, Israel did not annex the whole of Judea and Samaria, preferring to negotiate with the Arabs a deal which would see two states, a Jewish state and an Arab state, living in peace next to each other.

            Since 1967 individual Jews have exercised their given rights to live in Judea and Samaria. Arabs also lived and live in the West Bank. 98% of them live in areas A and B and are governed on a daily basis by a Palestinian government. 2% of the Arabs live in area C. 300,000 live in Jerusalem with over 500,000 Jews.

            The status of Judea and Samaria and the West Bank have not been settled. The Oslo Accords gave the Palestinian Authority control over civilian matter in areas A and B while the Accords provided that Israel would have civilian control over Area C. Jewish communities are not illegal under the Oslo Accords. Building or expanding Jewish communities is not illegal under the Oslo Accords. Israel looking after its citizens in Judea and Samaria in not illegal under the Oslo Accords.

            So the status of the territories remains unsettled. The Oslo Accords remains the international law by which both Israelis and Palestinians remain bound. Under that agreement the Palestinians themselves agreed that Israel would have civil and military control over Area C. So Israel applies planning law which any modern state would.

            Second Arab Palestinians are not indigenous to the West Bank or Judea and Samaria. Arabs were indigenous to Arabia. They murdered, conquered, enslaved and colonized their way to control of the middle east and the Maghreb. Some Arabs can claim that their families have lived hundreds of years in part of Southern Syria as part of the Ottoman Empire. This does not make them indigenous. Nor does it give them a right to all of the unsettled territory.

            We could settle the status of the unsettled territores very easy by holding elections in Jerusalem, and Areas A, B and C asking Arabs and Jews in each area whether they want to be Israeli or Arab Palestinian. If the population in Jerusalem votes to be part of the Israeli state let Jerusalem be part of Israel. If the people of Jerusalem vote to be part of an Arab state let them be part of an Arab state. If the people of Area C vote for Israeli control, let Area C be Israeli. Let the people speak.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Avoiding West Bank settlement goods isn’t boycott – it’s the law
            According to int’l law – by which the State of Israel was established and recognized – the settlements are stolen lands, which is a war crime, and abetting war criminals, such as by financing them, is a crime, too.

            By B. Michael
            Published 00:55 10.06.15
            The boycott issue is once again in the headlines, and I wish to make a confession: I don’t buy products made in the settlements. This isn’t, heaven forbid, a boycott, and it obviously isn’t a call to others to boycott. It’s forbidden to boycott. There’s a law. And I’m a law-abiding citizen. Always. Even when I don’t like the laws.

            And that’s precisely why I don’t buy products made over the Green Line: the law. Because in my view, international law is also law. And it, too, deserves to be obeyed, even if only because international law is the law by dint of which Israel was established and recognized as a state.

            And according to international law – how very unfortunate – all settlements, from the first to the last, are a war crime. This is so according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and also according to Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

            Admittedly, the State of Israel has displayed an impressive ability to create legal nuances out of nothing to prove that international law doesn’t apply to the occupied territories, or that the territories aren’t occupied at all, or that the world is flat. But there’s not a single country in the entire world, or a single organization of all those responsible for upholding international law, that buys Israel’s legalistic sophistries….”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Pedro I know full well how planning works and with all due respect do not need a patronizing lecture on the subject. Such planning processes however in non-totalitarian and relatively corruption-free countries take place with the public’s true interests and needs in mind and with a process of GENUINE feedback and consultation with the community and without respect to race or ethnicity. And with politicians and public officials held to account when that process fails. What everyone has failed to do is offer any remotely convincing argument that anything at all remotely like that genuine process goes on between the Israeli Army and the occupied inhabitants of Area C of the West Bank. And B’Tselem offers a convincing account that precisely the opposite occurs.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Giora Me'ir

      But Israel doesn’t engage in ethnic cleansing.

      Reply to Comment
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