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Palestinian from Area C on a life in constant need of rebuilding

By Nasser Nawaj’ah

I am Nasser Nawaj’ah. I am 30 years old. My mother gave birth to me in a cave in Susya El-Kadis. You know of Susya as a Jewish settlement in the South Hebron Hills, but Susya is first of all a Palestinian village that existed before the establishment of the State of Israel.

I was named after my grandfather, who was still alive at the time. In 1948, he was displaced from his village near Arad, now in southern Israel. When they were expelled, my father was just a little boy and my grandfather carried him in his arms until they reached their family in Susya El Kadis. They hoped one day to return to their village, but my grandfather died without ever seeing it again.

Nasser Nawaj'ah (L) and Salam Fayyad (Courtesy of B'Tselem)

A year after I was born, in 1983, the settlement of Susya was established. In 1986, after Israeli archaeologists found remnants of a synagogue in our village, we were expelled again. I was 4 years old. My father took me in his arms while bulldozers destroyed our homes and blocked the caves that we lived in. We scattered in our agricultural lands around the village. The grown-ups hoped that we would one day return to our caves, but a fence was built around the village and it was turned into an archaeological site. Today we still live on our agricultural land and I can see the place where I was born, but cannot go there. Israelis and foreigners from all over the world enter the site, but I cannot.

After 1990, the expulsion attempts started up again. Despite the fact that we have documents proving that the land belong to us, the caves we lived in and our water wells were destroyed. But each time, we returned and built anew. At the same time, the Israeli settlement of Susya continued to flourish and grow. In 2001, after the murder of Yair Har Sinai, settlers arrived with the army and again destroyed the caves and the wells and uprooted our trees. It was only after 10 days and an interim decision by the Israeli High Court that we were able to return to our homes.

Today we live in tents – and even these were threatened with demolition orders forcing us to obtain permits for them. This is the life of a Palestinian in Area C of the West Bank. We are denied building permits, and are disinherited and banished from our land. Each time we request permits from the Israeli army, we are denied. The water pipes of Israel’s Mekorot water company pass several meters away from our village – they bring water to illegal outposts around us but we can’t get water from them. We don’t have access to the water that flows in those pipes, even though this is our water, water that Israel pumps from the West Bank.

We are forced to live off of rain water that we collect in our wells. The water situation in the South Hebron Hills is dire, and we are always forced to supplement by buying water brought in tankers to sustain ourselves through the summer. We pay NIS 35 for a cubic meter of water – about four times as much as you pay for water inside Israel.

Four months ago, the Regavim organization filed a petition to the High Court demanding that our village, Susya, be destroyed. They refer to it as an “illegal outpost” and claim that our village presents a security threat. Last week there was a hearing in the Israeli High Court. They call my village an illegal Palestinian outpost. But these have been our lands since before the establishment of the State of Israel. My father is older than your state and I am not legal on my own land? I ask you: where is the justice in that? In your court there is a difference between a Palestinian and a settler. You call it illegal construction but what we’re talking about is an underground cave that is hundreds of years old.

Illegal Israeli settlement outposts are all around us in the Susya area, and there are many buildings inside settlements with pending demolition orders – but they have everything. The government provides them with infrastructure for water and electricity despite the fact that according to Israeli law they are illegal, and nothing happens to them. And now you want to displace the old man from his home? To expel us from land that belongs to us, that we have lived on generation after generation, that is all that we know.

Nasser Nawaj’ah is a field researcher for B’Tselem and a resident of Susya in the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank. This post originally appeared in Ynet in Hebrew, and was translated by Libby Lenkinski.

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    1. Ben

      How are you 30 if you were born in 1983? I am 29 and born in 1982?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Igor

      Ben, Nasser writes: “A year after I was born, in 1983…”, meaning that he was born a year before 1983, i.e. in 1982. We are in June 2012 now, which makes him 30 years old if he was born before June 1982.
      I’d say, a 29 year old should know that much of arithmetic 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      I’ve been following this terrible story for a long time now. I wish I knew what to say. I don’t understand how we can do things like this. There is no justice in Mekorot supplying water only to Jewish Susya and denying it to you, there is no justification for throwing you out of your village just because a synagogue was excavated there, there is no excuse for throwing people out of anywhere without offering them a permanent alternative permanent and/or compensation. This is the law of the jungle.

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      In fact I wish I knew what we could do. Is there something? I know Rabbis for Human Rights is involved in this too.

      Reply to Comment
    5. SH, are you involved with Ta’ayush? They do quite a bit to support Susya on a practical level.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      Sounds terrible. You build illegally and the authorities destroy what you build. Then you write about it for B’Tselem. Perhaps you should consider moving to Areas A or B? Hopefully that will not terminate your employment with B’Tselem.

      As for Regavim.. What is good for the goose and all that. If ‘illegal’ Jewish structures are to be destroyed then it is only fair that the same applies to the Palestinians where they have engaged in illegal construction.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Kolumn9, this family has already been displaced twice: once during the Nakba, once when the settlement of Susya was established, and yet they are to blame for not willingly signing up for Ethnic Cleansing 3.0? For not leaving the land that they have owned and farmed for six decades for places where they own nothing? How do you expect them to live?
      As for the ‘illegal’ structures, the (rare) demolition of settlement outposts is tokenistic, and settlement construction continues apace – settlers have a huge choice over where to live, modern housing with plumbing and public transport and all the amenities. If they choose to camp in a prefab hut on a hilltop, it’s out of religious nationalist ideology, not out of sheer necessity or because they happened to be born there. These two things set them far apart from a community of cave-dwellers who get by mostly by subsistence farming on the same patch of land that they have inhabited for over sixty years.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Danny

      “Sounds terrible. You build illegally and the authorities destroy what you build”
      Laughable! Build illegally? The whole settlement enterprise is illegal buildings. One might say that Israel proper is based on illegal theft of properties of a displaced native population, but we won’t go there. At any rate, ALL Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including those in areas A, B and C are 100% ILLEGAL! Get out of Palestine and let the Palestinians decide for themselves what is illegal on THEIR land!

      Reply to Comment
    9. Palestinian

      @Ben do you have anything to say ? ,maybe admit your mistake ,or you are gonna argue ….I believe we are cursed to be stuck with such people !

      Reply to Comment
    10. sh

      Vicky, I know Ta’ayush is also involved but this is another battle that is being lost because there is no outcry. The remarks about areas A and B are ridiculous, as Danny points out, because all three areas are illegal and the real goal of people who make them is “Jordan is Palestine”. K9 knows that.

      Reply to Comment
    11. I think the best way to create outcry is through an increase in practical direct action. It’s far easier to demolish a village in the presence of ten protestors than it is to demolish one in front of a hundred, and the more sizable and vocal such a group becomes the harder it is to squash. I’m interested in the groups that emphasise practical support such as repairing wells, escorting farmers, etc. because they are the ones helping the villagers to get on with ordinary life, which is a prerequisite for effective political strategy. I may be wrong, but I doubt that Susya and villages like it can be protected without people actually going there, and going there regularly – campaigning from a distance can only do so much, especially as the isolation that the occupation imposes on these communities is a big part of what enables their destruction.

      Reply to Comment
    12. dickerson3870

      RE: “Palestinian from Area C describes life in constant need of rebuilding”

      FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:
      (excerpts). . . It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness. . .
      . . . It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and
      count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence. . .

      Reply to Comment
    13. Rehmat

      Susya El-Kadis was one of 400 Muslim and Christian villages destroyed by militan Zionist Jews. One of them was Tantura village.

      On May 11, 1948 – David Ben Gurion asked the Leaders of the Jewish terrorist militia, Haganah, to wipe off the Arab inhabitants of Tantura.

      The Tantura massacre remained a secret until a Jewish student, Theodore (Teddy) Katz in his master’s thesis to the Haifa University of Haifa exposed the secret – claiming that over 240 villagers in Tantura were slaughtered by the Jew militants.

      Teddy Katz’s thesis, although, was rejected by the examiners, the university awarded him the MA degree. Israeli Jewish historian, IIan Pappe PhD, was expelled from Oxford University for supporting Katz’s claim of Tantura massacre.


      Reply to Comment
    14. “To expel us from land that belongs to us, that we have lived on generation after generation, that is all that we know”
      I cannot comprehend how you have endured all this, child to adult, and still write. You have, by doing so, won. You show that there is a limit as to what can be taken from you. I truly, profoundly, doubt I would be as strong as you.
      The High Court may fail you now, but eventually you will overcome. Your existence shows Israeli State policy how little they understand Palestinians. Or so I believe in faith.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Joel


      Your post is complete rubbish, unworthy of response.

      Ilan Pappe expelled from Oxford?

      What have you been smoking?

      Reply to Comment
    16. […] According to Susiya resident Nasser Nawajeh, the people of Susiya have already been through numerous demolitions and forced expulsions, beginning in 1986, when Israeli archeologists discovered the remains of a Jewish synagouge under Susiya and Israeli authorities then expelled its residents, on to 2001, when settlers, backed by the IDF, destroyed Susiya’s wells and caves in a form of collective punishment following the murder of a Jewish man, all the way up to this year: […]

      Reply to Comment
    17. B.Benhamid

      Many true Torah Jews are highly-offended at the atrocities these Zionist Khazar Talmudic Jews have inflicted on mankind. From the huge massacre of Russian Christians, to the mass starvation holocaust of 30 Million Ukrainians, to the creation of Nazism /Fascism of World War II,to the mass slaughter of Christian Armenians, and the current day blood-lust genocide of Iraq.
      These Zionist Khazar’s have made it abundantly clear, to the tune of over 100 Million dead, that they have nothing but murderous contempt of Christians and Muslims.The problem is not ‘the Jews’…the problem is the KHAZAR Jews who are THE power behind Zionist Israhell, the UK and US.

      Reply to Comment