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Palestinian village of Susya faces imminent demolition

Since the Israeli army evicted residents of Susya from their village in order to establish an archeological site in its place, the Israeli military has refused to issue the Palestinians any building permits. Now, the High Court has given the army a green light to demolish the village and forcefully transfer its residents.

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

A Palestinian family stands outside their tent home in the south Hebron Hills village of Susya. (Activestills)

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday gave the army a green light to demolish the Palestinian village of Susya and forcibly transfer its residents out of Area C of the West Bank. The court refused to issue an injunction that would freeze any demolitions in the south Heron Hills village before the village’s case is even heard and ruled on by the highest court of the land.

Justice Noam Solberg rejected the injunction requested by the residents of Khirbet Susya, who are represented by Rabbis for Human Rights. The case is a petition against the IDF’s Civil Administration’s decision to reject a master plan submitted by the village, and against the Israeli army’s plans to demolish the village and forcibly relocate its residents out of Area C. The Israeli army can now destroy the village at any moment, even though the case has yet to be heard by the High Court; a date for hearing has not even be set.

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.

The 340 residents of Khirbet 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.

A Palestinian family outside their tent home in the south Hebron Hills village of Susya (Photo: Activestills.org)

A Palestinian family outside their tent home in the south Hebron Hills village of Susya (Photo: Activestills.org)

In the petition, Susya’s residents argue that the army is obliged to legalize their village because 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.

As evidence to the life in the village prior to the expropriation, various testimonials and photographs of life in caves were presented to the judge. Among other things, there were documented photos of a visit by U.S. consular officials to the village in early 1986, proving that the Palestinians lived there before the Israeli army declared it an archeological site. Other photos and evidence proved that the Susya is an old village that predates Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Rabbis for Human Rights said.

Several years ago, Susya resident Nasr Nawajeh wrote in +972:

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? 

“Behind the Israeli authorities’ behavior is the aspiration, declared by Israeli officials at various times, to control these areas in order to facilitate circumstances that would allow their annexation in a peace agreement, and until then, de facto annexation,” B’Tselem wrote in a response to the court ruling.

“The Israeli authorities’ policy contradicts its obligation to meet the needs of the residents of the occupied territories and constitutes and grave violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits their forced transfer,” the B’Tselem statement added.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben

      Illegal occupation. Gross failure to meet the basic needs of–and in fact active concerted effort to deprive–the territory’s population. Forced population transfer. All sorts of bullsh*t as a cover for all this. High Court refuses to stop it. But an economic boycott of the territories in response to this would be…”violent” and “inhumane” and directed against “ordinary Jews.” Riiiiight.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      The Myth Exploded

      The writer:

      “Susya is an old village that predates Israel’s occupation of the West Bank”

      “A check with the researcher and Jerusalem Post journalist Dr. Seth J. Frantzman, co-author of “Bedouin Settlement in Late Ottoman and British Mandatory Palestine: Influence on the Cultural and Environmental Landscape, 1870-1948 was made in order to ascertain what the Ottoman and British records show about Susya.

      Dr. Frantzman carried out his Ph.D. research at the Hebrew University, using Israel State Archives and the map archives of the Hebrew University and National Library as well as at the aerial photo archive of the Hebrew University’s Geography department,on the foundation, expansion and development of Arab villages in the 19th and early 20th century, tracing how some villages expanded and gave birth to “daughter villages”

      Dr. Frantzman notes that, in his research, he did not come across any village, hamlet or settlement at Susya.

      He did identify several other villages that were founded in the 1940s, which Professor David Grossman of the Department of Geography at Bar Ilan Unversity has also written about.

      For example, the village Rahiya, near Yatta, was founded in the late 19th century or early 20th century.

      Yet there is no evidence, however, from records examined at Ben Gurion University from the Ottoman Empire period or British mandate period, of any village or settlement ever existing at Susya.

      There are five documents attached:

      The Palestine Exploration Fund, which carried out a thorough and widely respected survey of the country from 1871-77 did not show any village or settlement in the area of Susya.

      Instead they noted only the ruins of ancient Susya, which was a Jewish town from the Temple period with a synagogue facing Jerusalem, ritual bath and other artifacts.

      Their map and memoirs both indicate only a ruin.

      Had there been a village it would have been indicated the way Samu was on the map.

      Later maps from the British Mandate period, from 1942 and 1948, show no village in the area of Susya, but once again show villages at Samu and Yatta.

      An aerial photo from 1945 does not show a village or even tents at the site.

      In short, the conclusion of Dr. Frantzman’s study is that there was no settlement at Susya, no village and no houses from the 19th century through 1948.”

      See

      http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12085

      Now for the more recent history read this

      “Tzviki Bar-Hai, then head of the Har Hevron regional council, told Arutz Sheva in late 2013 that the Arab presence in Susya is very recent.

      “I was there in 1976, and aside from the synagogue that was built here in 1969, there wasn’t a living soul,” he recalled. “We were able to restart the archaeological digs in 1983, and then, too, there were no Palestinians around.”

      He noted how Arab farmers began to visit Susya for one or two nights at a time during certain parts of the year starting in 1986, revealing that those now claiming to be residents of Susya are actually from the nearby Arab town of Yatta.

      “In recent years a few Arab families from Yatta are trying to settle near ancient Susya and to argue that they were expelled from the village of Susiya – which never existed,” he said. “They are all from Yatta. They are supported by leftist activists, who come on weekends to help create the narrative of expulsion.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. Pedro X

      It seems my first post was censored. An Arab village of Susya is a lie. A mapping survey conducted between 1871 to 1877 contains on it no Arab village of Susya. A 1945 air bourne photo of the area shows no Arab village. In 1969 the only building in the area was a synagogue. Arabs from Yatta began to tent in the area in the 1980s and some tried to settle the area saying it had been an ancient Palestinian village.

      Susya had been an ancient Jewish community from the second temple period. That is why Israeli archeologists were at the site.

      Reply to Comment
      • The issue here, Pedro, is denial of pre-hearing injunction, an injunction which would merely freeze matters as they stand until hearing and decision by panel. The only legitimate reason for the denial would be the conjunction that 1) there is little likelihood of winning on the merits and 2) the State suffers some harm in delay. Or that the Justice sitting alone believes it quite likely that the petition will not be heard. I see nothing to indicate the State would be harmed by a pre-hearing delay, but you might know of something. Otherwise, one generally tilts toward neutrality, so freezes the matter at point of petition until hearing. Which, note, is exactly what has happened in Holot II, where freezing matters benefits the State, keeping refugees in prison and transporting more there. For me, the question is do Justices (not the Court, for no panel sits) tilt toward the State’s desire in pre-hearing injunctions? Actually, I can see that when the petitioner is not Israeli, given the war/infiltrator background of Israeli history. And maybe when it comes to Israeli Arab citizens too, don’t know enough to say.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Greg, the courts will not issue an injunction when there is little chance of success. The claims of the Arabs are not new, the structures of illegal squatters having been demolished many times. The Palestinians have had 30 years to bring forward evidence that an Arab Susya existed before the 1980s and that the current Arab Susya is nothing more than a collection of squatters who have built without building permits. Arutz Sheva reported:

          “A check with the researcher and Jerusalem Post journalist Dr. Seth J. Frantzman, co-author of “Bedouin Settlement in Late Ottoman and British Mandatory Palestine: Influence on the Cultural and Environmental Landscape, 1870-1948 was made in order to ascertain what the Ottoman and British records show about Susya.

          Dr. Frantzman carried out his Ph.D. research at the Hebrew University, using Israel State Archives and the map archives of the Hebrew University and National Library as well as at the aerial photo archive of the Hebrew University’s Geography department,on the foundation, expansion and development of Arab villages in the 19th and early 20th century, tracing how some villages expanded and gave birth to “daughter villages”

          Dr. Frantzman notes that, in his research, he did not come across any village, hamlet or settlement at Susya.

          He did identify several other villages that were founded in the 1940s, which Professor David Grossman of the Department of Geography at Bar Ilan Unversity has also written about.

          For example, the village Rahiya, near Yatta, was founded in the late 19th century or early 20th century.

          Yet there is no evidence, however, from records examined at Ben Gurion University from the Ottoman Empire period or British mandate period, of any village or settlement ever existing at Susya.

          There are five documents attached:

          The Palestine Exploration Fund, which carried out a thorough and widely respected survey of the country from 1871-77 did not show any village or settlement in the area of Susya.

          Instead they noted only the ruins of ancient Susya, which was a Jewish town from the Temple period with a synagogue facing Jerusalem, ritual bath and other artifacts.

          Their map and memoirs both indicate only a ruin.

          Had there been a village it would have been indicated the way Samu was on the map.

          Later maps from the British Mandate period, from 1942 and 1948, show no village in the area of Susya, but once again show villages at Samu and Yatta.

          An aerial photo from 1945 does not show a village or even tents at the site.

          In short, the conclusion of Dr. Frantzman’s study is that there was no settlement at Susya, no village and no houses from the 19th century through 1948.”

          If there was an Arab settlement between 1948 and 1980, there should be proof, land ownership documents, aerial photographs, pictures, municipal records of the existence of Arab Susya, birth records listing Susya as place of birth or residence, post office records, Jordanian and Israeli records from the period 1948 to 1980 showing expenditures or works in Arab Susya, voting lists, a Mosque, an Arab cemetery, a post office building, a school building and records of students and teachers, and marriage records. If Arab Susya existed prior to the 1980s there would be verifiable records.

          The evidence before the court was that illegal construction had taken place. Therefore the demolition orders stand.

          Reply to Comment
          • A second generation resident says the settlement was established in 1983,so of course there is no evidence of it “before 1980.” At the same time he says there was a village before 1948, which I suspect means a repeatedly held camp of some kind. As well, the caves lived in before 1986 were destroyed, according to the same second generation resident; if these caves were inhabited rather continuously, there’s your historical line. If caves were primary habitation and were destroyed, land was not taken for other purpose; rather, the only purpose was expulsion, probably to “preserve archeological remains” nearby from further “contamination.” This second generation reporter is associated with B’Tselem, his statements found here:

            http://972mag.com/palestinian-from-area-c-describes-life-in-constant-need-of-rebuilding/48302/

            But the point I was making is different. What is lost by holding off expulsion until hearing? Name something. I doubt you can. Yes, an injunction can be denied if the petition is quite likely to fail, but I raised the issue of use right on agricultural land (upon which they now live) as an entangled issue in my facebook comment. By expelling these people completely, any use right becomes unattainable (they have to live somewhere nearby to use the land). So the issue immediately extends to agricultural use as well as residency. I would think that adequate reason to pause matters as they now are until a panel can hear the case.

            I actually think residents will lose their case, but not based on the enormous personal research you have done on this matter. I think that they will lose because your controlling ideology demands removal. But to refuse an injunction preserving the status quo until then–that’s just over kill. There is a bulldozing necessity in this ideology. The only place where it may be stopped is in the Holot cases, where land is not directly implicated. Agricultural land use adds another question beyond residency right of the expulsion and I think that adequate grounds to follow process and issue a holding injunction until hearing.

            What is lost by holding off expulsion until hearing? Name something. I doubt you can.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      The Palestinian village of Susya was established by at least the 1830s. Written records of the existence of a Palestinian community in its location exist from as far back as 1830, and the village is also found on British Mandate maps from 1917. The Palestinian residents’ ownership of this land is established in law. The illegal Israeli settlement there, however, was established in 1983. Please read this:

      http://rhr.org.il/eng/2013/11/susya-a-history-of-loss/

      Pedro X is simply not telling the truth.

      The real story of Susya, and the treatment of its residents by the occupation, can be found here:

      http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/jun/28/susya-demolition-israeli-occupation/

      A related text is of course S. Yizhar’s “Khirbet Khizeh”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Obviously Rabbi for human rights was not able to produce the evidence which they say exists to support an Arab Susya having existed for centuries. Meanwhile Seth Frantzman has evidence that Susya did not exist in the Ottoman or Mandate Palestine period.

        You might note that Frantzman is not only the op-ed reporter of the Jerusalem Post, he also has lectured at several universities including A-Quds. He also wrote:

        The Arab Settlement of Late Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine: New Village Formation and Settlement Fixation, 1871-1948

        So I think I would take his word over the non-evidence of Rabbis for the Destruction of Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          There’s plenty of evidence. I should take the word of a right wing newspaper? These are real people in a real village and Israel is committing forced population transfer and you are not ashamed.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Please do tell us, Pedro X, how forced population transfer of defenseless Arab villagers prevents the destruction of Israel. What a crock.

          Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            Yatta is just a short donkey ride away. Yatta is where these Arab squatters hail from and they can pack their tents and go back there.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Once in a while you let your own mask slip.

            Reply to Comment

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