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On Thursday the Supreme Court will hold two sessions regarding two petitions affecting the future of the Palestinian village Susya. One will discuss the organization Regavim’s petition to expedite the demolition of most of the village. The other petition seeks to prevent the villagers’ remaining lands from being rendered off limits to them. 

Jerusalem: This Thursday, 31 January, the Israeli Supreme Court will hold two important hearings on the future of Susya. The Palestinian village, in the south of the West Bank, which is not connected to any water, electricity or sewage infrastructure, faces imminent demolition. The village’s future remains shrouded in doubt after its original inhabitants were driven from their homes in the 1980’s, when the area was declared a closed archaeological zone, and Palestinians were barred from entering. With no other options and no alternative location, the residents moved to their nearby farmlands, where they could not get building permits

More background info here:

Please join us in the High Court on This Thursday (31.1) at 11:30 in order to Save Susya!

cc: wikipedia

Presiding Supreme Court Justice Gronis decided to hold the hearings on the same day – though the two petitions have not been formally unified.

The first session involves a petition by the far-right organization Regavim, which petitioned the Court together with the nearby Jewish settlement of Susya, to expedite the demolition of most of the buildings in Palestinian Susya. Such demolition will in all likelihood mean the complete disappearance of the village. The petitioners have also requested and received a temporary injunction that prohibits any further development in the village until a decision is issued. RHR is representing the villagers. The petition was submitted against the Minister of Defense and the inhabitants of Palestinian Susya. 

The second hearing covers a petition by the villagers, with Rabbis for Human Rights, responding to the blockage of about 3,000 dunams of their farmland in the area. The petition names the Minister of Defense, the heads of the Civil Administration, the Chief of the Hebron Police, the Susya Cooperative Association, and the Har Hevron Local Council. 

Practices that must end:

A. Unlawful collaboration between Susya settlers, the illegal settlement outposts and the IDF in the area

The Palestinian complainants are unable to access their farmland, as a result of the use of threats and violence by the settlers of Susya and neighboring outposts. The illegal actions of these settlers are executed in collaboration with security forces that remove the complainants from their lands without military orders to do so, or with temporary, one-day orders. Moreover, police enforce the orders against the complainants and their escorts, and fail to properly investigate Palestinian complaints of violence from the settlers’ side and land encroachment. Finally, the Civil Administration refuses to arrange for the complainants to enter the areas from which they have been blocked. The authorities’ behavior is in violation of Israeli, international humanitarian, and human rights law, which require the occupying military government to protect the local Palestinian population and its fundamental rights.

B. Blockage of Palestinians’ entry to their farmlands as usurpation by the settlement

As Palestinians are blocked from accessing their land, Susya residents have gradually encroached on this private land, all the while committing crimes such as attacks, threats, encroachment, malicious property damage, etc. By the time the petition was submitted, settlers from Susya and neighboring outposts had seized about 400 dunams, representing about 15% of the area “prohibited” to Palestinians on their own lands.

This petition therefore makes two demands: to require the respondents to guarantee freedom of movement of the claimants to their lands and to protect the claimants from violence committed by extremist settlers.

Attorney Quamar Mishirqi-Asad, Rabbis for Human Rights: “We fear that the Court will draw an un-based symmetry between the two petitions and reject them both – because prima facie the state and security forces are already addressing the issue, at their own pace: both in demolitions and in blocking access. But in both cases the state is harming Palestinians in a way that is fundamentally unconstitutional, implementing a policy that is contradictory to basic democratic principles. In the first case the state prevents equal planning and representation in planning bodies for the Palestinian residents. In the second, it ignores the harm being done to Palestinians when they attempt to enter their lands; often the security forces collaborate in preventing this access. The Court must know the following: the state is not working to repair what is distorted; it is the very source of the unfair actions against which the Court’s involvement is requested. Both the law enforcement and planning bodies flagrantly discriminate against Palestinians.”

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Rabbis for Human Rights: “Regavim declares that its goal is ‘to protect the lands of the nation.’ When that slogan is compared to the organization’s actions, its agenda becomes clear: Regavim is petitioning for the destruction of buildings on private Palestinian lands, with ‘planning’ pretexts – indicating that Regavim considers even private Palestinian land to be ‘the lands of the nation’ that should be protected from its lawful owners, whom it considers foreign invaders. That agenda glorifies discrimination and the trampling of rights; it is based on a distorted interpretation of Jewish sources, setting an agenda which debases the giants of Jewish thought who deem such discrimination and theft from non-Jews sinful. Rabbi Akiva himself, in a ruling (that did not apply only to the Diaspora), said that even a non-Jew who fails to uphold the seven Noahide commandments may not be stolen from, oppressed or defrauded, and anything stolen from him must be returned (Bava Kama 113b; Hulin 94a; Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Robbery and Loss 1:2; Laws of Theft 1:1; Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 348:2, 359:1). All of Regavim’s actions must be seen in light of its overarching goal.”

For further details: Yariv Mohar, RHR spokesman: +972-[0]50-8280015 dover@rhr.israel.net

Act Now!

On Thursday, 31 January, the RHR will be defending Susya in Israel’s High Court against a petition to demolish the entire village.

Help us prevent Susya from being wiped out.

  • Spread word of the injustice;
  • Write to Israel’s President Shimon Peres (Sample letter and email below), demanding that this moral stain in our name be prevented. President Peres cannot and should not interfere with the legal process.  However, if we meet our goal of 2400 letters in the next 24 hours we may be able to generated some much needed publicity before the hearing, and influence what President Peres does after the hearing.

Write to President Shimon Peres:

Email: President of the state of Israel Mr. Shimon Peres: public@president.gov.il

 

Fax: +972-2-5887225

Please send copies of all emails and faxes, as well as any responses you receive, to RHR at info@rhr.israel.net

Subject: Please use your power to prevent the injustice of wiping out the entire Palestinian village of Susya

 

Dear Mr. President

 

Please use your power to prevent the injustice of wiping out the entire Palestinian village of Susya, whose only offense is building for its own survival. The villagers have they been forced to build their flimsy homes on their farmland only because they have been twice expelled from their homes by the IDF.

Background: The Palestinian village Susya is located in the South Hebron Hills, one of the poorest, disempowered areas in the entire West Bank. It is one of several small communities in the region that are part of a unique culture living until this day in caves.  Susya consists mainly of tents and the few remaining caves not destroyed, with no electricity, water or sewage infrastructure. The residents barely subsist on seasonal agriculture and herding. The attempt to force these simple people off their lands has been likened to the kivsat harash,

Susya is located on its residents’ farmland, for which they have no construction permits. They didn’t move there to flout the law.  Rather, they were expelled from their previous homes. Many of the residents originally lived just on the Israeli side of the 1967 border, but joined family members in the original village of  Susya after being expelled into the West Bank in 1948.  In 1986 the Susya was declared a closed archaeological zone because an ancient Hebrew synagogue had been unearthed there. The Palestinians were expelled from their village without receiving any alternative accommodations. They moved to a different set of caves on their farmland.

In 2001 all the villagers were again expelled, this time from their farmland. Again, the army destroyed the caves in which they lived. The reason: A settler from the adjacent settlement of Susya had been murdered. The killer eventually apprehended was from the town of Yatta, but that didn’t stop the army from destroying all of Susya. The idea of collective punishment – of punishing an entire village for the offenses of one person – is distorted, destructive and unlawful to begin with. But, in the case of Susya,  the punishment was meted out to a village that had nothing to do with the murder.

The Israeli High Court ruled that demolitions must stop, and the residents must be permitted to return. Because the caves had been destroyed, the Susya residents were forced to build tin shanties and tents.  However, planning for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories has been controlled by the military since 1971, without Palestinian representation. The planning committees were unprepared to even approve the construction needed to replace the caves illegally demolished by the army. Demolition orders have been issued for all structures in the village from 2001 until today. Recently, the extremist organization Regavim petitioned the court to expedite the carrying out of outstanding demolition orders. The entire village is in peril.

This Thursday, January  31st, a fateful High Court hearing on the Regavim petition will take place.  It will not only determine Susya’s future, but will have implications for endangered homes throughout the Occupied Territories. We are cautiously optimistic that the Court will not approve Regavim’s request, because the Court will probably accept the State’s  position that demolitions cannot be carried out before due consideration has been given to a new alternative zoning plan that has submitted by Rabbis For Human Rights.  However, if the Court merely accepts the State position, we leave in place the discriminatory planning system denying Susya and other Palestinian communities any possibility of even minimum humanitarian development. In all likelihood, the Civil Administration will eventually reject the new zoning plan, and Susya will be again in danger.

 First and foremost, this terribly unjust. Please take to heart the Torah’s oft repeated command to remember the bitterness of Egyptian oppression when we relate to the strangers in our midst.  Furthermore,  the hatred and misery created by planning discrimination and administrative demolitions make the dream of peace and security ever more distant, and further erode Israel’s standing in the community of nations.

We know that you cannot and should not interfere in judicial decisions.  However, you can use your influence to persuade the new Israeli government to end the intentionally discriminatory planning process for Palestinians in Area C, and you can work for a moratorium on administrative home demolitions until such time as a more just system is in place.

Sincerely,

Your name

Background: The Palestinian village Susya is located in the South Hebron Hills, one of the poorest, disempowered areas in the entire West Bank. It is one of several small communities in the region that are part of a unique culture living until this day in caves.  Susya consists mainly of tents and the few remaining caves not destroyed, with no electricity, water or sewage infrastructure. The residents barely subsist on seasonal agriculture and herding. The attempt to force these simple people off their lands has been likened to the kivsat harash, the Biblical parable of a wealthy man who steals the one ewe lamb of a poor man. The prophet Nathan uses this story to rebuke King David.

Susya is located on its residents’ farmland, for which they have no construction permits. They didn’t move there to flout the law.  Rather, they were expelled from their previous homes. Many of the residents originally lived just on the Israeli side of the 1967 border, but joined family members in the original village of  Susya after being expelled into the West Bank in 1948.  In 1986 the Susya was declared a closed archaeological zone because an ancient Hebrew synagogue had been unearthed there. The Palestinians were expelled from their village without receiving any alternative accommodations. They moved to a different set of caves on their farmland.

In 2001 all the villagers were again expelled, this time from their farmland. Again, the army destroyed the caves in which they lived. The reason: A settler from the adjacent settlement of Susya had been murdered. The killer eventually apprehended was from the town of Yatta, but that didn’t stop the army from destroying all of Susya. The idea of collective punishment – of punishing an entire village for the offenses of one person – is distorted, destructive and unlawful to begin with. But, in the case of Susya,  the punishment was meted out to a village that had nothing to do with the murder.

The Israeli High Court ruled that demolitions must stop, and the residents must be permitted to return. Because the caves had been destroyed, the Susya residents were forced to build tin shanties and tents.  However, planning for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories has been controlled by the military since 1971, without Palestinian representation. The planning committees were unprepared to even approve the construction needed to replace the caves illegally demolished by the army. Demolition orders have been issued for all structures in the village from 2001 until today. Recently, the extremist organization Regavim petitioned the court to expedite the carrying out of outstanding demolition orders. The entire village is in peril.

On Thursday, January  31st, a fateful Supreme Court hearing on the Regavim petition will take place.  It will not only determine Susya’s future, but will have implications for endangered homes throughout the Occupied Territories. We are cautiously optimistic that the Court will not approve Regavim’s request, because even the State has said that demolitions cannot be carried out before due consideration has been given to a new alternative zoning plan RHR has submitted, that would legalize the homes and school and solar panels of Susya.  However, if the Court merely accepts the State position, we leave in place the discriminatory planning system denying Susya and other Palestinian communities any possibility of even minimum humanitarian development.

We must spread the word regarding this injustice, and the desecration of God’s Name that could take place -In our name. We cannot let our country act toward the stranger in our midst in such a way that we forget our heritage. We were slaves in Egypt, and we have been commanded to remember the bitter taste of oppression.

For more information: The origin of the expulsion – A Brief history of Palestinian Susya

Please join us in the High Court on This Thursday (31.1) at 11:30 in order to Save Susya!

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