Head of Sumeran family in Susya (South Hebron Hills). Photo: Sapir Huberman
FATE OF HUNDREDS OF PALESTINIAN HOMES LIE IN THE BALANCE
The NGO “Regavim” is demanding that the court order the State to demolish the entire Palestinian village of Susya. Rabbis For Human Rights (RHR) will challenge base assumptions which the State has not challenged in previous Regavim appeals. The results of this case could affect hundreds, or even thousands of additional Palestinian homes throughout the Occupied Territories.
Watch: pictures from our visit to Susya in South Hebron Hills
The State is looking for every outlet to avoid demolishing the Ulpana neighborhood, even if it needs to bend and/or change zoning and other regulations. At the same time, Regavim is not satisfied with the low pace of demolition of Palestinian homes, ignoring the fact that the State creates zoning laws making it almost impossible for Palestinians to build legally, and demolishes hundreds of Palestinian homes and structures a year. In both cases, the law, the rulings and the eventual carrying out of decisions made are done by bodies in which Palestinians are not represented, and over which they have minimal influence. But in the case of Susya, as oppose to the Ulpana, there is no question regarding the Palestinian ownership on the land, it is only [discriminative] planning regulations which is the basis for Regavim‘s demand to demolish the village.
RHR will attempt to debunk these and additional underlying assumptions, and to expose the ways in which Regavim has misled the Court in previous cases. In previous cases, the State has not challenged Regavim‘s arguments of “reverse discrimination”, and the very idea that one can compare the demolition of Israeli settlers homes and Palestinian homes in the IT, and the obligation of the State to demolish more Palestinian homes. RHR is also submitting a document based on Jewish sources that claim that the situation in which a dominant group grants itself total authority to decide the fate of weak populations almost inevitably leads to oppression and discrimination.
Although Regavim is petitioning against the State, previous decisions have backed the State’s policy of not planning for Palestinian communities and then demolishing homes built without almost impossible to obtain permits. In most of these cases, the State has said that they are demolishing, but at their own pace. In this case, RHR will be a third party representing the residents of Susya themselves, and arguing against both Regavim and the State position. Our very difficult to achieve request will be that the Court note the inherent discrimination in the current planning and demolition policies, and that they intervene, and freeze the demolition of Palestinian homes in the meantime. Even before Regavim submitted their appeal, RHR submitted an appeal saying that, as was mandated by the Oslo Accords, planning in Area C must be returned to Palestinian hands. A preliminary hearing on RHR’s position in this case will be heard on July 25th.
Susya has been forcibly moved by the IDF in the past, but the village has existed since the 19th century.
To read an Expert Opinion by scholar Prof. Eyal Benvenisti click here: expert_opinion_Eyal_Benvenisti_Susya_30_June_2012
Below an addition number points that is important to know about Regavim‘s appeal to destroy Susya:
- Since the 19th century the residents of Susya lived in this area at least two seasons a year. The exact location of the village was announced in 1986 as a National Park and the Palestinians were evicted to their agricultural lands nearby. Since then they passed an additional violent eviction and a struggle on their right to live in the area, this time on their agricultural lands, in their caves and sheds. This is their current location.
- The petitioners presented this honorable court with misrepresentation of facts according which this petition is about “keeping the national lands”, when this land is recognized as private land. We have the answer of the Defense Minister,Yitzhak Mordechai to the Knesset in 1988 that is indicative that all the lands until the fence of the settlement Susya are private Palestinian lands – meaning that there is not a real disagreement about the ownership of the lands. The original location of Susya‘s residents, in old Susya was also in their ownership: in 1982 Adv. Plea Back, who is identified with the right, checked and found out that old Susya and thousands of dunams surrounding it, is private lands of the petitioners. This is what she wrote in her opinion: “The synagogue is on a place that is called Hirbet Susya, around it an Arab village between ancient ruins. The land of Hirbet Susya is registered at the Recorder of Deeds office and according it this land, 3000 dunams, belongs to several Arab owners. This shows that the area around the Synagogue belongs to private owners.
- The situation in the area is indeed tense. The violence in the area is established and much more serious when it is directed in particular at the Palestinian Susya and comes from Susya settlement. Israeli activists who escort the Palestinians to their agricultural lands, also experience this violence and often film the incidents. Even though no one thought that violence of extreme people is a basis to demand to punish all the residents of the settlement of Susya or to erase it from the map.
- The absurd is that the Supreme Court itself ruled that the second eviction of the residents of Susya from their current residency on their agricultural land was illegal and ordered their return when they have no possibility to live in the area after the IDF destroyed, during the eviction, the caves that they lived in. The only way to survive in this situation is to build illegally (the village has no master plan, so the can not ask for a permit to build).
- The petitioners complain about the draconian orders that denies their access to land they worked on. Regarding the access denial, here are the facts: from 2001 residents of the settlement Susya and its outpost, with the help of the security forces started to prevent the residents from Palestinian Susya from access to their private lands on an area of 3000 dunam around the settlement – an area that is 10 more from the built area of the settlement itself. This situation started after the Supreme Court ordered to return the Palestinian residents to Susya after the second eviction.