The following article was written by Rabbi Arik Ascherman, president and senior rabbi of RHR. It originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle Online.
What I have Witnessed in Susiya
By Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Tag archive for "South Hebron Mountains"
PRESS RELEASE | January 28, 2014
The High Court of Justice consolidates petition to expedite destruction of a Palestinian village with petition against blocking village residents from accessing their agricultural lands.
On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the High Court of Justice will conduct an additional hearing on the right-wing organization Regavim’s petition demanding the demolition of the Palestinian village Susya in the South Hebron Hills. The High Court of Justice decided to attach the hearing on this petition to the hearing on Rabbis for Human Rights’ petition to allow Palestinian farmers from Susya access to their agricultural lands near the village, as well as to the settlement Susya.
Rabbis for Human Rights:
We cannot understand why the High Court of Justice decided to attach Regavim’s petition to demolish Susya to our petition against blocking the Palestinian residents from accessing their land. These are two separate issues.
Quamar Mishirqi-Asad, Attorney, Head of Rabbis for Human Rights’ legal department:
In several cases dealing with settler incursion into Palestinian land, we have seen the army attempting to shirk responsibility. In many instances, the army was negligent or even contributed to the incursion. Additionally, this is not a conflict between two neighbors of equal status, but rather a coordinated attempt by extreme ideological activists amongst the settlers to displace people without rights who are living under a military regime. Therefore, the security apparatus must take responsibility over this phenomenon accordingly.
WATCH: Regavim against Susya (Israel Social TV)
Many of you have anxiously enquired what happened in Court on Thursday. We were cautiously optimistic about the attitude of the judges, and feel that we succeeded in making the point that neither the position of Regavim nor the position of the State is just. The fact that there is no zoning plan allowing the residents of Susya to build legally, and the fact that the security forces are dragging their feet in dealing with cases of land takeovers, denial of access to lands, inadequate protection against violence, etc., are both functions of the power the State holds over Palestinians because Palestinians are not represented in the bodies controlling their fate.
Rabbi Arik Ascherman Advocate Quamar Mishirqi Asad
Head of RHR’s OT Legal Department
Here is the RHR press release written after we received the Court’s interim decisions on Sunday:
On Sunday (February 2nd) the Israeli Supreme Court Issued Interim Decisions Following Last Thursday’s (31 January) Hearing Regarding the Palestinian Village of Susya
Last Thursday RHR represented the Palestinian village of Susya in Israel’s Supreme Court in one case where the extreme right wing NGO Regavim demanded the demolition of the entire village. The Court also heard RHR’s petition calling for an end of foot dragging by the Israeli Civil Administration in multiple examples of land takeovers, denial of access to Palestinian owned farming and grazing lands, and sources of water, etc. In the first case the Court is giving the Government the time it requested to process an alternative zoning plan submitted by RHR in order to legalize Susya’s homes, and acceded to our demand that 90 days be given to create a second plan for additional homes not represented by RHR and outside the first plan. Regarding RHR’s petition, the Court issued an order demanding that the State report within 60 days on progress made. Last week over 1,000 of letters were sent to President Shimon Peres within several days asking for his assistance to ensure that the residents of Susya are not displaced yet again. The President can not intervene with the court process, but can ask the State to take place to safeguard the residents.
Regarding the petition of the far-right organization Regavim calling for demolition of the village, the court decided – in accordance with attorneys Avital Sharon and Kamer Mishraki of RHR, who represent the village – to grant an extension of 90 days, to allow for the preparation of a plan for the southern section of the village. The state has never provided suitable planning for Palestinian Susya, as it must. The planning system determining the fate of Palestinians in Area C is a military system in which Palestinians are not represented. (It is as if the Palestinian Police were to plan Israeli towns without involving Israelis in the process). Granting the possibility of submitting plans by private parties in dialogue with the villagers is the least that can be expected in terms of justice and fairness.
In the petition that RHR submitted on behalf of the Susya residents against the methodical blockage of Palestinian access to their lands, the court gave the state 90 days to detail its plans. In paragraph 1 of the decision the court directs the State to address in detail each plot around Susya, and in the absence of a court decision, to provide a date by which the investigation will conclude.
Quammar Mishirqi Asad (Attorney heading RHR’s OT Legal Department): “Overall it’s a positive ruling, under the circumstances. You have to understand that the attempt to expell the Palestinian villagers of Susya to the town of Yata, far from their livelihood – their fields – demonstrates a readiness to trample human rights in favor of an unofficial political policy to annex parts of Area C – annexation of land without Palestinians. Any political program must be subject to the principles of human and civil rights.”
Rabbi Arik Ascherman: “The truth is, it is we Israelis who are on trial. How is it that we have created a country in which we that twice expelled families from their homes, reduced them to living on their farmlands in caves, destroyed those caves, and then issued demolition orders on every alternative shelter they built? The prophet Nathan once accused King David of being akin to a rich man who takes the one little ewe lamb of a poor man, “You are that man.” (Samuel II 12:7) When the ruling comes out, we will know if we are that state. King David recognized that he was the man.. If we recognize who we are today, maybe we will succeed in becoming who we want to be tomorrow.”
A Brief History of Palestinian Susya: In the 1980’’s the original village was designated an archaeological zone and cleared of its residents with no alternative accommodations; entry by Palestinians was barred, not even as visitors. With no choice the uprooted villagers moved to their nearby fields. All buildings deemed illegal are the result of forced expulsion, as is the destruction of the caves in which most of the villagers lived until 2001 (which is what forced them to set up tents). For more extended history please click Here!
Our activity in South Mt. Hebron for human rights earned a special place in the Hayarkon 70 news show. The Palestinians in Area C have no authority to plan or construct. Until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on the matter, Israel continues to destroy every house built in the area. Here’s a field report from Rabbis for Human Rights.
Presented by: Yuval Agass and Gal Gabbai; Forecast: Efrat Gush; Photography: Iyar Dioman; Directed by: Noni Gefen
An inside look at the village of Susya, which has undergone repeated attempts to destroy it and evict its inhabitants. Susya suffers from a lack of water and electricity infrastructure, although Israel provides such infrastructure to the settlements in the region. The village cannot get building plan permission for the future. Not only this – Regevim has called for the destruction of the village of Susya in the South Hebreon Hills. We at RHR are fighting together with the village inhabitants against the destruction order.
Watch: The new film of the new social action television newscast
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The right-wing organization “Regavim” wants you to overlook why the Palestinians in Area C are pushed into building “illegally”; Regavim wants you to ignore the fundamental inequality of status between Palestinians and settlers.
By Yariv Mohar
The first High Court hearing will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) on a petition submitted by the right-wing organization “Regavim” which demands the demolition of the entire Palestinian village of Susya in the South Hebron Hills. Regavim’s strategic goal is to expedite the Israeli policy of pushing as many Palestinians living in Area C, which is most of the West Bank, into the crowded and small enclaves of area A. Usually this is done household by household, but Regavim aims to up the ante by seeking to force out an entire Palestinian village, a poor village called Susya.
Next to Susya sits a Jewish settlement with the same name: Susya. Palestinian Susya has already experienced expulsion once, in the 80s, when its residents were moved from their original location to adjacent farmland. The village was built “illegally,” naturally: from the outset the residents of Susya had no possibility of obtaining valid building permits, and thus were never given the option of ”obeying the law.”
Regavim, whose subtitle translates roughly to “Preserving the [Jewish] Nation’s Lands,” defines itself in its petition to the court as a non-political movement, but a quick look through its newsletter reveals that Regavim’s Zionist vision is defined explicitly in a way that discriminates against Palestinians. For example, about a Supreme Court decision to cancel tax breaks for Jewish “periphery” towns only (within the 1948 borders) Regavim writes: ”[this decision joins] a chain of severe rulings that erode the State’s Zionist character and forbid the state from giving preference to Jewish settlements.” Regavim is basing its current lawsuit on these shaky ideological foundations and is asking the Court to erase the Palestinian village of Susya from the face of the earth.
Susya, an extremely poor village made up of tin-roofed structures and tents, is regarded by the IDF and settlers in the area as a nuisance, and its population is seen as unfortunate surplus. Despite the fact that there are no disputes over ownership of the land, the residents of Susya are referred to as ”taking over the land,” i.e., intruders. The people of Susya went to live on their agricultural lands after they were expelled from their historical dwelling place, which was declared a “national park” and thus confiscated. Repeated efforts have been made to expel the residents of Palestinian Susya, efforts ranging from land confiscation, to violent attacks by extremist settlers, to continued infrastructure neglect by the authorities (including the Palestinian Authorities). All of these factors have damaged the social fabric of the village.
Regavim’s petition compares planning policies for settlers to those for Palestinians, and claims that there is discrimination against the former. Aside from the phenomenal lack of precision that characterizes Regavim’s petition, such a shallow comparison between settler and Palestinian planning rights simply has no basis. First, Palestinians do not have civil planning bodies with representation for the local citizens, as is customary in democracies. Instead all planning is done for the Palestinian areas in Area C by the IDF. If Regavim is concerned with equality in terms of planning rights, perhaps it should advocate for Palestinians to receive planning rights that resemble those given to the settlers or to transfer the building rights of the settlers into the hands of another nation, with absolutely no representation from local residents: perhaps settlers’ planning rights should depend on Palestinian security forces.
Second, according to the logic of equality: maybe as a starting point, settlers should be stripped of citizenship and their right to vote in the Knesset elections, so that they will not be able to exercise political power to change their situation in terms of planning rights. If some people in a certain area are forced to live under military rule, then shouldn’t all the people in that area be forced to live under military rule?
Regavim wants you to overlook why the Palestinians in Area C are pushed into building “illegally;” Regavim wants you to ignore the fundamental inequality of status between Palestinians and settlers.
Unfortunately, this discussion is relevant to far more than one village, and the threat against hanging over Susya is a threat that hangs over many Palestinian villages throughout the occupied territories. Even if Regavim’s petition fails in Court, it’s still likely to encourage the State to destroy more Palestinian structures built “illegally,” and even if rejected, it will probably be due to formalistic and narrow views of military law, and not through any meaningful moral/constitutional reexamination of the insane day to day reality of the occupied territories.
To the residents of the settlement of Susya, we say the following: The fact that you did not build a wall between your expansive villas and the “slums” – the tin-roofed structures of Palestinian Susya – is a good sign. I’m sure the yuppies of the luxury Sharon area (a largely affluent, snobbish and liberal area within 48′ border) would have built a tall fence if they happened to live near a village like Susya. You’ve acted rather humanely in not doing so.
In the same vein, do you truly want to live as equals with your Palestinian neighbors, under some political arrangement or other [to be determined by the politicians]? Or do you actually want to continue a discriminatory regime in which you live as privileged elite over Palestinian subjects lacking all rights? If you erase the existence of the village of Susya, how can you honestly criticize Palestinians who seek to destroy your settlement? There have been suggestions about how to create Jewish villages under Palestinian rule, suggestions which have been approved by people at high levels in Palestinian society who could, in a different political environment, overcome opposition within their society. But when you actively trample Palestinian rights, so too your rights will lose their legitimacy. Strength alone will not protect you, and it is incumbent upon you to remember that you will not always be strong.
The discussion of the case will take place, as stated, tomorrow, Wednesday, at 9:00 AM in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.
Yariv Mohar is a former journalist, a blogger and a campaigner for social and political activism”
FATE OF HUNDREDS OF PALESTINIAN HOMES LIE IN THE BALANCE Continue Reading
High Noon will come a bit early this Wednesday. At 9:00 we have one of the most important High Court cases that RHR has ever been a part of. The results of this trial will affect the fate of hundreds of Palestinian homes throughout the Occupied Territories, perhaps thousands. Continue Reading
On Wednesday, May 9th, we went to the South East part of South Hebron Hills as a part of a tour for journalists to the Janiba village. We stopped at a school that is in a danger of being demolished by the Civil Administration. The threat of a new fire area range affects the lives of all the people in the area. A description of a human rights activist’s tour to the heart of the Darkness.
The village of Janiba is under threats of demolition orders. Soldiers are training a few hundred meters from the school. In the last two weeks the soldiers invaded the fields of the village and vandalized them. All this was done without any justification, consideration, or dialogue with the village residents. The soldiers built tents on the village’s lands, entered the lands with vehicles and even arrested some of the village residents.
Some of the teachers in the village of Janiba were arrested on the grounds of entering a fire area range. But no one in the security forces thought to inform the teachers that there is a new fire range area near the school. Who locates a fire range near a school with children and teachers and why? Who will be responsible if somebody will be killed? Why weren’t the local residents informed about this new fire range area?
The village of Janiba existed for many years before the State of Israel was established. Here is an aerial photo of the village from 1945. But this fact does not prevent Israel from expelling the local residents time after time. At the moment, 13 villages in South Hebron Hills area are located within the Israeli newly established “fire range area”. A complaint was filed to the court and we are waiting for Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, to present his stand on this topic.
We sat in a cave with the leaders of the village. They told us, story after story, about the events in the region and our hearts ached. We heard about tortures, false arrests, night raids. The residents told that one night the IDF arrived with a lot of forces, loaded the residents in threw them in Yata. Sadly, we listened to the stories about the “green patrol” that arrived to the village one day in 2003, loaded its trucks with 252 cattle animals and slaughtered all at the same day. 72 year old Muhamad Jabrin emphasizes the digit two in the number of the animals they took, talking about the each of them as if they were his children.The green patrol’s claim was that the cattle were diseased. But Jabrin claims that later on it became clear that the green patrol committed a crime and sold the meat for profit. Jabrin did not agree to keep silent. He turned to the Israeli court, his file was accepted, and he was even compensated. But after close to 10 years, the damage and the humiliation, the pain in his eyes and in his hear is still fresh.
Demolition orders in Um El Hir add up to the threat on the lives of the residents of South Hebron Hills
The way back up the mountain is not simple. There is a steep uphill slope that only a 4X4 jeep can weather. Even this unpaved road received demolition orders from the Israeli Civil Administration. It is important to mention that the Civil Administration demolishes only within Palestinian villages, and builds in settlements. Israel Does not have a concrete suggestion as for the future of the area, but it goes against every possibility for improvement, streamlining, and investment in the infrastructure of the Palestinian residents in South Hebron Hills.
Awad family is harvesting today. I recommend every Israeli to arrive and see. The sheaves are beautiful and the hospitality of the local residents is as flaring. A few meters away, Um El Hir village is located. We got to see a calving in their shed. At the same time, we learned that the village received two new demolition orders (received on the 2.5.2012):
On the way back you run into new roadblocks in “Zif” area. Every few weeks or months the IDF’s bulldozer goes out to display its dominance. These engineering forces block round on arbitrarily, without taking into account the residents of the area. This time the road to the school was blocked as well.
Pictures from the tour are available in our Facebook album.
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