Tag archive for "Susya"

General, Legal Work

High Court Rules on Susya

1 Comment 04 February 2014

PRESS RELEASE | February 4th 2014

The High Court of Justice rejects two petitions regarding the Palestinian village of Susya, enabling the IDF to evade responsibility for land theft

QuamarSusya residents

PHOTO: RHR attorney Quamar Mishirqi meets with residents of Susya

Rabbis for Human Rights:

“The High Court of Justice has enabled the State to evade its responsibility in preventing seizures of land belonging to Palestinian farmers. This is not a case of civil strife between two equal neighbours, but rather systemic military discrimination that has enabled and even supported coerced removal of Palestinian farmers from their lands.” Continue Reading

General, Legal Work, Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE: RHR High Court Hearings Consolidated

No Comments 29 January 2014

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.

South Hebron Hills 1-3-2014 (5)

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.

READ: Additional background on Susya and RHR’s High Court Appeal

WATCH: Regavim against Susya (Israel Social TV)

General, Occupied Territories

South Hebron Hills Study Tour

4 Comments 13 January 2014

On Friday, January 3rd 2014, Rabbi Ascherman led a group of rabbinical, cantorial and education students  on study-tour to the South Hebron Hills, the major geographical focus of RHR’s legal department.  Students learned about the fascinating culture of the cave-dwelling Palestinians there, and visited Bir El ‘Id, a village abandoned for ten years due to settler intimidation until RHR’s legal team returned them to their homes in 2009, Palestinian Susya, where RHR’s legal department continues to fight on behalf of its residents to keep their homes and lands, as well as Ad Dirat. The group was joined by one of RHR’s attorney’s, Miya Keren.  Continue Reading

General, Legal Work

Legal department update

No Comments 30 December 2013

Attorney Mishirqi-Asad, director of the Legal Department for Rabbis for Human Rights, commented on the Court’s decision to reject the appeal on behalf of the settlers of Achiya Farm, a major producer of olive oil, as this was the just thing to do. On the other hand, she is concerned that the army continues to allow Palestinian land theft in Susya. Continue Reading

Legal Work, Occupied Territories

Susya: A History of Loss

No Comments 07 November 2013

susyamapPalestinian Susya- A History of Expulsion and Loss

The Palestinian village of Susya has existed for hundreds of years, long predating the Jewish Israeli settlement of Susya, which was founded in its neighborhood in 1983. 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 residents of Khirbet Susya, who today reside in temporary structures north of the Israeli settlement, originally lived in the village of Susya Al-Qadime, located near the ancient synagogue at Susya, where there was a settled village until the 1980s. The Palestinian residents’ ownership of this land is established in law.

First Expulsion

In June 1986, approximately three years after the Israeli settlement of Susya was established in the area, the Palestinian village’s land was expropriated for “public use” and the location was designated as an archeological site. The State’s use of expropriation procedures proves that it recognized that this land was privately owned. Later, the expropriated land was attached to the regional jurisdiction of the Israeli settlement of Susya. Entry to this area is forbidden to Palestinians under the standing military order that forbids Palestinians from entering settlement territory. Village residents were expelled from their homes and their lands, and lost most of their property. The residents were unable to resist the expulsion, which, though conducted through a legal mechanism, did not take the fate of the villagers into account. The expelled village residents settled in caves and tin shacks in an area some 500 meters from their village, in an area today named Rujum al-Hamri, near the settlement Susya. The villagers continued to cultivate their (privately owned) lands. Today, Israeli settlers reside in an illegal outpost located inside the archeological site.

Second Expulsion

The villagers’ proximity to the red-roofed settlement, whose Israeli residents were uninterested in their “new” neighbors, led to their second expulsion. One night in 1990, the Palestinian villagers were loaded onto trucks and taken to an area near Zif Junction – some 15 km north of Susya. Having been expelled from their village and then from their new homes in Rujum, the residents returned to their privately owned agricultural lands and began to live in caves and huts, each family residing on its own agricultural plots from then on. The village’s communal life ceased to exist.

Third Expulsion

The Israeli settlement of Susya has elected to have no perimeter fence. Its residents subscribe to the ideology according to which having no fence means having access to more land. And indeed, in the late 1990s, the isolated farm originally called Magen David Farm and today known as Mitzpe Yair was expanded, and the prosperous agricultural outpost of Dahlia Farm was established. The farm earns an income from a large herd of sheep, which requires a large area of pasturelands to graze. In those years, the settlers of Susya and its outposts seized lands from their Palestinian neighbors and in effect created an unauthorized restricted area to which Palestinians are forbidden from entering. In several instances, Palestinians found on these lands were shot and killed. In July 2001, following the murder of the settler Yair Har-Sinai while he was herding sheep in the area, the residents of Palestinian Susya became the targets of acts of revenge and another expulsion. The expulsion was carried out without warning and was especially violent. Caves were destroyed, wells were blocked, fields were vandalized and animals killed. The expulsion was accompanied by violent arrests and beatings. According to the villagers’ testimony, some of those Israelis present at the expulsion were civilians and not soldiers or police officers – they were apparently settlers familiar with the area who came to supervise the expulsion.

First Petition – Ceasing the Illegal Expulsion

Following the third expulsion in 2001, a legal battle was conducted between the Palestinian residents and the IDF. The Israeli High Court of Justice issued an injunction which instructed the IDF to allow the residents to return to live in their caves and to cease the demolitions.

Second Petition – Access to Private Lands

Acts of settler violence continued to escalate. A routine of violence and blocking access developed – when Palestinians attempted to reach their lands, armed and often masked settlers would set out towards them and alert the security forces. Either the settlers or the security forces would remove the Palestinians from their own lands, despite having no legal justification to do so. RHR has documentation of dozens of complaints filed by Palestinians with the Israel Police regarding violence towards them, trespassing on their lands, vandalism of fields and trees, sabotage of wells and water tanks, poisoning of pastures and wells, and even arson attacks on tents and physical attacks on families in their homes at night. Only three of these cases are being heard in Magistrate’s Court. The protection and back-up provided by security forces – the IDF, the police and the Civil Administration – to the Israeli Susya settlers has allowed the settlers to establish their unauthorized restricted area as one forbidden to Palestinians, and within it, to occupy more and more lands belonging to the residents of Palestinian Susya. Over the years, the area of the outpost has grown to ten times (see map) the size of the settlement itself. In 2010, the residents of Palestinian Susya appealed to the High Court of Justice via Rabbis for Human Rights, seeking to restrain the settlers’ violence and to allow the village’s residents access to their lands. Thus far, the military commander has declared some 12% of the lands of the residents who participated in the appeal as “closed to Israelis” in order to prevent further seizures and trespassing. However, no solution has yet been provided for the remainder of the lands and the ongoing plight of the residents. Settlers have been evicted from just two privately held plots where they were squatting.

Third petition – Demolitions

In February 2012, the right-wing organization Regavim, together with the settlement Susya, filed a petition with the High Court of Justice as an act of revenge against closing areas to Israelis and against the residents of Palestinian Susya’s petition regarding their lands. The petition demanded the immediate demolition of all of the structures of the village, which was described in the petition as an “illegal outpost.” The basis for the demand was what the settlers perceived as the “security risk” posed by the villagers. Reality contradicts this claim, and in fact restricting certain areas to Israeli access demonstrates the Palestinians’ need for protection from the settlers.

The attached map shows illegal Israeli construction in the area. The map demonstrates the cynical nature of the settlers’ petition, whose purpose was not to maintain law and public order, but rather to expel non-Jews.

The villagers were first expelled from the privately-held lands on which they lived in ancient caves in 1986. In the almost-thirty years since, they have not been offered any housing solution. The Civil Administration has not prepared a master plan for the village, and in the absence of such a plan, building permits cannot be acquired. Previous attempts by the residents of Palestinian Susya to arrange a master plan were rejected and all of the village’s structures, approximately one hundred buildings in total, received demolition orders. These demolitions will result in hundreds of residents of Palestinian Susya being cast out under the desert’s blazing sun for the fourth time since the area was conquered by the State of Israel.

Working towards a Fourth Petition – Planning

In December 2012, residents of the village Susya submitted a master plan for their village which would authorize all of the structures in the village (approximately 100 temporary structures exist in the village). In May 2013, the Civil Administration’s Subcommittee for Planning and Licensing discussed the plan and in October 2013, issued a detailed decision to reject the plan. At the same time, the Subcommittee for Supervision decided to issue final demolition orders against all the structures in Susya. The Subcommittee for Supervision gave an extension of 60 days for appeals to the courts.

The written decision to reject the plan begins with the Planning Subcommittee stating that it refrained from providing detailed and professional instructions to the planner because of a lack of substantive justification for advancing the plan in this location.

The primary arguments for rejecting the plan included:

  • Urban structure broadens horizons while rural residences built based on family structure do not provide tools for social advancement, job opportunities or cultural and educational empowerment to the individual. The existing structure also prevents Palestinian women from escaping the cycle of poverty and advancing in education and employment.
  • Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Yatta Municipality can provide educational, welfare, religious or healthcare services to Susya over time because of the wide dispersion which would burden public coffers. External support from international entities, which sometimes exists here and sometimes in other countries, also cannot be considered a healthy, strong or permanent structure able to provide services to the population.
  • The small size of Susya’s population does not allow for growth or proper community life. In addition, Susya is an uncontrolled development of Yatta and therefore will weaken the city’s institutions and condemn the village to life without adequate services.

The conclusion of the decision recommends that Susya residents initiate an alternate plan for a location closer to Yatta, at which point the Subcommittee will consider allocating state lands. However, a cursory examination of the map confirms that Susya is less than three kilometers from Yatta and bordering on Area B. Therefore, the recommendations of the Subcommittee effectively mean transferring the residents of Susya out of Area C, where the Subcommittee does not have planning or allocation authority.

Within 60 days, Rabbis for Human Rights will submit a petition to the High Court of Justice on behalf of the residents of Susya against the decision to reject the plan and against the clear subversion of human rights according to international humanitarian law.

Planning Policy

The planning policy carried out by the State of Israel in Area C prevents Palestinians living in this area from building in any manner which would be considered legal by the occupation authorities. Since the 1970s, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of building permits issued to the Palestinian population. Whereas in 1972, approximately 97% of the 2134 requests were approved, in 2005, only 13 of the 189 requests filed (6.9%) were approved. Along with the sharp decrease in the number of approvals, the dramatic drop in the number of requests is also worthy of note.Furthermore, the discriminatory demolition policy directed against Palestinians has become more severe: According to Civil Administration data, between 2000 and 2007, approximately one third of demolition orders issued for Palestinian communities were carried out, compared to less than 7% in Israeli settlements. From 2008 to 2011, the Civil Administration demolished 1101 structures in Palestinian communities. During the same time period, all plans filed regarding Palestinian areas were rejected without exception.
The lack of planning is also evident in the absence of basic and critical infrastructure for the Palestinian population, such as electricity, water, education and healthcare, while the settlers enjoy magnificent planning. The evidence demonstrates that this is not an issue of legal constraint, it is rather an intentional policy with a clear purpose: the quiet transfer of Palestinians out of Area C – as is evident also in the reports of UN representatives and the European Union.

Legal Work, Occupied Territories

Susya update

No Comments 06 November 2013

Susya Threatened Again | November 2013

susyaPhoto: Susya, West Bank (Activestills)

(For a full history of Susya, please see here.)

In December 2012, residents of the village Susya submitted a master plan for their village which would authorize all of the structures in the village (approximately 100 temporary structures exist in the village). In May 2013, the Civil Administration’s Subcommittee for Planning and Licensing discussed the plan and in October 2013, issued a detailed decision to reject the plan. At the same time, the Subcommittee for Supervision decided to issue final demolition orders against all the structures in Susya. The Subcommittee for Supervision gave an extension of 60 days for appeals to the courts.

The written decision to reject the plan begins with the Planning Subcommittee stating that it refrained from providing detailed and professional instructions to the planner because of a lack of substantive justification for advancing the plan in this location.

The primary arguments for rejecting the plan included:

  1.  Urban structure broadens horizons while rural residences built based on family structure do not provide tools for social advancement, job opportunities or cultural and educational empowerment to the individual. The existing structure also prevents Palestinian women from escaping the cycle of poverty and advancing in education and employment.
  2.  Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Yatta Municipality can provide educational, welfare, religious or healthcare services to Susya over time because of the wide dispersion which would burden public coffers. External support from international entities, which sometimes exists here and sometimes in other countries, also cannot be considered a healthy, strong or permanent structure able to provide services to the population.
  3. The small size of Susya’s population does not allow for growth or proper community life. In addition, Susya is an uncontrolled development of Yatta and therefore will weaken the city’s institutions and condemn the village to life without adequate services.

The conclusion of the decision recommends that Susya residents initiate an alternate plan for a location closer to Yatta, at which point the Subcommittee will consider allocating state lands. However, a cursory examination of the map confirms that Susya is less than three kilometers from Yatta and bordering on Area B. Therefore, the recommendations of the Subcommittee effectively mean transferring the residents of Susya out of Area C, where the Subcommittee does not have planning or allocation authority.

Within 60 days, Rabbis for Human Rights will submit a petition to the High Court of Justice on behalf of the residents of Susya against the decision to reject the plan and against the clear subversion of human rights according to international humanitarian law.

An Absurd Decision: RHR Responds 

The Committee overstepped its mandate and determined that the plan we proposed sought to keep the residents of Palestinian Susya in “poverty and ignorance” [page 11, end of second paragraph in attached decision], because it is supposedly preferable for the residents to integrate into the nearby “urban fabric” (of the town of Yatta) rather than remaining in a small community (which inherently leads to poverty and ignorance as far as they are concerned).
*
This is an especially infuriating and cynical statement by the military regime authorities in the West Bank, considering they expelled the village residents and nationalized a portion of their lands; placed numerous obstacles in the way of building a school for the village children at its location after the expulsion (and a demolition order was issued for the school after it was built); when they are preventing development in the village and left it for decades without infrastructure for electricity, water, sewage, roads and sidewalks; while those same authorities destroyed the caves and meager improvised dwellings of village residents several times, including after the major expulsion, and did not defend the poor residents from the theft of their lands and their harvest by extreme settlers; and while they propose to the village residents, farmers by trade, to be forcibly transferred to the Palestinian town of Yatta which is beset by unemployment and poverty and to almost certainly lose their agricultural lands, the source of their income [settlers have already managed to take control of 400 dunams of Palestinian land in the area, even while the farmers are present on the lands]. If anyone is promoting poverty and ignorance in Palestinian Susya, it is precisely the policy of military authorities and the “Civil Administration”. Life in a small community does not necessarily mean poverty and ignorance.
*
The policy promoted by Israeli authorities in the West Bank is unconnected to a desire to eliminate poverty and ignorance and does not advance this goal. Rather, the policy promotes neglect and underdevelopment with one central goal: driving the Palestinians into as small an area as possible; and specifically driving Palestinian farmers in Area C [which is under Israeli control] into the small crowded enclaves of Area A [which is under Palestinian control].
*
All the facts show that the overall trend is this relocation, also hinted at by the government announcement which states, with regards to the proposed plan to leave the village in its current location, that: “…the Committee found that planning is not feasible for construction at such a great distance from Yatta, which is the city that comprises the regional center of life in this area.” The State clearly expressed a desire to transfer the residents of the Palestinian village of Susya to Yatta or adjacent to it. Yatta is a town in Area A, all of five kilometers from Susya, and not at “such a great distance” from it. Therefore, the State’s stance is completely unreasonable, and seems unrelated to the matter at hand, meaning that it is not by nature a matter of civilian planning – that is, a matter of the good of the residents – but rather a matter of driving out and expulsion.
*
The village of Susya originally stood where the archaeological site of Susya is located today, and the villagers were expelled from there to their nearby agricultural lands. In contrast with the claims of settler organizations, the existence of the village was recognized by the deceased jurist Plia Albek, who was identified with the settlement enterprise. In her written opinion about the area, which led to its being declared in the 1980s an archaeological site containing an ancient synagogue, she wrote, “The synagogue is found in a location known as the lands of Khirbet Susya, around which is an Arab village amidst the ancient ruins. The lands of Khirbet Susya are registered in the Land Registry. According to this entry, the land – an area of approximately three thousand dunams – is privately owned by numerous Arab owners.”

The case of Susya also demonstrates the importance of our principled appeal to return planning rights to the Palestinians in Area C.

General, Occupied Territories

The Olive Harvest is Coming: Summation of summer activities of the Rights in the Occupied Territories Department | Yehiel Grenimann

1 Comment 06 August 2013

Pictured: Upgrading Mariam’s kindergarten in Jabal for Jahalin tribe children

Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, director of the Rights in the Occupied Territories Department, summarizes the summer activities so far.

This summer, 80 children participated in the summer camp in this neglected area, where the children of the Jahalin tribe live. The camp was very successful and we even started a children’s library. A Canadian group accompanied us for the fourth year in a row. In addition, we engaged in special education in East Jerusalem and activities with Eritrean refugees. Thanks to our activities, we received a large grant from a group of Evangelical churches in Germany.

Soon we will start the olive and almond harvest activities and need your help. To sign up, send us a message on the website.

603460_515592948502468_254436353_n

An urgent message: 4 years after the evacuation order was signed, security forces and the Civil Administration evacuated a large group of settlers who invaded the Palestinian village of Susya this morning.  

We are concerned that extreme settlers will avenge this evacuation and warn the IDF to be prepared. To our regret the invasions to Palestinian land in the West Bank continue.

 

 

General, Occupied Territories, Press Releases

Thank you!

2 Comments 07 February 2013

Photo: Guy | Taayosh
Thank you to the over 1,000 of you who in the space of a few days sent letters to President Shimon Peres asking for his intervention in preventing the demolition of the entire village of Susya.  If you have not already done so, please forward a copy of your letter to info@rhr.israel.net.  Please also forward to us any response you receive.  Thousands of you have entered our Susya website, and many of you have viewed the moving video blog posts filmed by award winning documentary film maker Ibtisam Marana.  Keep it up! We hope to have more posts (and perhaps more action requests) soon.

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.

 

B’Vrakha,

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!

What do you feel about the Supreme Court Proceedings on Thursday (31 January) Regarding the Palestinian Village of Susya?

General, Occupied Territories

1,500 Palestinians face expulsion to make way for IDF ‘Firing Zone 918′

97 Comments 03 September 2012

 “Danger. Firing Area. Entrance Forbidden” (Yossi Gurvitz)

“Firing Zone 918″ is the Israeli military’s term for a portion of land in the West Bank home to hundreds of Palestinians who have been there since the 19th century. Why are they under threat of eviction and how is it being done? A primer.

By Eyal Raz

“We must maintain “the necessary fitness of the IDF”

This is the reason that the State of Israel has given for its recent order by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to destroy eight Palestinian villages and expel 1,500 residents from their land in the southern West Bank. “Firing Zone 918,” which the Israeli military wants for so-called training, includes 30,000 acres of private and agricultural land in the South Hebron Hills. The Palestinian residents have lived and worked on these lands for generations. Since 1999, the threat of expulsion has hovered over their heads. The destiny of these villages will soon be decided.

1. A chronicle of expulsion and legal developments

Israel declared the area a “closed military zone” in the mid-1970s. In 1999 the Civil Administration issued demolition orders for dozens of buildings, and during October and November of the same year, Israeli authorities expelled over 700 residents from their homes and confiscated their property. Throughout the operation of expulsion the security forces sealed caves and demolished tents, wells and toilet structures. Four months later the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered to allow the people to return to their land and forbade their expulsion pending a final decision. The defense minister and the general of the central command at the time tried to uphold the expulsion, partially to keep the area under Israeli control in negotiations.

In 2005, after the arbitration process ended with no agreement, the hearings resumed in an effort to avert the new demolition orders issued by the Civil Administration. (For the sequence of legal proceedings during these years and to witness the violence of security forces and settlers against the villagers facing eviction, click here.) For the next seven years, the interim orders temporarily thwarted the destruction of the villages.

Last July, the state informed the High Court that the defense minister’s position was that “permanent residency will not be allowed” in most of the area designated as a firing zone and that eight of the 12 villages originally included in the warrant will have to be evacuated. For procedural reasons unrelated to the fundamental arguments presented by the attorneys, the High Court ordered that the petitions be annulled. However, the interim order prohibiting the demolition will remain intact, and the residents will submit new petitions before its final date.

2. “Firing Zone 918″ as an illustration of policy

60.2 percent of the West Bank is designated as “Area C,” according to the Oslo map that was drawn up in the framework of the interim agreement signed between Israel and the PLO in 1995. This map, which was supposed to be applied for five years during which a final-status agreement would be reached, was designed around one central principle: demography. The division of the West Bank into three separate areas enabled the transfer of control over large swaths of the Palestinian population to the Palestinian Authority, while at the same time preserving large and sparsely populated [by Palestinians] swaths of territory under complete Israeli control.

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

Since Oslo, almost two decades ago, Israel has cemented a consistent policy in Area C, the goal of which is the deepening and eternalizing of Israeli control over the area. This policy both unilaterally determines the future of the West Bank, and diminishes Palestinians’ ability to live in Area C. This policy is enacted through a number of different methods:

The confiscation of land and the declaration of lands as “State Lands”

Lack of Master Plans and the and the systematic non-provision of building permits to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories

- The declaration of National Parks and Nature Reserves

Military confiscation orders to build the separation barrier and along the Seam Line

- Sealing off territory and declaring it as an “Army Training Zone”: About 18 percent of the West Bank has been declared a “firing Zone.” which is slightly more than the entire territory contained in Area A, where all of the major Palestinian cities are located. Five thousand people from 38 different communities live on these lands. Most of them lived there before their land was declared a “firing zone.”

Israel unequivocally denies Palestinians the right to build on 70 percent of Area C, which comes out to about 44 percent of the West Bank. In the remaining 30 percent of Area C, there exist obstacles that minimize the chance of a Palestinian attaining a building permit, such that in practice, the Civil Administration permits Palestinians to build freely in only 1 percent of Area C, “much of which is already built up.”

Such consistent discrimination is carried out, inter alia, through the exclusion of Palestinians from planning mechanisms (in contrast to the 20 local planning commissions designed to serve Jewish settlers). It has created a reality in which, between 2007 and 2010, the Civil Administration provided a total of 64 building permits to Palestinians in Area C, whose population is around 150,000.

Discernment between the different methods used to dispossess Palestinian residents from their lands is important for legal proceedings and for recognizing the overarching and unified policy that stands behind all of these different methods. In a report published by the EU at the beginning of the year and endorsed by every single member state, Israel’s policy was called “forced transfer of an indigenous population.” In large part due to this policy, Area C is home today to less than 6 percent of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, whereas before 1967, between  200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians lived in the Jordan Valley (in what is today Area C).

3. The expulsion of residents and the demolition of villages: international law vs. the state of Israel

Demolition of “life-sustaining infrastructures” –  eight villages in this case – actually means the forced expulsion of residents, who are defined as a protected population. This expulsion is contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 49) and the Hague ConventionsInternational law experts state that a violation of this section of the Convention is a war crime. It was also determined that “even indirectly creating circumstances that cause a protected people to leave shall be prohibited.” There are individual exceptions to this ‘absolute prohibition.’ whose terms do not apply in this case, as they are reserved for use during periods of population transfer, and the transferees reserve the right to be immediately returned to their land after the battles in the region end. Futhermore, Article 54 of Protocol I Addition to the Convention explicitly states that there is a prohibition on the destruction or damage to buildings necessary for the survival of the protected civilian population.

Against these very clear cut provisions, Israel is trying to justify its position on the grounds that the vitality of the area allows it to preserve “the necessary fitness of the IDF.” Evacuation orders handed to residents are based on the state’s claim that the villagers are not permanent residents of the area, and therefore should not be without a permit in the firing zone. This argument ignores historical records proving the existence of villages, which are the “center of life” of the residents for centuries, and at the latest since the 1830′s. A survey conducted in 2005 found that 88 percent of residents were born in the caves located in a “closed area.” One of the studies documenting the existence of the villages since that time, “Life in the Caves of Mount Hebron,” was published in 1985 by the Defense Ministry.

4. Whose struggle is it?

The existence of a regime of separation through discrimination is nothing new in the South Hebron Hills, or in Area C in general. For example, while the threat of demolition hovers over the heads of the inhabitants of these eight villages, the 10 settler outposts located partially or entirely within the “firing zone” are under no such threat.  Futhermore, the IDF recently confiscated vehicles belonging to Palestinians since traveling in a “firing zone” defined as a “closed military zone” is a violation of a military order prohibiting traffic in the region.” Not so for the residents of the settlement Avigail,  whose only road winds through those very territories defined as a “closed military zone.”

The economic consequences of Israel’s systematic discrimination are equally as sharp: the failure to develop industrial zones, agriculture and housing in Area C casts doubt on the viability of a Palestinian economy. These restrictions are in sharp contrast to the government budget that settlers in the region have access to.  At the top of the list of 253 local and regional councils, which are ranked according to government investment to residents, are five councils encompassing settlements, with the first place going to the Mount Hebron Regional Council.

While some forms of discrimination are rectifiable, this is not the case when it comes to the destruction of villages, loss of land and the forcible transfer of a population to a nearby city, which will secure them lives of unemployment and poverty. Maintaining the status quo through such actions prevents the reality of a two-state solution on the one hand, and on the other embodies the darkest face of a single regime in a shared space. Resistance to this cannot nor should not be fought by only the 1,500 threatened residents, but by all who see such actions as a humanitarian disaster, as an injustice and as a real danger to our futures.

The defense minister’s decision to destroy the future of the villages and the unique lifestyle of the residents can still be prevented.  Israel should cancel the program of destruction of villages and expulsion of its residents, to allow planning and construction to be held in conjunction with Palestinian representatives of the area, and to allow free access to and from the villages.

Eyal Raz is a political activist from Jerusalem. This article was originally published in Hebrew in Haoketz. For more information on this struggle and to take part, visit the Facebook page.  The article was first published on 972 Magazine and Haokets site.

General, Occupied Territories

Settler lies about land ownership as a method of eviction and judaization

1 Comment 07 August 2012

Latest Patrol Cars, Škoda Octavia II 2009

Here is a small story that embodies the large mechanism of distortion – distortion for the purpose of eviction, displacement and denial of rights.  Read how settlers tried to violently take over land by spreading lies about ownership among the police and soldiers in the area.  Of course, the police did not do their job and did not put the settlers on trial.  Only last Friday we received information about another incident concerning the destruction of trees in the village of Susya near Havat Maon in the South Hebron Hills.  Here, too, as in most cases, the police did not make the least effort to stop the violence. Continue Reading

April 28: RHR Planning Appeal against housing demolitions!

Join Us »

Share Online

© 2014 Rabbis for Human Rights. Powered by WordPress.