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 "Susya"
Yesterday, Palestinian residents from the Palestinian village Susya reported that two right wing extremists chased a Palestinian boy in an agricultural area belonging to the village, located near the settlement Susiya. Palestinian residents of Susya have suffered from many instances of violent harassment in this agricultural area and following legal action by Rabbis for Human Rights, an order was issued prohibiting Israelis from entering the area. (In more “typical” circumstances, a government would deter criminal activity and there would be no need for an order forbidding entry on the basis of nationality.) In any case, the boy was able to run away and reach the village before he was caught and adults from the village ran towards the boy to deter those chasing him. Their fears range from the regular attempts to harm Palestinians including children to the fear that this is a retaliation for the recent kidnapping of three Yeshiva students.
The reasons behind the incident are not clear and thus the fears surrounding it remain. We will continue to monitor the situation and warn that violence without intervention simply perpetuates the cycle of hatred and revenge and endangers life on both sides. We can point, for example, to Iraq, the country with the highest rate of terrorism in the world and see how the extremists on both sides – Shiite and Sunni – have chosen to respond to terrorism with more indiscriminate terrorism and see that it has not led to quiet or to deterrence but to an intolerable cycle of violence.
IMAGE: For demonstrative purposes only.
It seems that the only thing that could get the IDF to consider moving a barracks from private Palestinian land is a High Court date. But even if they do move the barracks, the outpost it is on still succeeds in its main objective: preventing Palestinians from accessing their land.
Despite numerous previous requests, only after our appeal at the Israeli High Court of Justice, has the IDF began considering moving a structure, located on private Palestinian land, that has been utilized for years as barracks at the illegal outpost “Avigail.” In addition, even if Palestinian ownership of the land were to be fully respected, the remaining parts of the outpost (on either side of the Palestinian land) leave a narrow path between the two sections of it [see map] which, in reality, would be prohibited to Palestinians as it is a security zone. In this way, the outpost is used to effectively deprive Palestinians of their land without even building on it.
The structure that was used as the army barracks was built on private Palestinian land in the illegal outpost Abigail. Despite numerous requests from Rabbis for Human Rights, the IDF has not evacuated the building (monitoring procedures were “on paper” only, but were not implemented). Only after a High Court appeal did we find in one of the state’s responses, to our surprise, that the structure is usually used as a soldier residence. Following the petition, the army is currently exploring options in the regional brigade to move the structure – or so it seems, at least.
A Supreme Court ruling from 2010 established the “Empty Plot” test to be utilized in when deciding the fate of structures deemed illegal in Palestinian villages.
While the test itself masquerades as a purely objective, legal-technical planning tool, RHR Attorney Netta Amar Shiff explains how it is actually “a doctrine of denial and concealment” hiding a policy seeking to fully erase the Palestinian people, history and culture. Continue Reading
Israeli Supreme Court orders participation of Palestinians in planning and zoning processes in Area C of the West Bank.
Jerusalem, April 28th: The Supreme Court gave an interim decision today in response to an appeal brought by Rabbis For Human Rights, ICAHD, JLAC, St. Yves and the Palestinian village of Ad-Dirat- Al-Rfai’ya requesting that planning authority be returned to Palestinians living in Area C. The decision ordered the State to propose, within ninety days, institutionalized ways to facilitate participation of local Palestinians in Area C in the planning processes that affect their lives. Justices Rubinstein, Handel, and Solberg also expressed dissatisfaction with the current planning situation and rejected the state’s argument that participation of Palestinians exists in the current system and therefore the status quo ought to remain. Continue Reading
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
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
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)
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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