On May 5th 2015, the battle to save Susya was met with a fatal blow as Judge Noam Sohlberg of Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition for an interim order that would freeze the implementation of demolition orders until the case is heard in court. As a result, Susya and its 340 residents face imminent demolition and expulsion to Area A. This unusual move, whereby no hearing and inquest was granted, alludes to the idea that Israel is looking to destroy the village totally in the near future.
|“Susya is representative of the South, if Susya goes the whole of the South goes” (Local resident)|
After Israel declared Susya as an archaeological site in 1986, over 100 families were banished from their land and caves and forced to relocate to their nearby private agricultural land. The sole justification for this being that it is illegal for Palestinians to ‘settle’ on a site of historical importance. In response to the settlers classifying the village as an illegal outpost, a local villager told the Hebrew Press “These lands are ours from before there was a State of Israel. My father is older than your state—and I am an illegal alien on my own land. I ask where is justice?”. This failure to recognise the Palestinian village of Susya has resulted in the displacement of the endangered community four times. Whilst the indigenous people are continuously forced to set up home elsewhere, the adjacent settlement- also called Susya-, which was established in 1983, is allowed to continue settling in its illegal outposts in the heart of this archaeological site.
In an attempt to get Israeli approval for their building work and to connect to the local electricity grid and water supply, the residents of Susya submitted a master plan in 2012 to the Israeli Civil Administration which was rejected on the grounds that: 1) Rural villages are unable to provide tools for social advancement, job opportunities or cultural and educational empowerment to the individual 2) The existing structure prevents Palestinian women from escaping the cycle of poverty and advancing in education and employment 3) The small size of Susya’s population does not allow for growth or proper community life.
Though the occupied West Bank is internationally recognized as Palestinian land, Israel insists on its civil and military authority on over 60% of the West Bank territory – the areas categorized as Area C under the Oslo Accords. Any construction should be granted a permit by the Israeli occupation authorities. With the Israelis approving less than 6 percent of the Palestinian building permit requests it received from 2000-2012, Bedouin communities are forced to build homes illegally and are faced with the prospect of demolition at any given moment and are in danger more than ever before.
The proposed demolition is without doubt in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers” unless it is vital for the safety of the people in question or indeed for indispensable military circumstances. As these requirements have not been met/nor outlined by the Israeli authorities, this act can inevitably be considered a war crime. It is evident that the purpose of destroying Bedouin communities such as Susya is to push Palestinians out of Area C and take full control of their land. This systematic effort to ethnically cleanse Area C is part of the ongoing plan to reduce the Palestinian people into isolated Bantustans on not more than 12% of their original homeland.
With the threat of demolition looming, it is imperative that we act now and provide the community with tents and all other necessities required. The struggle to save Susya is not over yet, but the livelihood of this community is dependent on your support.