[Marxism] Israel, Don’t Level My Village
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 23 07:45:40 MDT 2015
NY Times Op-Ed, July 23 2015
Israel, Don’t Level My Village
By NASSER NAWAJA
SUSIYA, West Bank — IN 1948, as Israeli forces closed in on his village
of Qaryatayn, my grandfather carried my father in his arms to Susiya,
about five miles north, in the South Hebron Hills area.
“We will go back home soon,” my grandfather told my father.
They did not. Qaryatayn was destroyed, along with about 400 other
Palestinian villages that were razed between 1948 and the mid-1950s. My
family rebuilt their lives in Susiya, across the 1949 armistice line in
the West Bank.
In 1986, my family was expelled from our home once again — not because
of war, but because the occupying Israeli authorities decided to create
an archaeological and tourist site around the remains of an ancient
synagogue in Susiya. (A structure next to the abandoned temple was used
as a mosque from about the 10th century.) This time, it was my father
who took me in his arms as the soldiers drew near.
“We will return soon,” he said.
We did not. Without compensation, we were forced to rebuild Susiya
nearby on what was left of our agricultural lands.
If, in the coming weeks, the Israeli government carries out demolition
orders served on some 340 residents of Susiya, I will be forced to take
my children in my arms as our home is destroyed and the village razed
once again. I do not know if I will have the heart to tell them that we
will soon go home; history has taught me that it may be a very long time
until we are able to return.
In 2012, the Civil Administration branch of Israel’s Defense Ministry
issued demolition orders against more than 50 structures in Susiya,
including living quarters, a clinic, shop and solar panels. The reason
given in these orders was that our village was built without permits
from the Israeli military authorities.
The new Susiya was built on Palestinian villagers’ private agricultural
land, but that is no safeguard. In practice, it is virtually impossible
for a Palestinian living in what is known as Area C — the 60 percent of
the West Bank under both civil and security control of the Israeli
military — to receive a building permit. According to Bimkom, an Israeli
nonprofit focused on planning rights, more than 98 percent of
Palestinian requests for building permits in Area C from 2010 to 2014
The threat has now become immediate. Following the initial distribution
of demolition orders, there was a political and legal campaign
spearheaded by the residents of Susiya that had support from
Palestinian, Israeli and international activists and rights groups. The
village was not demolished, our case returned to the courts and the
pressure let up.
But this past May, a few months after the re-election of Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Supreme Court justice Noam Sohlberg, who
himself lives in an Israeli settlement that is considered illegal under
international law, caved in to pressure from right-wing and settler
organizations and ruled in the High Court that the Israeli military
could go ahead with demolitions in the village — despite the fact that
the higher-ranking Supreme Court had scheduled a hearing for our case on
Earlier this month, I learned from lawyers working against the
demolition of Susiya that representatives of the Israeli military had
stated their intent to demolish parts of our village before the Aug. 3
hearing. Since the May ruling, we in Susiya have been grateful for an
outpouring of support and solidarity. Last week, the State Department’s
spokesman, John Kirby, made a strong statement on the issue.
“We’re closely following developments in the village of Susiya, in the
West Bank,” he said, “and we strongly urge the Israeli authorities to
refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village. Demolition of
this Palestinian village or parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians
from their homes, would be harmful and provocative.”
That was a step in the right direction, but we need more than mere
declarations now. If the Israeli government demolishes all or part of
Susiya once again, it will be for no other reason than that we are
Palestinians who refused to leave, despite immense pressure and great
hardships of daily life under occupation.
The situation in Susiya is only one of many such situations in Area C of
the West Bank. Several villages near ours have pending demolition orders
as well. If Susiya is destroyed and its residents expelled, it will
serve as a precedent for further demolitions and expulsions through the
South Hebron Hills and Area C of the West Bank. This must not be allowed
This story is not a story of Jews against Muslims, or even a story of
Israelis against Palestinians. We’re grateful for the many messages of
support our village has received from Jewish communities around the
world, and the groups and activists working by our side include many
Israelis. This is simply a story of justice and equality against
dispossession and oppression.
Nasser Nawaja is a community organizer and a field researcher for the
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.
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