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Save Susiya: Israeli Threat to Demolish Village Finds a Back Door to the NY Times

By Barbara Erickson | Times Warp | July 23, 2015

The New York Times has finally done the right thing and informed readers of Israel’s plan to destroy an entire village in the West Bank. This is good to see, but the move exposes a significant fault line in the newspaper: The foreign desk and Jerusalem bureau have been the gatekeepers here, avoiding their responsibilities in reporting the story.

The piece appears on the op-ed page under the byline of one of the threatened villagers—Nasser Nawaja, community organizer and a researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. It’s a good article, summarizing the sad history of Susiya and the resistance to Israel’s plan, which comes from local and international supporters.

Nawaja’s article includes a quote from U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby made during a press briefing last week. Kirby was clearly prepared to address the issue and ask Israel to back off. This in itself should have prompted the news section of the paper to address the story, but the Times remained silent. (See TimesWarp 7-20-15.)

Until today the only mention of Susiya’s plight came in a Reuters story that the Times published earlier this week without posting it on the Middle East or World pages. Readers had no way to find it unless they specifically searched for it, by typing in the key word “Susiya,” for instance.

The story of Susiya and its struggle to survive has been reported in news outlets since 2013. The United Nations and other groups, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, have issued statements and press releases on Susiya; the European Union, and now the State Department, have spoken out; but none of this prompted the Times to do what good journalism demands and assign a reporter to the story.

The Times’ treatment of Susiya is reminiscent of a similar story, which emerged during the attacks on Gaza in 2012: In one day Israel targeted and killed three journalists traveling in marked cars, but the Times article describing events that day simply said that “a bomb” had killed two men, even though an officer confirmed the army’s responsibility.

Times readers learned the full story only when columnist David Carr wrote of the journalists’ deaths days later in the Business section. He titled his piece “Using War As a Cover to Target Journalists,” and he did the reporting that was missing in the news section. (See TimesWarp 2-17-15.)

Carr gave the details of the killings, and quoted the lieutenant colonel who affirmed the attacks on the journalists. He then wrote, “So it has come to this: killing members of the media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”

When Carr died earlier this year, the Times was filled with tributes to his work, but none of the articles mentioned this fine moment of his career. The story of the assassinated journalists never again emerged in the newspaper.

Susiya may have a different fate, however. Now that its name has appeared in the back pages of the newspaper, we may find that the story flickers to life in the news section as well. All things are possible, even in the Times.

July 24, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Mainstream Media, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli court approves demolition of Palestinian village

IMEMC & Agencies | May 5, 2015

An Israeli Court ruled Monday on the removal of Susiya Bedouin village, in Masafer Yatta area, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, after colonists of the illegal Susya settlement, demanded the removal of the Palestinian enclave.

Coordinator of the Popular and National Committee in southern Hebron Rateb Jabour told the WAFA News agency that the Israeli decision could be enforced at any given moment, rendering dozens of residents homeless.

He added that the head of the Susiya Village Council Jihad Nawaj’a, received an official Israeli order informing him of the intention to remove the village.

Nawaj’a stated that the Susiya has been subject to dozens of violations and assaults by Israeli soldiers and fanatical colonizers.

“Our village is a historic area; Israel wants to remove us to control it,” he added, “There are many Islamic and Roman archeological sites here.”

The villagers have been constantly suffering, and literally fighting for their very existence, since Israel started the construction of Susya colony in 1983 on privately owned lands belonging to five Palestinian families from Yatta.

The villagers were forcibly removed from their village in 1986, and relocated to the current location, yet again, are facing the same fate.

Removing the village means displacing at least 50 families, and the illegal annexation of hundreds of Dunams of private Palestinian lands.

Nawaj’a said the residents have all deeds proving ownership of their lands, but Israel continues to displace them, in addition to constantly preventing them from having any access to running water, electricity and other basic services.

Several Palestinian, Israel and international human rights groups frequently warned of the Israel plans, and said Tel Aviv is planning to destroy 13 Palestinian villages in Hebron, under the pretext of “being located in military training zones.”

Removing the 13 communities would lead to the displacement of around 1,650 persons.

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Susiya resists mass demolition orders

“We will not give up; to give up is to die”

International Solidarity Movement | June 27, 2013

Susiya, Occupied Palestine – Today, June 27, 2013, the Israeli Civil Administration served thirty-four demolition orders in the Susiya village, which is in Area C and surrounded by the Israeli colony of Suseya.  Due to previous demolition orders, every existing structure in the village is now threatened with destruction if they do not obtain permits by July 17.

Original copies of all the demolition orders served today (Photo by ISM)

Original copies of all the demolition orders served today (Photo by ISM)

The residents of Susiya include more than thirty families, who were all evacuated from their homes in the old Susiya village and forced to relocate 200 meters to the southeast, in 1986.  Susiya residents collaborate with the nearby villages in Masafer Yatta, a closed military “firing zone,” also in Area C and threatened with demolition.  On July 15, a hearing will decide whether all the villages in Masafer Yatta can be evacuated by the military.  Hafez Huraini, leader of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee and himself a refugee from 1948, emphasizes that the villagers in Susiya are targeted simply for existing, so everything they do from grazing sheep to visiting family members in the nearby city of Yatta draws violence from the Israeli military and the local settlers.

Susiya has faced six mass demolitions since the establishment of the Israeli Suseya colony in 1983.  The last wave of demolitions in 2011 repeatedly displaced 37 people including 20 children [1]. Residents of Susiya, most of whom rely on subsistence agriculture, are subject to some of the worst living conditions in the West Bank.  Their houses were destroyed by Israeli forces and they now live in tents and shelters, paying more than five times the price nearby villages pay for water and consuming less than 1/3 of the WHO standard per capita [2].  Settlers have violently denied Susiya residents access to over 300 hectares of their land, including 23 water cisterns.  Documented cases of settler violence include beatings, verbal harassment and destruction of property.  Settlers then annex parts of the land by exploiting the Palestinian owners’ inability to access their land.

Of over 120 complaints that have been filed based on monitoring from Rabbis for Human Rights, regarding settler attacks and damage to property, around 95 percent have been closed with no action taken.  In 2010, when 55 Susiya residents petitioned the High Court to be granted access to their land, the State responded that it intended to map land ownership of the area.  Since then they have only closed to settlers 13% of the land Palestinians have been denied access to, reversing only one incursion [3].

Susiya has been the site of creative non-violent resistance for years, resistance that is continually met with brutality.  Events have included marches, picnics on land likely to be confiscated, and Palestinian “outposts.”  This coming Saturday Susiya will be part of a festival in the South Hebron Hills aimed at raising awareness about the situation of Masafer Yatta residents and stress their right to remain on their land [4].  In the words of Hafez Huraini, coordinator of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee, “We will not give up.”

Sources:

[1] Strickland, Patrick O. “Palestine’s Front Line: The Struggle for Susiya.” Palestine Note RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2013.

[2] “Susiya: At Imminent Risk of Forced Displacement.” Susiya: At Imminent Risk of Forced Displacement – OCHA Factsheet (30 March 2012). N.p., Mar. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013.

[3] “South Hebron Hills.” Khirbet Susiya. N.p., 01 Jan. 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.

[4] Al Mufaqarah. “Al Mufaqarah R-Exist.” Weblog post. Al Mufaqarah RExist. N.p., 24 June 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.

June 27, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel Plans Demolition of Entire Palestinian Village

By Giulio Pusateri | IMEMC & Agencies | June 27, 2012

The Palestinian village of Susiya faces demolition orders for all of its 50 buildings after years of relative calm. The decision was contested with official and physical protests.

On the June 12 Israeli authorities told the villagers of Susya, a Palestinian village in the south Hebron hills, that the hamlet will be completely demolished, says news agency Ma’an. The demolition orders were preceded a week earlier by the prohibition of new construction in the village. The demolition is on behalf of a petition presented by a settler group who would like to exploit the village for itself.

The orders, which include the demolition of homes, a social center, a solar generator, and a health clinic, resulted in an official condemnation from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nearly 200 international protesters went to Susiya on June 22 to support the residents and contest the planned demolitions, reports the Palestinian News Network. Israeli forces stopped the demonstrators’ march using stun grenades and tear gas.

Demolition is nothing new Susiya, the village is neighbored by an Israeli settlement built on village lands. Israel declared the area an archeological site in the 1980s. In 1986 most of the Palesitian villagers were forced to the outskirts of their land. In 1999 the entire village was evacuated by the Israeli military before some residents were granted a temporary permission to return by the Israeli High Court.

Susiya is, under the Oslo Accords of 1993, defined as “Area C” and is in full Israeli control. During the last decade Israel has used this authority to expand settlements near Susiya and throughout Area C at the expense of Palestinians, who often see their villages and lands gradually and forcefully taken over.

Israel has ignored all domestic and international calls to stop the expansion of settlements despite having been found in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and various other binding international legal agreements in hundreds of cases.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Comments Off on Israel Plans Demolition of Entire Palestinian Village

Susiya: Another Casualty of Israeli Occupation?

By Patrick O. Strickland | Palestine Chronicle | June 18, 2012

Last week Israeli military forces delivered demolition orders to the residents of Susiya, a small village in the South Hebron Hills. The villagers were told that they have illegally erected over fifty buildings without the permission of the Israeli Defense Force.

The demolition order came a few short days after Regavim, a right-wing NGO dominated by Israeli settlers, filed a petition in Israel’s High Court, requesting that a building freeze be imposed on Susiya.

The village is situated, much to the dismay of its inhabitants, in Area C of the West Bank, the land which was designated for full Israeli administration after the Oslo Accords. It is nearly against the fence of a particularly hostile Israeli settlement, which is also named Susiya. Yatta, a much larger Palestinian village, is less than a kilometer, though there are several Israeli military outposts on the path there.

Allotted only three days to appeal, it appears that Susiya will be destroyed. The village’s legal representative intends to take the matter to Israel’s High Court.

The “illegal buildings” they have erected, in actuality, are tents which were hastily constructed from cinderblocks and rain tarps. For, this will be the sixth–not the first–time that Susiya will be demolished by the IDF. The village–which consists of Bedouins, cave-dwellers, and Palestinians who were displaced from the Negev Desert in the 1948 war–was razed in 1985, 1991, 1997, and twice in 2001.

Each time Susiya is destroyed, the neighboring settlement further usurps the land that legally belongs to its Palestinian owners. The villagers refuse to leave, and each time the village is crumbled, they resurrect it.

The villagers have been regular targets of attacks from the settlers next door. Their water wells have been poisoned on several occasions. Their sheep, on which they depend for butter and milk as their sole source of income, have frequently been slaughtered by their zealous neighbors. Settler attacks are generally treated with legal impunity, and this is to say nothing of the Israeli military’s repeated destruction of Susiya’s caves, in which Susiya’s residents have historically lived.

When I visited the village last fall, Nasser Nawajeh, a resident of Susiya and longtime activist, spoke of one occasion in which the IDF used a bulldozer to collapse his family’s water well. Under Israeli martial law, Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank are not allowed to dig deeper than three feet without a permit. After the well was destroyed, he recalled, they stuffed mangled car parts into its base in order to discourage them from rebuilding it.

In recent years, international activists and left-wing Israeli NGOs have helped draw attention to Susiya’s abysmal situation. Breaking the Silence, an organization of former IDF soldiers who have decided to speak out against the occupation, brings a regular tour of internationals to meet with the Nawajeh family in Susiya. Rabbis for Human Rights has also tried to raise awareness inside Israel of the struggle that Susiya faces at the hands of military occupation and continued settlement expansion.

Nonetheless, many international efforts to aid the residents of Susiya have been shortsighted and concerned more with the appearance of having helped, rather than fixing the roots of the problems. Little has been done, for instance, to help the villagers obtain water for their sheep. The Nawajeh family, because their wells are repeatedly destroyed, are expected to buy water from Yatta, which costs three times the price of water inside Israel, not including transportation fees.

The plight of Susiya is indicative of the larger dialectic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli officials will continue to accuse the Palestinians of being unprepared for peace negotiations, while its military and settlement enterprise employ the force of arms to wrangle the West Bank from its native inhabitants. Western governments and the international community will continue to portray the situation in an absurd light: a fragile democracy attempting to quell restive “terrorists.”

However, Susiya’s struggle is of another stripe. The villagers, possessing none of the violent and fanatical traits of the settlers that so often attack them, are committed to living on their land. None of the colonial arguments to the contrary will persuade them otherwise.

Susiya, though facing another impeding annihilation, refuses to be the next casualty of Israel’s suffocating 45-year military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“We’ve been kicked displaced and kicked off our land five times,” Nasser Nawajeh told me. “We’re not leaving again.”

Patrick O. Strickland is a freelance writer living and traveling on both sides of the ‘Green Line’ in Israel and the Palestinian territories. He is a weekly Israel-Palestine correspondent for Bikya Masr and writes regular dispatches on his blog, http://www.patrickostrickland.com.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments