We are currently in the middle days of Sukkot. It is not a full holiday, but a half-holiday, still filled with joy.
I thought perhaps I would not post during this time. But there are matters of significance that call to me in urgent tones, telling me to do so. You see, I came out of the Sukkah, figuratively, to check the news and read my email. And there I was! But hopefully strengthened in the face of the urgency.
We need all of the strength we can acquire these days, because from all sides come the attempts to challenge us.
Today I want to focus on Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who is inordinately eager to challenge Israel.
What she has done is outrageously inappropriate: she has seriously over-stepped her bounds and misrepresented a situation, to boot.
The issue at hand is an encampment of illegally constructed structures in an Arab outpost referred to as Kirbet Susiya, in the south Hevron Hills of Area C, under full Israeli control. There are about 64 structures, all built illegally and without permits, almost all within the last 15 years (85% between 2011 and 2013). These structures are permanent, concrete, but have fabric draped over them to lend the impression of tents.
This encampment is very close to the archaeological site of the ancient Jewish Susiya, which existed from the second to the sixth century CE. And to the modern Jewish town of Susiya.
The claim is being made that the Arab encampment is on the site of an ancient Arab village, and that the residents of the encampment are being unjustly expelled. This is simply not the case – it is a lie. The Arabs are squatters who are being properly evicted.
There is no evidence of a long-standing Arab village in the area. Not according to the survey of all villages of the area done in 1945 by the British as the Mandate authority. Not according to various travelogues. And not according to aerial photographs of the area, which showed no development before 2000.
The area had been recognized informally as an archaeological region. For some time, Arabs shepherds who lived in the nearby Arab town of Yatta – with some 80,000 residents, in the PA-controlled Area A – were permitted to use this region for grazing, and to utilize caves in the area for temporary protection.
In 1986, the area (277 dunam) was officially designated as an archaeological site, and the shepherds were then forbidden to use the caves. For a while they put up temporary tents for shelter when their sheep were grazing in the region. But in recent years, there has been an attempt made to co-opt this land – with structures erected that were intended to be permanent.
It must be pointed out that this situation is part of a broader pattern of illegal Arab building in Area C, which is under full Israeli control. I have written extensively about this.
What is significant here is that one particular Arab clan – the Najawa family – is primarily responsible for attempting to seize the land. It has been determined that most members of this Najawa family actually live in Yatta. They just pop over to the Susiya encampment from time to time to demonstrate their “residency.”
The High Court of Israel has been involved in this case since 2001, and found that there was no legitimacy to the claim of the squatters, and no basis for approving building on that land.
In 2013, the High Court issued an interim order against further building on the land. Since then, 33 additional illegal structures were put up. This was in blatant defiance of the law. The Court then ordered the demolition of those buildings that had been erected in defiance of the Court ruling. The squatters appealed, but the Court rejected their petition.
In spite of all that transpired, in spite of the recognition that most of the squatters already lived in Yatta, the State of Israel was prepared to allocate an alternate area to the residents of the encampment, on State land, adjacent to the town of Yatta. The squatters refused to accept the offer – clear evidence that this is not about having a place to live in the area at all. In early 2012, the squatters submitted an outlined plan, that called for legalizing the illegal encampment and even enlarging its area. The plan was rejected by the planning authorities, and it was subsequent to this that the High Court ruled that it was not possible to authorize construction at this site.
However, those seeking to pressure and delegitimize Israel have seized on the faux issue of the Arab village of Susiya as a “poster issue.”
We are talking about left wing individuals, NGOs that offer pretense of being human rights organizations – such as B’tselem, and representatives of various governments. This has included the EU (naturally) and, unfortunately, individuals and officials within the US government.
This is a considerable outrage. How does anyone on the outside presume to have anything to say when the High Court of the sovereign State of Israel has ruled? With what other country would they presume such tactics? Not only is the High Court of Israel highly respected internationally in legal circles, it was evident that the State had gone out of its way to accommodate the squatters. Above and beyond, if truth be told.
Previously, the US State Department issued a statement on this issue that shocked Israel because of its impropriety in criticizing a High Court decision. The State Department stood in opposition to the eviction of the Arab squatters.
And now, Senator Feinstein has become publicly involved. Contacted and visited by members of the Najawa family, she has swallowed their lies whole without doing proper research. The hope of the Najawa family, those who provide knee-jerk support for the “poor Arabs,” and those eager to weaken Israel, is that sufficient pressure from US sources will cause the Israeli government to back down and appear illegitimate.
Previously, the Senator wrote a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, asking him to overrule the High Court on the matter of Arab Susiya. On Monday, she held a press conference at which she repeated fabrications about the situation that she has apparently accepted as truth.
She is doing damage to Israel.
And so now I must ask each of you to help. Please, circulate this posting as widely as you can. Share it with others, put it on your Facebook page, put it on discussion groups, write letters to the editor, talk-backs on the Internet. You know the routine. Use it, please!
If you are a resident of California, please, let Senator Feinstein hear from you. Let her know how much in error her presumed facts are, and how upset you are with her inappropriate criticism of the High Court of Israel. Request, with firmness, that she withdraw her statement, and clarify the issue – utilizing solid facts. Keep the communication brief but provide very basic facts. (Do not adopt a nasty tone, as it will simply backfire. Better to say you realize she was misinformed.)
Additionally, get this posting to everyone in California that you can reach, and who would understand the problem. Ask each of them to contact Senator Feinstein as well.
Sites that provide information:
http://regavim.org/susiya_facts/ – very basic facts outlined at the bottom here
Here is a way to help Israel, my friends. Please act without delay.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
“We Have Legal Grounds” –