Outrage – I’m talking about steam-coming-out-of-my-ears outrage.
The subject is the allegedly ancient Arab village of Susiya. The issue is Israel’s rights as a sovereign state operating under rules of law.
The background, briefly:
In the Hebron Hills of Judea there are the remains of an ancient Jewish city known as Susiya, which flourished in the Talmudic era. It is estimated that about 3,000 people – all Jews, observing a religious life – lived there at its height. Archeological remains, including a synagogue, that have been excavated can be visited today.
Still retained within the synagogue is an ancient mosaic floor:
Not far from this archeological site, there is a modern Jewish town of Susiya.
But within the area of the archeological remains there is also an Arab squatters’ village. It consists today of some 60+ constructions of concrete, tin and canvas. They call this village Susiya as well. And those squatting on the land claim that their village has been there for a very long time.
There is no evidence of an old Arab village there. Aerial photos indicate that with the exception of four building constructed in the 90s, there was nothing on the site until after 2000. In fact, when the surveys conducted by the British mandatory powers in 1945 – which mention all of the villages in the area – are examined, no mention of a village named Susiya is found.
The site had been used seasonally by Bedouin shepherds, who found shelter in the caves in the region. But in 1986, 277 dunams (about 68 acres) of land in the area, including this location, were declared to be an archeological site, at which time the caves were no longer available to the Bedouin.
Most of the buildings went up between 2011 and 2013 in defiance of a court order forbidding the building.
Now here it gets really interesting:
When the population registry of the Civil Administration was examined, it was found that most of the people claiming to live in Susiya had homes in the nearby town of Yatta (which is in Area A under PA jurisdiction).
How about that! They move between their real homes in Yatta and the hovels in Susiya as it serves their political purpose – they come out when an entourage of left wing activists or a cadre of journalists (also most likely left wing) is due to visit. When I was there, on a Regavim tour, the place was empty.
What we are in fact seeing here is a land grab by the Palestinian Arab Nawajah family of Yatta, which has built illegally and in blatant violation of Israeli court orders.
Two facts must be emphasized. One is that this matter has been thoroughly adjudicated. That is, the courts – with due process and over a period of time – fully and fairly considered the issues. The courts determined that the claims of the squatters were without basis, that they had been operating in contempt of court, and that the buildings that had been erected must be demolished. This was not a determination arrived at lightly: the buildings had to come down.
And then, even though these were squatters without legal rights to the land, an offer was made to them regarding an allocation of land, in area C beyond the archeological site, near Yatta, to which they might move. But they refused and applied for legalization of their current site – which was rejected by the Court. Aside from everything else, a village was not about to be legalized in a designated archeological area, which requires protection.
Further details can be seen here: http://regavim.org/susiya_facts/
After multiple delays, the time now draws near for the demolition of many of the structures in illegal Arab Susiya. It was last month that the Court ruled on this yet again.
But nothing is ever simple here in Israel, where the Western world seems to think it has a right to a say about everything we do. This is the outrage: that others think they can tell a sovereign state that operates according to the rule of law what to do. The interference is breathtakingly offensive. We are forced to wonder if they would imagine interfering in the internal affairs of any other state in this fashion.
Even a Senator – Dianne Feinstein – imagined she had a right to say something about what Israel was doing. And several NGOs have been involved.
Rabbis for Human Rights has now actually approached the High Court and asked that the demolition orders be shelved.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will be going to the Court on Monday to present the State’s case on this. If the State were to recommend that the demolition be shelved, the Court would likely accept this – there would be no reason not to.
Word is that Lieberman will tell the Court we must go ahead.
But the pressure on our government is unreal. With all of the hullabaloo, the worst that has happened in recent days is that the State Department has weighed in. On July 16th, State Department spokesman John Kirby let it be known that the US was “closely following developments.”
We need them to monitor what we are doing? There is a warning implicit in this.
At a press briefing he said (emphasis added):
“We strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village. Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes, would be harmful and provocative…”
Elsewhere it has been reported that the US is putting great pressure on Israel with regard to this matter, and has indicated that if the demolition proceeds “the US response would be extremely severe.”
I hope and trust that steam is now coming out of your ears as well.
It is imperative that the Israeli government stand strong in the face of this. Otherwise our legal system is degraded and our state is demeaned. If the US finds it can push us around here, what comes next?
Please, share this broadly, so that others can know the truth of this situation.
I promise to return to other issues very very soon.
My wishes for a Shabbat Shalom.
And then, immediately following – for those who observe – an easy fast. On Saturday night and Sunday Tisha B’Av will be observed – a day of mourning for the destruction of our Temples and other evils that have befallen us at this time.
© 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” –