Last October, the IOF and settlers from the illegal Susiya settlement demolished 150 Dunums (1 Dunum=1/4 acre) of olive groves belonging to the Palestinians of Susiya. The timing was chosen with care: the trees were destroyed just before Susiya Palestinians could harvest their olives, following their Ramadan fasting. An economically starved area, the poverty-stricken Susiya residents depend on olives for income and consumption.
Susiya camp is far from the public eye, and it is here that the IOF and settlers have shown little to no restraint in their greedy and destructive land-grab practices, virtually unaccountable to any authority. The police and the Civil Land Administration actively collaborate with settler and IOF illegal acts of vandalism, destruction, harassment, abuse, and menacing of the Palestinians of Susiya.
Ramadan begins in a few days. It has been around Ramadan and the Olive Harvest right after Ramadan that settlers have taken advantage of the low numbers of international witnesses and the special time of year to really harass Palestinians and prevent them from harvesting.
In the absence ISMers for just two days (international numbers are limited and the two of us who have been in Susiya region long-term were both away), police and IOF soldiers had come to numerous tents to question and harass the residents.
This may be just the first step: since the 1980s, the Palestinian residents have been repeatedly evicted from their lands; their lands have been downsized and appropriated under the auspices of “Special Security Areas” and “Closed Military Zones,” which have lent to settler expansion. The year 2001, in addition to previous and subsequent years, saw extreme and repeated IOF acts of destruction and violence –such as the forceful eviction of Palestinians in the Susiya region; destruction of their dwellings, fields, olive orchards, and livestock (buried alive), and the bulldozing of even the emergency tents supplied by the Red Cross.
Although the Israeli High Court of Justice in 2001 ruled that the IOF expulsions were illegal, and followed its ruling with an interim injunction allowing the return of the Palestinian residents until another decision was issued by the court, nothing has occurred to actually benefit the repeatedly-abused Palestinians. The interim injunction itself, while highlighting the illegality of the IOF evictions, nonetheless prevents Palestinians from building on their own land. Instead, it graciously suggested that the Palestinian landowners apply for building permits to the Civil Land Administration, a farce of a body which routinely denies Palestinian bids at building permits.
The Palestinians of Susiya have welcomed international and Israeli solidarity activists with a graciousness that is humbling and inspiring. Ahlan wa Sahlan to Susiya to stand beside these resilient people.