29 January 2013 | Rabbis for Human Rights
On Thursday 31st January the Supreme Court will hold two sessions regarding two petitions affecting the future of the Palestinian village Susiya. One will discuss the organization Regavim’s petition to expedite the demolition of most of the village. The other petition seeks to prevent the villagers’ remaining lands from being rendered off limits to them.
Susiya, a Palestinian village in the south of the West Bank, which is not connected to any water, electricity (sic) or sewage infrastructure, faces imminent demolition. The village’s future remains shrouded in doubt after its original inhabitants were driven from their homes in the 1980’s, when the area was declared a closed archaeological zone, and Palestinians were barred from entering. With no other options and no alternative location, the residents moved to their nearby farmlands, where they could not get building permits.
The first session involves a petition by the far-right organization Regavim, which petitioned the Court together with the nearby Jewish settlement of Susya, to expedite the demolition of most of the buildings in Palestinian Susiya. Such demolition will in all likelihood mean the complete disappearance of the village. The petitioners have also requested and received a temporary injunction that prohibits any further development in the village until a decision is issued. RHR is representing the villagers. The petition was submitted against the Minister of Defense and the inhabitants of Palestinian Susiya.
The second hearing covers a petition by the villagers, with Rabbis for Human Rights, responding to the blockage of about 3,000 dunams of their farmland in the area. The petition names the Minister of Defense, the heads of the Civil Administration, the Chief of the Hebron Police, the Susya Cooperative Association, and the Har Hevron Local Council.
Practices that must end:
A. Unlawful collaboration between Susya settlers, the illegal settlement outposts and the IDF in the area
The Palestinian complainants are unable to access their farmland, as a result of the use of threats and violence by the settlers of Susya and neighboring outposts. The illegal actions of these settlers are executed in collaboration with security forces that remove the complainants from their lands without military orders to do so, or with temporary, one-day orders. Moreover, police enforce the orders against the complainants and their escorts, and fail to properly investigate Palestinian complaints of violence from the settlers’ side and land encroachment. Finally, the Civil Administration refuses to arrange for the complainants to enter the areas from which they have been blocked. The authorities’ behavior is in violation of Israeli, international humanitarian, and human rights law, which require the occupying military government to protect the local Palestinian population and its fundamental rights.
B. Blockage of Palestinians’ entry to their farmlands as usurpation by the settlement
As Palestinians are blocked from accessing their land, Susya residents have gradually encroached on this private land, all the while committing crimes such as attacks, threats, encroachment, malicious property damage, etc. By the time the petition was submitted, settlers from Susya and neighboring outposts had seized about 400 dunams, representing about 15% of the area “prohibited” to Palestinians on their own lands.
This petition therefore makes two demands: to require the respondents to guarantee freedom of movement of the claimants to their lands and to protect the claimants from violence committed by extremist settlers.
Attorney Quamar Mishirqi-Asad, Rabbis for Human Rights: “We fear that the Court will draw an un-based symmetry between the two petitions and reject them both – because prima facie the state and security forces are already addressing the issue, at their own pace: both in demolitions and in blocking access. But in both cases the state is harming Palestinians in a way that is fundamentally unconstitutional, implementing a policy that is contradictory to basic democratic principles. In the first case the state prevents equal planning and representation in planning bodies for the Palestinian residents. In the second, it ignores the harm being done to Palestinians when they attempt to enter their lands; often the security forces collaborate in preventing this access. The Court must know the following: the state is not working to repair what is distorted; it is the very source of the unfair actions against which the Court’s involvement is requested. Both the law enforcement and planning bodies flagrantly discriminate against Palestinians.”
Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Rabbis for Human Rights: “Regavim declares that its goal is ‘to protect the lands of the nation.’ When that slogan is compared to the organization’s actions, its agenda becomes clear: Regavim is petitioning for the destruction of buildings on private Palestinian lands, with ‘planning’ pretexts – indicating that Regavim considers even private Palestinian land to be ‘the lands of the nation’ that should be protected from its lawful owners, whom it considers foreign invaders. That agenda glorifies discrimination and the trampling of rights; it is based on a distorted interpretation of Jewish sources, setting an agenda which debases the giants of Jewish thought who deem such discrimination and theft from non-Jews sinful. Rabbi Akiva himself, in a ruling (that did not apply only to the Diaspora), said that even a non-Jew who fails to uphold the seven Noahide commandments may not be stolen from, oppressed or defrauded, and anything stolen from him must be returned (Bava Kama 113b; Hulin 94a; Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Robbery and Loss 1:2; Laws of Theft 1:1; Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 348:2, 359:1). All of Regavim’s actions must be seen in light of its overarching goal.”
The children of Susiya
Going to elementary school
Not connected to water infrastructure
Susiya – “This was our home. This is our home.”