I hope you have had a great 4th of July. I have been celebrating with extended family and I am still on vacation, but wanted to take the time to update you on the situation in the village of Susiya in the West Bank. The lawyer on the case, who works with Rabbis for Human Rights, has filed an objection which has temporarily protected the village. A couple days ago, she wrote that the legal team has filed an objection (to the demolition orders) to the Israeli Civil Administration (a misnamed arm of the military). If the objection is rejected, appeal will be made to the high court of justice.
So it seems there are still some last-ditch legal means to employ. The village is still standing. Nevertheless, hopes seem dim. Spirits are low in the village.
Meanwhile, in London on July 4, there was a significant discussion in Parliament regarding Area C issues. I’ve obtained a transcript of that debate for you which you will find in a pdf file in attachments. Below are two excerpts in which Susiya is described as an example, the “tip of the iceberg” showing some of what is going on throughout Area C. You will find the messaging similar to what I also have shared with you.
Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): …. I will keep my comments short and limit them principally to
one case, which is the village of Susiya.
When debating Palestine, we sometimes lose a little context when we talk
about Israel’s problems in its governance of the west bank. Israel is an
occupying power of the west bank and has been since 1967. Over that time, it
has engaged in an aggressive policy of colonisation, which has also involved
the active displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population, whether they
be settled or Bedouin communities. That is the context.
The lives of the Palestinians are compromised and disrupted daily, whether
physically, by the settlements, barriers and checkpoints, or organisationally,
through pass laws and restrictions on movement, trade and so on, which,
sadly, bear a resemblance to some activities of the apartheid regime in South
Africa—pass laws and such matters. The fact is that Israel has no business
under international law being in the west bank. That is why, although I agree
with the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) that we must try to bring
people together, blame must be attached where blame falls. It principally lies
with the occupying power.
To assist the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), I can tell him the
figures that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency gave recently when it
came to Parliament to brief Members on the situation in Area C: Area A, which
is under full Palestinian control, is about 17% of the west bank; Area B is about
21%; and Area C, where there is full Israeli control, is about 61%. Those figures
were given to us within the past two weeks.
Equally important when considering Area C is the fact that 70% of that 60% is
off limits to Palestinians. It is either settlements, land controlled by settlements
or other areas—my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran)
mentioned nature reserves and other “scams”, for want of a better word—that
restrict Palestinian access. Given that 29% is already built-up land, only 1% of
Area C is actually potentially available for development by Palestinians—the
people whose land it is. We will get nowhere until that situation is resolved.
I will briefly use the example of the village of Susiya to show exactly what the
Palestinians are up against. It is a Bedouin village on an escarpment in the
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Hebron hills, and is the agricultural centre of the region. It has been settled by
the same families since the 19th century. In that respect, it is similar to other
villages around Jerusalem or in the Negev. I visited one of the villages and have
seen villages in the Negev that have been demolished five times by Israeli
forces and then rebuilt. Just this week, B’Tselem, a well respected human rights
organisation, said about Susiya:
“On Tuesday, 12 June 2012, Israel’s Civil Administration distributed demolition
that is essentially all—
“structures in the Palestinian village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills. The
orders stated that they were renewals of demolition orders originally issued in
the 1990s. Residents were given three days, until 15 June 2012, to appeal the
orders…Residents are planning to submit their opposition”.
With the intervention of human rights groups, the demolition orders were
extended to last Sunday, but they have now expired again. We are talking
about residential tents, which house over 100 people; kitchens; shops; a clinic;
a community centre; museums; the solar panels that provide electricity; and
shelters for animals. The entire village—everything—will be demolished. The
villagers are on watch every day waiting for the bulldozers to arrive under the
protection of the army. That is life for many Palestinians. Will the Minister take
up that case, not only because it is important in itself, but because it is the tip
of the iceberg of what is happening to villages in that area? If he has not done
so already, I ask him to make particular mention of the case to the
Government of Israel.
I was alerted to that case by an organisation called the Ecumenical
Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, which is a very good
Christian organisation through which people live peacefully with Palestinian
villagers for months. Its members brought in videos that showed me not only
threats from the military, but from another village called Susiya, which is a
nearby, well developed Israeli settler village with every modern convenience.
Under the protection of the military, the settlers come down to the Palestinian
village armed with guns; they throw stones and attack Palestinian villagers.
That is something that I have seen myself on video and film.
Mrs Grant: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the activities of the Israeli
defence and security forces in a number of situations have a real effect on
normal people—the little people whom my hon. Friend the Member for
Beckenham (Bob Stewart) referred to—and engender an atmosphere of
worrying hate and distrust?
Mr Slaughter: Absolutely. Occupation does that in its own right, but this is not
a benign occupation. This is violence. It has accelerated with an increase in
settler violence of 144% in the past two years. It is an organised campaign to
disrupt the lives of Palestinians and to extend the occupation, which continues
year-on-year and which, as the hon. Member for Beckenham said, increasingly
makes a two-state solution difficult, if not impossible. That is why we need
more from the Government—not only words, but action.
Mr John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree
that one of the most cynical aspects is the Kafkaesque way in which the illegal
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occupiers use international law to say, “Ah, we should rely on the established
law—Ottoman law and mandate law—for the legal framework for house
demolitions”? Those laws are used in a perverted way to disadvantage the
Palestinian residents who should have rights in that illegally occupied land,
while a completely different set of legal rights are applied to the illegal
occupations. Is it not that twisted way of interpreting the law that adds offence
to the physical destruction of homes, schools and other properties?
Mr Slaughter: My right hon. Friend is right. Rules and regulations are
manipulated in an absolutely cynical way to wear down and break the spirit of
Palestinians living in the west bank. I think that it has been proved that that
does not work. The resilience of the Palestinian people there is extraordinary,
which is why there is also violence. Arrests, detention—including of children—
and administrative detention, which happens on a continual basis, are all
designed to break the will of the Palestinian people and favour the occupier
and settlers over the indigenous population. I know that the Minister knows
those matters well, but I hope that he will redouble his efforts. I will end on that
Mr John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): I draw the Chamber’s
attention to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and
to the fact that I accompanied my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North
(Mr Doran) on his recent visit to the region.
What the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) described as
preconditions were, until recently, regarded as the mutually agreed starting
point for the way to achieve a two-state solution. Those have now been
withdrawn from negotiations, which makes things more difficult. I wanted to
highlight the way that Area C, which was originally conceived of as a
transitional measure—part of the process of going to a two-state solution—is
slowly but surely being taken by the Israelis as an area of Israeli authority, in
which they are able to impose their will, often with a fiction of law, as I said in
an intervention, to the disadvantage of the Palestinian people. That is a very
different concept of Area C. It raises a number of important questions.
As European taxpayers, we are, to a considerable extent, paying the human
and social cost of that occupation…..
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One of the things that struck me on my most recent visit was how small the
place is and how critical the issues are. We went to the Ma’ale Adumim area,
where the Bedouin whom we talked about earlier were. The area between that
settlement and Jericho is the same as the area between my constituency in
Southampton and Winchester. On a train, that is about enough time get a cup
of coffee and get out a laptop. Yet if that settlement continues, the west bank
is effectively wholly divided. There is no possibility of a Palestinian state with
physical integrity. That is why the settlement must stop now; otherwise, it will
be almost impossible for the negotiations to reach a resolution.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right
hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr Denham). I congratulate the hon.
Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran) on securing this debate. This is a
hugely complex issue. All of us who have visited Israel or the Palestinian
Authority will know what a small geographical area of land we are talking
about. It is important to get these complex issues into some sense of
proportion. We are talking about Area C, in which 150,000 Palestinians live.
There are 1.4 million Palestinians living in Israel and 2.5 million Palestinians
living in Areas A and B. It would be wrong if this Chamber today gave the world
the impression that we are talking about most of the Palestinian population,
because we are not….
Mr Slaughter: The hon. Gentleman is showing uncharacteristic false logic.
The reason for designating Area A is because it contains the main Palestinian
towns. It would be a bit like saying that as long as we excluded London,
Manchester and Birmingham, we could allow someone else to occupy all the
rural areas of England. This is the Palestinians’ land, and they are entitled to all
of it. ”
A pdf file of the entire Parliamentary proceeding is available at this link:
In a Btselem report released recently, Nasser Nawaj’ah, Susiya resident, writes,
“I live in Susiya, a small Palestinian community in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank and have worked at B’Tselem for five years, as coordinator of the camera distribution projectin my area. In my work, I have frequently documented the Israeli military’s destruction of homes, livestock pens and water cisterns and heard the cries of children, women and old people during these demolitions.Now the specter of demolition hangs over my own family, my own children, and I feel a terrible sadness. My family has been expelled three times from its home, once before my birth and twice during my childhood.
Since 2001, after the Israeli High Court allowed us to return to the village and our homes remained standing, we dared to hope that perhaps this was the end of it. These latest demolition orders have driven my father to profound grief and despair. My son Ahmad, who is five, and his brother Lith, who is three, have never experienced demolition. I hope very much that we can prevent them from experiencing it now.”
This is very sad.
Nasser writes more here: http://972mag.com/palestinian-from-area-c-describes-life-in-constant-need-of-rebuilding/48302/
Besides that, there was a demonstration against the demolition orders on Friday June 22. Video footage shows a demonstration estimated around 400 people walking toward the original site of the village, now an archaeological park. Demonstrators were intercepted by soldiers who lobbed tear gas canisters at them. I have heard the demonstration lasted about four hours. This video is recommended by Villages Group.
Going along with the video above, here is an eyewitness report from the demonstration by David Shulman (Villages Group) with excellent still photos.
On the blog site below, you will find a short video made by Ibrahim Nawaj’ah, son of Abu Jihad and brother of Nasser and Abed. In the video, Ibrahim interviews people living in Susiya about the village’s endangerment.
Please continue to advocate on behalf of Susiya and the other Palestinian and Bedouin villages in Area C.
Thanks for continuing to give us these updates! They make for dismal reading, but I’d rather know more of what is happening and have a way to object to it, than to be oblivious.