PHOTO ESSAY: Demonstrating to save Susiya (by EA Theresa)

Earlier this month, the Israeli High Court ruled that officials could carry out demolition orders on the entire village of Susiya in the southern West Bank and forcibly transfer all of its residents from the place they have lived in since before the occupation started in 1967. Follow EA Theresa’s photo essay of the demonstration she witnessed on May 16 to save this village.

Many of the folk of the village and relations were arriving and gathering by the meeting tent and in the homes. There were lots of children around today too as it is the weekend.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

The children of Susiya joining the demonstration [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

The main family here in Susiya is the Nawaja family. Nearly everyone in the morning was a Nawaja or closely related and many wore a vest to show their allegiance.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Protesters wearing vests to show their support [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

Towards midday, members of an Israeli peace organisation, Ta’ayush, started coming as they finished land actions elsewhere, and by early afternoon there were people from many places, both Israeli and Palestinian, from across the world and from local and international organisations.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Palestinian flags were out, as were kaffiyehs scarves and posters calling for a “Free Susiya”. The demonstration  started with a march along the top of the village, by the main road and a rally before walking along to one of the family homes – stopping to put up Palestinian flags at certain points. People also spray-painted slogans on rocks and buildings – “Free Susiya” and “No to demolition” or the like.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Groups of women joining the demonstration [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Spray-painting slogans onto the rocks… [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

…and onto the village tents [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

Then the demonstration went onto the main road which the settlers use to get from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement to a local synagogue visitor centre.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Messages were painted on the road. At the junction with the synagogue visitor centre road there is a large sign in Hebrew with the visitor centre’s website – to which was added “Free Susiya”.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

A young Bethlehemite women with a flag looked out over the visitor centre site, previously part of the original Susiya village before the land was confiscated. Some of the ruins you can see above her head are the remainder of the other homes of the Nawaja family that have already been taken over.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

The demonstration almost got down to the gates of the visitor centre when an army truck appeared.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Some young people attached flags to the gate of the visitor centre.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Others stood in front of the jeep whilst they finished the job. Then the soldiers came out with guns up – but no helmets – and asked people to move away.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

After this, people moved away a bit but some sat in the road.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Then along came two more jeeps and a large vehicle with a water cannon fixture. This fires skunk water which smells of faeces and garbage and apparently hangs around for days. It was developed especially for the Israeli military by a chemical company.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

The Israeli military “skunk truck” [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

At this point most people decided to disperse and returned to the present day village of Susiya . The demonstration, although loud at times and involving a small confrontation with the military, was a peaceful and nonviolent one. The demonstrators had no weapons other than their voices. People sauntered back into Susiya, even stopping to put up more Palestinian flags by which time another jeep had arrived and the Israeli District Commanding Officer’s vehicle. Everyone eventually returned to Susiya and most people sat down to relax and get drinks. It had been a hot afternoon out in the sun. Several Israeli military jeeps were seen driving along the village road.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

We went up to the junction with the main road to see if the village was being blocked in. There seemed no sign of that happening until four soldiers came up the road to where we were standing.

Again however they were not helmeted and two were not carrying a rifle. One obviously spoke English and they came up and greeted us, took a look down the track, looked at the Ta’ayush people sitting under a tree and said, “Oh, you again”. They then left wishing everyone a “peaceful Shabbat”. One of the others was taking pictures but not as if he was really wanting to get everyone, although it’s possible the pictures were taken for other reasons. And then they left.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

The soldiers leaving [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

The meeting tent in Susiya was decorated as shown with the words of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “On this land, there is that which deserves to live.”

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

The meeting tent in Susiya with the words of the poet Mahmoud Darwish sprayed on [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

EAs went to Susiya to stay overnight in case there was a backlash from the military or settlers. We’ll be doing this every Saturday, Sunday and Monday night as the mornings of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are when there are the most fears that the demolitions will happen.

Take action box 2

Only a few weeks ago, Israeli officials visited Susiya to map the village ahead of its demolition. Based on past experience, local residents fear this means the Israeli authorities are planning to demolish the village imminently. Once this has happened, the families of Susiya will be left homeless in harsh desert conditions.

The situation is now urgent. Please write to your Member of Parliament or TD to ask them to raise your concerns with the government and take action. Click here for a template letter and email you can use to write to them.