The day the world came to Susiya

By EA Theresa

Now back in the UK, EA Theresa spent much of her recent EAPPI service visiting the community of Susiya in the southern West Bank. The community’s entire village, which has stood since before the occupation began, is awaiting imminent demolition. Here Theresa reflects on the day diplomats from all 28 EU countries , among others, visited Susiya in an unprecedented show of solidarity for this community.

On June 8, I was present in Susiya when EU and UN representatives, 28 European heads of mission and other country representatives, the Palestinian Prime Minister, and representatives of the Egyptian government visited the village.

There were also many non-governmental organisations, campaigning organisations and members of the press present to hear the many speakers.

Jahed Nawaja, head of the Susiya Local Council, spoke of the suffering for dozens of years of the people of Susiya from Israeli settlers and the Israeli military. He explained about the villagers being displaced several times.

His message to the EU was that it needs to “exercise pressure on Israel to stop this unjust decision on the village of Susiya”.

“We are a peaceful unarmed people in Susiya,” he said, “and we  [have] persevered in the village of Susiya these past years. If the army wants to demolish the homes in Susiya there will be a disaster here.”

He continued to explain that Israel has not agreed to the proposed master plan for Susiya because it says they do not have infrastructure here, but, he says, they do – they have electricity, a school and a clinic. He ended by saying he believed that, “Israel wants to empty the village so they can build settlements on our land”.

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Jahed Nawaja, head of the Susiya Local Council, speaking of the suffering of the villagers [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

John Gatt-Rutter, the EU’s Representative to the West Bank and Gaza, stated that:

“[T]he number of EU colleagues here today indicates the seriousness with which the EU takes the Israeli intention to demolish the village of Susiya. Israel has a duty to allow development of these areas and in Area C [the area of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control], which they unfortunately do not allow. Susiya is not an isolated case.

“I call, on behalf of the EU, on the government of Israel to reverse it plans to carry out its demolition here in Susiya and to halt efforts to transfer Bedouin and herding communities elsewhere in the West Bank. Palestinian development, not Palestinian exclusion, should be at the heart of Israeli policies in Area C. The settlements that surround this land are illegal under international law and they prevent a two-state solution. The EU has a profound and significant interest in this issue.”

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John Gatt-Rutter, the EU’s Representative to the West Bank and Gaza, speaking to the villagers [Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge]

The UN representative, the Palestinian Authority Minister for Settlements and the Wall, and the Palestinian Prime Minister also spoke of the illegal nature of the settlements and the need to prevent the demolition of Susiya.

Having stayed in Susiya for many days and nights during my EAPPI service – being observed each day from the Israeli military watchtower overlooking the village, shepherding with the herders as the graze their sheep in sight of the settlers, and living alongside of and getting to know the families that live here – you realise the strain that they are under all the time. Not only are they waiting on a demolition that may come at any time to destroy their homes and livelihoods but they are constantly under surveillance from settlers and the Israeli military. Yet they continue to live their lives and continue to raise their families in this hostile environment and to sustain themselves as best they can from their remaining farmland.

Each day they wake up to a new day that could bring laughter and happiness or demolition and hardship, never knowing whether the day will end with a smile or in tears.

But the people of Susiya – old and young, men and women – have said to us on many occasions they will not leave their land.

“This is our land. We own it. We will stay here. If they demolish our homes we will rebuild.”

We hope they do not have to wait too long to be able to farm their land in peace and without this constant pressure, so that this hardworking community can thrive.

Take action box 2

Click here to find out more about the illegal and imminent planned demolition of the entire village of Susiya and use our template email and letter to write to your elected representative to ask them to take urgent action.