This land is magic

By EA Elizabeth, Southern West Bank

Dawn in Susiya is magic. The bright stars disappear as streaks of light disperse the rich velvet of night and the hills start to reveal their shapes. Shepherds release their dogs and, on foot or donkey, take their sheep out to graze in the cool of early morning.

Pre-dawn Susiya – a shepherd takes out his flock Photograph EAPPI/E Brightwell

Pre-dawn Susiya – a shepherd takes out his flock [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

However, for villages like Susiya, under threat of demolition, dawn can be a tragic time; it’s when the bulldozers are most likely to come. Over recent months EAs have been present at Susiya, taking their turn around dawn to watch the road at the edge of the village, listening for the sound of heavy vehicles.  Should bulldozers be seen or heard, EAs can raise the alarm and be ready to witness events.

Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons … is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”. There is no military necessity to demolish Susiya. The reason given by the Israeli authorities – the occupying power in this case – is the lack of building permits, permits almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain (you can read more about the permit system in my previous blog – A wish to live in the shade).

Palestinians have done much to publicise the plight of Susiya at international level and many international delegations have visited. Haneen Zoabi, the first Palestinian-Israeli woman elected to the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), came and spoke with the people, encouraging them to continue their “samud” which roughly translates as “steadfastness”.

Haneen told the EAs that Israel uses security concerns to justify many of its violations of international law and human rights, but added that expanding the settlements, condoning the violence of the settlers, preventing the Palestinians from farming, from using their own water, “this is not a fight to defend yourself, this is to defeat and to control the Palestinians and to oppress the Palestinians, so this is why the work you [EAs] do is so very important.” She urged EAs to tell the world what is happening and to ask the world “not to be silent”.

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EAs meeting Haneen Zoabi, the first Palestinian-Israeli women to be elected to the Knesset [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

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In July many Israelis joined Palestinians and international activists to protest against the proposed demolition. You can read more about their visit here.

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Operazione Colomba – an Italian nonviolent peace organisation [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

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Combatants for Peace – a joint Israeli-Palestinian peace group [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

Some of the organisations represented at the protest Photographs EAPPI/E Brightwell

A representative from Amnesty International [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

Zelda, a Jewish Israeli from Tel Aviv, told me, “This land is magic; it’s also tragic. Many Israelis live in denial about events in the West Bank or are unaware of what’s being done in the name of Israel”. Zelda wants to see Israelis recognising the truth and, as Haneen said, not remaining silent.

Zelda and some of the children at Susiya Photograph EAPPI/E Brightwell

Zelda and some of the children at Susiya [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

Thanks to national and international pressure Susiya has been given a slight temporary reprieve from demolition. Dawn is not quite so dangerous now but the dead of night still is. The illegal settlers around Susiya are angry that the village has not been demolished, so people in Susiya fear settlers will use violence, especially since the recent incendiary attack at Duma, which resulted in two deaths.

Now people in Susiya, with help from other Palestinians, watch and listen during the night hours for settler actions that could prove deadly. EAs take their turn standing under the spotlight so all can see they are present, ready to record any violent acts and, as urged by Haneen Zoabi, not keep silent about them. The EAs’ presence can deter or lessen the severity of violence.

EAs keep watch at Susiya Photograph E Brightwell

EAs keeping watch at Susiya at 3am in the morning [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

Susiya 4 ever” is painted on many homes in the village to voice the hope of the people and their steadfastness – “samud” – in this magical land.

Susiya 4ever Photograph E Brightwell

“Susiya 4ever” [Photograph: EAPPI/E Brightwell]

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Read more about Combatants for Peace, one of the nonviolent groups that has been supporting Susiya.

Don’t be silent about violations of human rights or international law. Read other EAs’ eyewitness accounts on this blog site and speak out.