By EA Mick
As we arrive in Susiya, village spokesman Nasser Nawaja is doing a last-minute cleanup in anticipation of a delegation from the British Consulate.
Since the mid 1980s Susiya, a small village in the South Hebron Hills, has been under threat of demolition.
Located in Area C, the land owned by the subsistence farmers lies between an old Jewish archaeological site and a more recent Israeli settlement.
Israeli settlements are deemed illegal under the Geneva IV convention where “…the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
The Settlers want Susiya removed and the inhabitants moved to the nearby town of Yatta.
Nasser has lead his community in a decades-long campaign of legal and political resistance.
Susiya Demolition Orders
In February 2018 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that seven structures are to be demolished. In the circumstances this is a small victory – the ruling could have been more severe.
Nonetheless, the demolition of people’s homes and of water and sanitation facilities is a serious and troubling matter.
The bulldozers can come at any time. The long-term future of Susiya is under constant threat, especially with the involvement of the settler lobbying group Regavim. Hence international political interest, such as today’s British delegation visit, is very important.
When it arrives the British delegation sits with some villagers, a member of the legal team, the founder of the Arab-Jewish NGO Ta’ayush and three EAs. We’ve been invited because EAs have been providing a protective presence in Susiya for several years.
Susiya under International Law
Nasser gives an introduction to the history of Susiya. It’s clear he’s practiced at this, speaking in brief sentences and pausing for translation into English. He has addressed members of the US Congress and Senate as well as many political delegations and NGOs.
He outlines the legal position and the political agenda being followed by the Israeli state. As he summarises the difficulties of the water situation Nasser points to a pipe leading to the settlement. For Susiya the water has to be trucked in.
In July 2010 the United Nation General Assembly, through Resolution 64/292, recognised the human right to water and sanitation. It acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.
“Whenever we build a new well it’s destroyed. We are ready to pay but access is denied. With water we would be self-sufficient” says Nasser.
Susiya does not have building permits, so villagers can’t build the required infrastructure. Without a building permit any change is considered illegal. And permits are almost impossible to obtain for Palestinians.
The settler lobby group Regavim is steadfast in its efforts to remove the village and its people. Its members regularly direct drones over the community, photographing the village structures. Any change is an opportunity to alert the Israeli authorities.
Nasser points to a structure with a black tarpaulin. It was covered with a white one when the original was ripped. This new covering is considered a material change to the building and is grounds for demolition.
Life in Susiya
The Deputy Consul asks about the EAs and our role. We speak with Abu Saddam and Najah, who we do protective sleepovers with. They are an older couple who lead a simple life. Their modest home has been demolished twice already.
Abu Saddam, who is living with cancer, appears stoical and resigned but the reality of imminent demolition is clearly weighing on him. We point out that some structures listed for demolition have been funded by the EU or by individual European countries.
The delegation listens carefully to the complex legal, political and humanitarian realities of life in Susiya. The visit was appreciated and hands were shaken. As we left, Nasser was leading his sheep out for grazing.
The pre-school children played on the swings and life in Susiya returned to tentative normality.
Susiya is a small village, one of hundreds in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that are under threat. But by enlisting the support of Israeli and international NGOs, and by lobbying consulates and international politicians, the villagers have created awareness of their plight, The political spotlight on the village has helped its survival.
EAs help where they can. By visiting they can provide solidarity and support. If, and when, the bulldozers come, they will observe, monitor and then tell the world what is happening in Susiya.
Learn more about the demolitions/confiscations of EU-funded humanitarian assistance in Area C HERE.
Write to your elected representative to ask them what compensation is being requested from the Israeli government for the destruction of EU funded structures.