Susiya: a village under threat of demolition

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by Paivi, South Hebron Hills team

Flags are fluttering in the breeze and the children still play in the little village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills, but the immediate future is fraught with fears and dangers. The Israeli High Court of Justice has swept aside the last legal obstacles to the complete demolition of this Palestinian village in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli control. The threat of displacement has not crushed the villagers’ spirit: rather the four hundred or so residents are doing whatever they can to save their homes.

150514 P Moore Susiya people try to keep their spirits high despite of fears of eviction

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Residents try to keep their spirits high despite of fears of eviction in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Children play on swings in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Children play on swings in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

The village of Khirbet Susiya has existed on this land for centuries, but everything changed in 1986, when archaeologists found “evidence” of an ancient synagogue on the site. The residents were evicted and they sought a new place to live on their own grazing lands nearby. However, an Israeli settlement has been built in the same location, and now the farmers and shepherds of Khirbet Susiya are facing imminent expulsion once again. We EAs are spending days and even nights in the village to monitor the tense situation and provide protective presence.

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Flags are fluttering in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Flags are fluttering in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

Khirbet Susiya’s residents need your help and support.

Take action box 2

Please Stand with Susiya and sign B’Tselem’s petition here. 

On the 10th of May the Civil Administration began ‘mapping’ Susiya – residents here fear imminent demolition. Click here to learn more.

You can help their cause by sharing their story and spreading their appeal through social media using #SaveSusiya.

PHOTO ESSAY: scenes from military training in Tawayel

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by the Yanoun team

On the 19th of April 2015, eighteen army tanks, with their corresponding military supports arrived in the fields of Tell al Khashaba. A week later, additional military vehicles and helicopters came to the village and began military exercises. Farmers looked on in impotent horror as the tanks rolled up and down their fields and destroyed their crops. The crops, primarily grains such as wheat, are an important source of food and of income for the farmers. They plant once every two years, without this harvest they will struggle meet their basic needs.

Tanks Arrive in Tawayel, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI 20/04/2015

Tanks Arrive in Tawayel, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI 20/04/2015

R.Berg The Palestinians watch on unable to act

A local farmer watches the training, unable to prevent the destruction of his crops, Photo EAPPI R.Berg 03/05/2015

007 R.Berg Military training commences

Military Training by Israeli army in Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

Tell al Khashaba, or Tawayel as it is commonly known, is a small village located in Area C of the Northern West Bank. The land surrounding the village was declared a Closed Military Zone by the Israeli government when it assumed full control of over 60% of the West Bank in 1995. The Israel army often conducts military training exercises on the agricultural land of local farmers.The villagers here live under the constant threat of eviction and house demolition for ‘military purposes’. These military exercises severely disrupts both the lives and livelihoods of the twenty one families living here.

005 R.Berg Farmers attempt to continue work

Farmers attempt to continue their work alongside tanks, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

EA monitors as the army prepares for training, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI 20/04/2015

EA monitoring military training, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/R.Berg 03/05/2015

006 R.Berg  Tractor vs tank

Farmers attempt to till to their fields alongside active tanks in Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

004 R.Berg, villagers concerned over the training

Villagers whose fields were damaged during military training, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

Once again the villagers and their livelihoods have come under attack. The army gave no warning and ignored the farmer’s requests for them to conduct their training in a field, which did not have crops in it. Later that day they withdrew, to another location, in the Jordan Valley. The villagers pick up the pieces and wait for the next time, saying:

‘They cannot succeed because we have our soul in the ground, they can destroy the crops but they will not succeed in scaring us away’.

Farmers working their fields in Tawayel / Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI R.Berg 03/05/2015

 

 

Take action box 2

Write to your elected representatives and ask them to support the call from Palestinian Organisations to the EU and member states to ‘Act now on Israeli Military Training‘.

 

 

Open Letter from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ

I send very warm greetings from Cape Town to you all.

Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag is a special organization that occupies a special place in this old man’s heart.

It has played an exemplary and prophetic role in gently nudging modern Germany, with its powerful economy, towards using its power actively and compassionately for justice.

I remember how, in the 1980s, you struggled with your consciences over taking “a clear stand” against apartheid – and ultimately acted on your impulse to do the right thing, closing your accounts at Deutsche Bank over its dealings with South Africa. Thank you.

You understood how inter-connected we human beings are, our family ties, as it were – sisters and brothers as we all are in God’s family on
earth.

Today, many of us are concerned about the conflict in the Holy Land, a conflict with roots extending all the way back to World War II that contributes to a level of global insecurity the world has never experienced before.

Much as we condemn those who fire rockets from Palestine at civilian targets in Israel, Israel’s military assault on Gaza in response, last year, was not only cruelly disproportionate; it was also a brutal demonstration of Israel’s contempt for the people of Palestine.

The beliefs, ideological convictions and fears of leading voices on both sides of the equation – Israeli and Palestinian – are too extreme for them to be able to view the situation through a sufficiently wide prism to be able to stop the cycle of violence and hatred. There has been too much hurt.

The Conference Statement of the Kairos Palestine 5th Anniversary in December 2014 expressed deep concern about Israel’s ongoing and expanding occupation of Palestinian territory. In 2013, more settler homes were approved for construction on Palestinian land than in any year since 1967. The statement warned that repressive societal dynamics, on top of the continuing settlement policies, “make an independent state of Palestine existing in peace alongside the State of Israel almost impossible to imagine”.

The Kairos Palestine Document (Section 6 – Our word to the Churches of the world) urged churches “to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed”.

As South Africans and Germans, we arguably know better than most, from our own histories, what damage the authors of injustice and hatred inflict upon themselves. Those with the power to commit inhuman acts profoundly damage their own humanity.

Because of our special knowledge about human rights and justice, I believe that there is a particular onus on our countries to contribute to lasting peace and stability in the Holy Land. Is that not how families should work?

As Christians, it is our duty to side with the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, the prejudiced and unjustly treated – ALWAYS. There is no place for neutrality, because it favours the oppressors. Always.

Did the prophet Elijah not support Naboth over Ahab, the king of Israel,
who stole his land?

Does Psalm 99.4 not proclaim, “Mighty king, you love what is right; you have established justice in Israel; you have brought righteousness and fairness”?

In 2007, the World Council of Churches issued “The Amman Call”. The full text is too lengthy to include here, but, having heard the voices of the Christian churches of Palestine and Israel, it concluded with a number of challenges.

Christians were challenged to, “Act with us to liberate all peoples of this land from the logic of hatred, mutual rejection and death, so that they see in the other the face and dignity of God.”

And to:“Raise your voices along with ours as we speak “truth to power” and name with courage the injustices we see and experience. The illegal occupation has stolen two generations of lives in this tortured place, and threatens the next with hopelessness and rage.”

Last July, the World Council’s Central Committee issued the “Statement on Economic Measures and Christian Responsibility towards Israel and Palestine”. Brave and creative initiatives by the churches were needed, “to become better stewards of justice in economic affairs which link them to ongoing violations of international law in occupied territory”.

Finally, the Conference Statement, Kairos Palestine 5th Anniversary (2014) notes: “We commit to promoting in both churches and in our societies the Kairos call, which echoes Palestinian civil society demands, for the implementation of boycott, divestment, and sanctions as appropriate non-violent avenues of creative resistance until the illegal Israeli occupation is brought to an end.”

BDS is not antisemitism. Do business with Jews, organize with them, love them. But don’t support – militarily, economically or politically – the machinery of an apartheid-state. We can’t do business as normal because conditions in the Holy Land are totally abnormal.

Please tell your government that mere words of concern are insufficient. They don’t change anything. The appropriate response when confronting injustice is to take real steps to confront and eradicate it.

The late Richard von Weizsäcker, former President of Germany and President of the Kirchentag, demanded just this in a letter to the EU signed by many European elder statesmen in 2010.

Beware of anti-semitism, and all other forms of racism, but beware also of being cowed into silence by those who seek to stifle criticism of the oppressive politics of Israel by labeling you anti-Semitic.

I implore you to listen carefully to what Kairos Palestine is saying. Our Christian sisters and brothers in the Holy Land cannot use balanced synod statements expressing sympathy for oppressor and oppressed alike. They are asking all of our help to win their collective freedom back.

Please join the ecumenical Kairos movement and raise your voice in public solidarity to liberate Palestine so that Israel can be free, too.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Love
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Cape Town, South Africa

Open letter from Archbishop Emeritius Desmond Tutu to Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentage.

Source: http://desmondtutu.org/

It’s all about land

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by the South Hebron Hills Team

We recently went on an excursion into the countryside with Nasser Nawaja a local contact and resident of Susiya. Nasser is a field researcher in the South Hebron Hills for B’Tselem an Israeli-Palestinian human rights organisation. Through his work he knows the fragmented pastures around Yatta like the back of his hand. While touring with Nasser he pointed out a number of restricted “security zones” around the settlements and explained how the grazing land is divided up between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. The first thought that struck me, while he spoke, was that there really should be no “division” as such, nor any dispute over who goes where; the UN has after all officially recognized Palestine as a country.

Photo EAPPI/ P. Moore

Hilltop showing patches of land which have different access rules for Palestinians and Israelis. South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/ P. Moore 2015

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 lands have been expropriated from their Palestinian owners under a variety of pretexts in order to allow the building of settlements. There are approximately 150 settlements in occupied Palestine. Significantly these settlements have large ‘buffer zones’ around them which Palestinians are denied access to.

“The fenced or patrolled areas of settlements cover three percent of the West Bank; in total 43% of the West Bank is allocated to settlement local and regional councils.” UNOCHA 2012

Compulsory purchase orders have been enacted which have taken advantage of legal frameworks dating from the times of the Ottoman Empire.  According to Ottoman law all land belongs to the State unless someone can specifically prove ownership in writing; further clauses have allowed the confiscation of land that has not been used or cultivated for three years. These laws tend to work against Palestinians living on the “seam zones and security areas”, where they are often denied permission to cultivate the land. Additionally when a dispute arises over the ownership of a particular tract of land, any use of the land is prohibited. This results in further loss of land and livelihoods for local herding communities.

“You see that brown patch of land down there in the valley?” said Nasser, pointing into the distance. “That and the green corridors extending away from it in both directions is an area closed to everyone. The same goes for the lush grassy area heading up from one of the corridors towards the outpost on the hill. On the other hand… the stretch of land from the look-out post down towards the road is off-limits to the settlers.” Nasser 2015

While Nasser spoke I tried in ernest to take the new information on board and to discern the logic of it all, if only so that I might remember the status quo in different strips of land on different hilltops. In the end I gave up realising it was a fruitless task and concluded “there was no logic”.

Nasser Nawaja and EAs talking with soldiers in patrol car. South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Nasser and EAs talking with soldiers in patrol car. South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore

Soon after a patrol car appeared behind us and some Israeli soldiers beckoned us over. By coincidence, at that precise moment Nasser spotted a few goats belonging to the nearby settlement, grazing in an area that was off-limits to all parties. He pointed them out to the soldiers and asked why the goats were not being driven away from the prohibited area like Palestinian shepherds often were. The soldiers had no answer to this and they got back into their personnel carrier and drove away.

Nasser Nawaja discussing the land use in Yatta area with an ISF- soldier. South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore

Nasser Nawaja discussing the land use in Yatta area with an ISF- soldier. South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore

I burst out laughing but then I felt ashamed. The situations one encounters in this bizarre patchwork quilt of hills and valleys would be comical – if it were not so tragic for so many. Each and every ‘re-zoned’ strip of dirt is somebody’s lost land.

Here we go on frequent visits to vulnerable communities living in Area C to give our support to families whose homes have been bulldozed or who are awaiting demolition. Many have received demolition orders because their homes have been deemed too close to either an Israeli settlement, a military firing range or an archaeological site. Access to land in area Area C, where the Israeli government has full control, is severely restricted. In fact, less than 1% of Area C has been planned for Palestinian development and construction is heavily restricted in 29% of Area C. UNOCHA 2013

Just a few days ago, our team rolled up our sleeves and joined the locals who were working to clear the demolition rubble away from the foundations of a house that had been leveled. The Israeli military carried out the demolition of a dozen homes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Khair in October 2014. Umm al-Khair is bordered by the Israeli settlement of Karmel.

EAs help carry rubble from site of demolished house in Land Action in Um al Khair, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

EAs help carry rubble from site of demolished house in Land Action in Um al Khair, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

This particular family does not intend to leave and share their hopes and plans for rebuilding. They tell us that they will not build on the site where their previous home stood since the early 1960s, but right next to it. Many victims of demolition do this in the hope that the time it takes for a new building application to go through the courts will buy them some time in their new home. The temporary emergency shelters which the families now live in have been funded by both the European Union and the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and although this international support is greatly appreciated the residents say that they expect that these shelters will also be demolished before long. This is rural life in Area C in Palestine.

EAs and local residents clearing demolition rubble in Um al Kher South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

EAs and local residents clearing demolition rubble in Um al Kher South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Al Mukhtasem Hathaleen carrying rubble from site of demolished house at Land Action in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

Al Mukhtasem Hathaleen carrying rubble from site of demolished house at Land Action in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

Approximately 99% of all Palestinian planning permission applications are rejected. Significantly, while old Palestinian houses are being demolished on regular basis, settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law, are being expanded at a steadily increasing pace. In some cases entire villages are under threat of demolition. The one that is probably closest to the heart of us EAs in the South Hebron Hills is the small community of Susiya, which has recently been featured in the pages of Israeli and Palestinian and international newspapers.

Susiya: a community at the heart of the struggle

Susema and Odei sheparding on Susiya fields, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susema and Odei sheparding on Susiya fields, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Some 550 people live in the village of Susiya. Their main source of income comes from farming and animal husbandry. From the outside, the village might look like a ramshackle tangle of tents and shacks, but it has a soul and a school and a whole lot of children. Village community life flourishes.

The village of Susiya was here at its original location from the early decades of the 19th century. In 1986, the Israeli Civil Administration declared the village land was an archaeological site and the residents were expelled and the land was confiscated. Since then the village’s history has been one long chapter of nonviolent struggles against demolition orders. Just some weeks ago, the Civil Administration announced it had quashed the last legal obstacles to the complete destruction of the village. “Complete” in this case would not just include their makeshift homes but livestock barns, water tanks, solar panels – everything in the village.

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susya forever, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susya forever, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Things are rather different at the neighbouring Susiya settlement, built on village land from 1983 onwards. Life in the Israeli settlement carries on without any threats of the demolition.  The story of Susiya is one of many in the South Hebron Hills region, where too many people live from day to day never knowing when the next expulsion will come.

 

Take action box 2

 

Sign and spread the Avaaz Petition started by Susiya resident Nasser Nawajeh, Save My Village!

 

 

 

The Settler’s Tour in Hebron

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by the Hebron Team

Hebron is a contested city. The settlements are located in the middle of the city’s center and there are few other places were Palestinians and settlers are living so close to each other. Because of the proximity, tensions frequently arise between the two sides.

Hebron, therefore, is often said to represent a microcosm of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Photo EAPPI/ M. Guntern Settlers entering into the old city.  06.04.2015

Settlers entering into the old city, Hebron. Photo EAPPI/ M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The city is divided into one Israeli and one Palestinian zone. Normally the Old City is off limits for the settlers, but every Saturday afternoon a group of settlers and supporting tourists go on a “tour” around the Old City.

The group is accompanied by some 30-40 soldiers, including a troop of snipers that go ahead to secure the area. In some cases this means entering Palestinian homes. For approximately one hour the group makes its way through the Old City of Hebron protected by heavily armed soldiers. Some of the settlers participating in the tour are also armed.

Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern  Soldiers protecting the settlers during the tour.06.04.2015

Soldiers protecting the settlers during the tour, Hebron. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The tour guide is one of the ideological hardliners from the settlement community in Hebron. He presents the settlers’ narrative of the history of the Jewish community in the city. However, from what EAs have observed the audience rarely pays attention to what is being said. Instead they tend to hang out and chat with each other, the soldiers, or they concentrate on their phones. The Settler’s Tour has become a renowned attraction in Hebron. Also regular tourists come to Hebron to watch this spectacle of settlers, soldiers and members of international organisations.

Internationals and tourists waiting for the tour. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

Internationals and tourists waiting for the tour. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The Palestinians living and working in the Old City regards the settlers tour as way of “showing who’s in power” and to “intimidate the population”. EAPPI, is always present during the tours to provide protective presence to the inhabitants of the Old City.

We, as Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), do our best to ensure that Palestinians do not face restrictions on their freedom of movement and that they are allowed to pass the group of settlers and soldiers without problems.

Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern  EA monitoring the tour. 06.04.2015

EA monitoring the Settler’s tour Hebron. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

However, the tour is affecting the locals’ ability and willingness to move around the Old City. On one occasion we met two women with their daughters, who said they were too afraid to walk past the tour and decided to wait until it had passed.

In addition to affecting the number of customers in the Old City, the Settler’s Tour has further consequences for local commerce and trade. A shopkeeper in the Old City says about the tour:

“Sometimes the settlers break my things and throw my products on the ground and trample on them, other times the settlers buy things, you never know with these groups”

Nevertheless, the shopkeepers in the Old City staunchly open their shops and refuse to let the “tour” control their opening hours.

Jordan Valley – the hidden occupation. Part 2.

EAPPI:

Read the latest report from the Jordan Valley about how access to water severely restricted for Palestinians living under occupation.

Originally posted on EAPPI UK and Ireland blog:

“There is no country on this planet where it is forbidden to drink water, except Palestine.”

– Resident of Khirbet Artuf.

A Makarot water silo in the Jordan Valley. Credit: EAPPI/P Hughes A Makarot water silo in the Jordan Valley. Credit: EAPPI/P Hughes

According to local NGO Maan, the average Palestinian daily consumption of water is about 70 litres per person, well below the 100 litres recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to cover domestic and public service needs.

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