by South Hebron Hills Team.
Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli military and civilian control since the Oslo Accords of 1993, is dotted with Bedouin villages. Many of the Bedouin currently living in Palestine fled there in 1948 from their ancestral lands in the Negev Desert as the newly-founded State of Israel pushed its way into the Negev. The Bedouin purchased land from the local people and initially were able to continue their simple farming – growing crops and shepherding.
Since 1967 when Israel began to occupy the West Bank, Area C has also become dotted with Israeli settlements, the building of which is illegal under Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a convention ratified by the State of Israel.
Suleiman and his community, today comprising 21 families, moved to Um al Kehr over fifty years ago, buying their land from the nearby town of Yatta. Life continued peacefully until the 1980s when construction began adjacent to the village, and a settlement grew up calling itself Karmel. Suleiman tells of many incidents of settler violence, including stone throwing and the harassment of some of the elderly shepherds.
The village like so many others in Area C of the occupied West Bank live under constant threat of demolition. Almost every structure, homes, animal pens and shelters, in Um al Kher have demolition or stop work orders on them as because they have been built without Israeli issued building permits. Even the traditional taboon (oven) where the women of the village make the daily bread has been subjected to repeated demolitions. Suleiman reports that after rebuilding it three times the villagers have now given up repairing it.
At the end of July Haneen Zugbi, the first Arab woman to be elected to Israel’s parliament on an Arab party’s list, representing the Balad party visited the Palestinian village of Susiya. Susiya, like Um al Kehr is a community at risk of forced relocation with demolition orders on all the village structures. When interviewed by EAs in the South Hebron Hills she said:
“When you expand settlements, when you expand the settlers, when you protect the violence of the settlers, when you prevent the Palestinians from farming, from having their own water, and you steal their water, this is not to fight to defend yourself; this is to defeat and to control the Palestinians.” Speaking about human rights Haneen went on to say: “so this is why the work you (EAPPI) do is so important; to ask the world not to be silent, to ask the world not to be neutral because what Israel is doing here is crime against humanity.”
Reflecting on the events of the summer months it appears that what Haneen is requesting of the international community is beginning to happen. During the last two months representatives from many international organisations and countries including the UN, the EU and the US have either visited Susiya or spoken out against the planned demolitions of this village. At the end of July a large peace demonstration took place at the village where at least seven large coaches of Israeli nationals arrived to walk with Palestinians and others to show their support for this village and Palestine as a whole.
Asking the people of Susiya and Um al Kher what they are seeking, the answer is very much the same. They want to build their own homes, free from demolition orders and stop work orders. Over tea in the demolished home of Sulieman’s son, his wife says “I just want to live in peace, with my family in my village.”
Learn more about Susiya and Israels planning regime in Area C here.