PNN / Hebron/
On a day like many others, Mrs. Um Yehia went to feed her sheep in her family’s fields in Susya, South Hebron Hills, next to an Israeli settlement. But this time around, she got an unpleasant surprise.
“Two settlers came to me. They harassed me and tried to steel my sheep,” Mrs Um Yehia recalls from her house inSusya village, Area C in the West Bank.
Fellow villagers soon came to her rescue, but the whole incident had made her feel both anxious and sick.
A history of displacement
Um Yehia’s case is far from exceptional. Villagers of Susya describe how they have faced harassment from settlers since the IOF occupied the lands 30 years ago.
In 1986, the Israeli army demolished the caves that the villagers had been living in for decades, claiming Susya was an important Jewish archaeological site.
“My family used to live in the old Susya but were forced displaced. They were shocked and did not understand why” Mr Um Yenia explains.
Most villagers thought the displacement was temporary. But as years passed by, they realized they would never be able to return and so, they started building new caves during the 1990’s.
In 2001, the new caves were also demolished, as the IOF claimed the Palestinian villagers were constructing an illegal settlement. Not having a roof over their heads, the Susya residents were forced to erecting the tents in which they are living today.
To the family of Um Yehia, the harassment from settlers (at times occurring on a daily basis) is an evidence of the unjust and lack of legal protection prevailing in the area.
After the incident with the two settlers, who tried to steel Mrs Um Yehia’s sheep, she filed a complaint to the Israeli authorities, hoping for some protection. But the IOF ended up categorizing her as the security threat.
“That is how it works around here. You ask for your right and end up losing even more of it! Today, I am still considered a security threat although I was the violated part” she says.
According to Mr Um Yehia, the Israeli police generally does not believe the villagers when they report about daily violence from settlers:
“One time, an Israeli police officer went undercover here to see if the villagers were really speaking the truth. He dressed up as a Palestinian and started shouting, ” This is our land”. The settlers attacked him, and fortunately, it was filmed by the Channel 2 so we could prove ourselves right. It became a big story in the media” he says.
A greater plan
As if two forced displacements and daily harassment were not enough, the Israeli High Court of Justice on 5 May ruled to allow the IOF to demolish the entire village of Susya and expel its residents.
Mahmoud Zwahre of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee explains how the relocations are part of a greater plan to displace Palestinian communities from Area C to Area A, where they are cramped together.
“They are not only targeting Susya, but villages in the area from Jericho to Jordan Valley to South Hebron Hills,” he says.
As for the Um Yehia family, they have no intention of falling into line with the new ruling by the High Court of Justice.
“I am not leaving. I am staying in this land, which belongs to my ancestors. We have raised our heads and healed our wounds many times, and we will do it again. The Israelis may be experts in demolishing houses, but we are experts in defending ourselves” says Mr Um Yehia.
He calls for international activists to come and stay with the villagers for protection. “We need their help, because we never know when the IOF will come.”
Israeli occupation court in the beginning of May issued an order to deport the population of Susya village near Yatta, south of Hebron.
The decision followed Israeli settlers’ appeal to the court two months ago, demanding the displacement of Palestinian natives, for the expansion of the settlement constructed on Susya lands.
The village has always been targeted by the Israeli occupation, and if this decision is carried out, dozens of families will be left homeless.