Despite outrage from British MPs and renowned international academics, the village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills of the occupied West Bank is bracing itself for the bulldozers, after Israel’s High Court gave an initial green light to the government (1st February 2018).
Israel wants to demolish 20 buildings, equal to one fifth of the entire village, including a health clinic funded by the Italian government which cares for around 500 people from Susiya and surrounding communities.
The Israeli High Court has just announced that demolition can proceed without delay for 7 of the buildings housing 42 residents, half of them children.
The villagers’ lawyers, Haqel, welcomed what they see as a tentative push-back against the demolition process but point out that ‘the terror of demolition’ looms large over the village, with the remaining 13 scheduled buildings still under threat.
Nasser Nawajaa from the Village Council said the timing of the demolition – in the middle of winter – could not be more devastating. Those made homeless are expected to face freezing rains and harsh winds in the coming weeks.
In 2012, Susiya villagers commissioned a master plan in the hope of putting their lives on a more stable footing. Israeli authorities, however, rejected the plan, effectively blocking any new construction of houses or essential infrastructure, including running water and electricity. As a result, adults, children and the elderly house themselves as best they can, often in tents, forbidden from making substantial repairs to their ailing homes — homes located, as Nawajaa stressed, on land that belongs to the Palestinians.
Activists point out that the plan to demolish Susiya is a part of an extensive campaign across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 2016 saw the largest number of demolitions in over a decade. Although living under occupation officially means Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are protected by international law, the demolition programme has consistently ignored these rights.
The Village Council insists that demolishing Susiya will be a war crime and that Palestinians must have the right to build on their own land. As Stephen Kinnock MP said in a recent debate, ‘This is not an issue of Arab, Muslim or Jewish people. It is about upholding our basic values of justice and human rights, and it is about holding to account those states, Governments and duty bearers that violate those principles and laws.’
In a last ditch attempt to save their homes, the villagers are calling on the international community to take emergency action.
Susiya Village Council