Aggressive Zionist body wins court order to demolish Palestinian village

June 14, 2012
Sarah Benton

This posting has 6 items:
1) Ta’ayush report on demolition orders and history;
2) Rabbis for Human Rights A Promise to Fight until the Very End;
3) Pro-settler blog For once, the Israeli supreme court has done something right
4) Regavim ‘Vision’ and ‘Goals’;
5) +972 South Hebron Hills: A military regime;
6) Villages group Updates on court orders ;

Solar panels for generating electricity, Susya

Six immediate demolition orders for Susya
June 14, 2012

Following the Regavim petition, which requires the state to destroy the village of Susya, yesterday the “civil administration” issued six immediate demolition orders. These are based on old orders from the ‘90s and from 2001. Orders that Israel had chosen not to implement so far. Although the original orders applied to individual structures, these new orders are applied to intact, thousands of square meters, compounds, some of them including dozens of buildings. The orders apply to most of the village of Susya. Among the structures expected to be demolished are a kindergarten, clinic and renewable solar systems, the only electricity generator for the village. In those six compounds liveavim, an NGO with naakedly expansionist about 200 persons and hundreds of animals. They are expected to remain homeless.

While Palestinian residents are anxious about the coming of bulldozers, in the settlement Susya, bulldozers are preparing and building. Some background on the village of Susya and the Regavim petition:

The Palestinian village of Susya has existed for centuries, long before the modern Jewish settlement of Susya was built in 1983. In 1986 the Israeli authorities expropriated part of the village’s residential land in order to establish an “archeological site”. Several villagers from Susya were evicted from their land and homes and suffered incalculable anguish.

Immediately after the eviction, having no alternative, the villagers moved to nearby agricultural areas that they owned in an attempt to rehabilitate their lives.

However, in 2001 several families from the village (the Nawaja’a, Halis, Sharitach, Abu Sabha, and other families) became the victims of a second eviction. This time it was exceptionally violent: tents, caves, and cisterns were destroyed and blocked. Agricultural fields were dug up and farm animals put to death.

At the same time, the settlers established their own outposts. In 2001 the “Dahlia Farm” was set up and in 2002 an outpost was put up in the “Susya Archeological Site” where the Palestinians had been evicted on the pretext that the land was intended for public use.

On September 26, 2001 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the structures torn down and the land returned to the villagers. Despite this, the army and settlers continued to attack the Palestinian villagers and prevent them from reclaiming the 3000 dunam (750 acres) around the Jewish Susya settlement.

The prevention of this reclamation was the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court (5825/10) in 2010. The aim of the appeal was two-fold: to allow the villagers to reclaim their land and to stop the settlers from attacking the villagers.

In October 2011 the military commander announced that large tracts of the appellants’ land were “off-limits to Israelis” hoping in this way to end the flagrant trespassing and the takeover of the land.

A few months after the Palestinian villagers’ appeal was submitted, the settlers submitted a counter-appeal.

The upshot of the counter-appeal was a third eviction of the Nawaja’a family that had managed to return to its own land in 2001.

Susya today: At least 42 orders to halt work and 36 requests for building permits have been submitted. At least 19 cases are still in the courts.

The Regavim plea was submitted against anyone who complied with the Supreme Court Decision on Susya and in revenge for the appeal. Evidence of this is that the plea was submitted automatically without examination, it was aimed at anyone who co-operated with the Palestinian appeal (land owners) even though only a few of them live in the village and/or have buildings in the village.

In this appeal the appellants are trying to paint a false picture of symmetry between homes in the Palestinian village of Susya and the Jewish outposts. The transfer of a civilian population, the settlers, to the occupied territories runs counter to international law. The Palestinian villagers did not “take over” their land. This has been their private land for generations.

In the appeal, the charge was raised regarding the villagers as a “security risk.” Reality challenges the logic of this claim.

The Susya settlement purposely doesn’t have a fence. Closing the area to Israelis illustrates the Palestinians’ need for protection from the settlers. Within the framework of the Susya appeal, 93 events were presented as cases of violence perpetrated by the settlers, some of them as masked vigilantes. Since then many more incidents have occurred.

There is a basic failure by the authorities responsible for the planning in the region. This is especially obvious in Area C. The authorities are pursuing a policy whose goal is to transfer the Palestinian population to areas outside of Area C. This is apparent in the number of building permits, number of building demolition orders, and lack of planning for the protected population. At the same time, Jewish settlements and outposts are expanding, and more are on the way.

Since the 1970s there has been a drastic reduction in the number of building permits given to the Palestinians. In 1972, 97% of the 2134 requests submitted were approved. In 2005 only 6.9% were approved (13 out of the 189 requests submitted). The sharp reduction in permits parallels the dramatic decrease in the number of requests. In the same period 18,472 homes were built in the Jewish settlements!

This trend has continued and has even intensified. In 2009 only six building permits were granted to Palestinians; and seven in 2010.

In 2000-2007 one-third of the demolition orders were carried out in the Palestinian sector compared to 7% in the Jewish settlements. In recent years there has been a disturbing growth in the number of building demolitions. In 2008-2011 the Civil Administration pulled down 1101 buildings in the Palestinian sector and rejected every single building plan that the Palestinians submitted! The settlements have their plans approved and development made possible.

If the figures for building permits were reasonable and compatible with the population growth and natural growth rate of the village, as was done in the 1970s and 1980s, this would solve the lack of housing. In addition, it would eliminate the perpetual fear of expected demolitions.

The planning failure is also reflected in the lack of basic infrastructure for the Palestinian population, such as electricity, water, education, and health services. The settlers, on the other hand, are recipients of exemplary urban planning.

These facts show that this is not a case of legal constraints but intentional government policy. It is nothing short of the hushed-up transfer of Palestinians from Area C.

As noted, these days, residents of Susya are fighting for their right to continue living on their lands.

Ta’ayush is an organisation of Israelis & Palestinians striving together to end the Israeli occupation and to achieve full civil equality through daily non-violent direct-action.

A Promise to Fight until the Very End

Rabbis for Human Rights
June 12, 2012

Last week we represented the residents of the Palestinian village of Susya and defended them from the “Regavim” appeal. We realized that the court does not recognize the discriminating planning regime, which does not allow Palestinians to build their homes. Here follows our press release following the court hearing; comments by Rabbi Arik Ascherman who was present at the hearing; and an interview with Adv. Quamar Mishirqi-Asad by Tami Molad-Hayu for the Voice of Peace radio.

Press Release

Today’s initial High Court discussion regarding the petition of “Regavim” demanding the demolition of the Palestinian village of Susya was largely procedural, but highlighted the dangers to the village:

1. In all likelihood the court will accede to Regavim’s request for an order freezing all building by the Palestinians.

2. The judges exhibited a very narrow and formalistic approach to the situation.

Wednesday’s High Court discussion largely dealt with the procedural question of whether to unite Regavim’s petition to demolish Susya and other petitions to prevent the demolition of Susya. However, during the course of the discussion the judges indicated that they were inclined to accede to Regavim’s request for a temporary restraining order that could paralyze the lives of the residents.

This approach unfortunately indicates a formalistic “Law and order” approach which doesn’t take into account the radically different civilian and legal status of Palestinians under military rule, as opposed to settlers who are citizens of the country ruling the territory. We hope that the Court will eventually favor an approach focusing on the actual realities, as opposed to a formalistic and procedural blindness to the inequality inherent in the status of the two populations. The procedural approach ignores questions of institutionalized discrimination in the Occupied Territories which are incompatible with the basic principles of democracy.

Even according to the a dry and formal approach the regional military commander is obligated to the principles of international law that require the military regime to attend to the welfare of the population over which it rules. It can not be said that the regime is doing this in situation in which the village can not legally build even one home for its residents, after the army as the ruling authority has twice forcibly expelled from their lands.

Rabbis for Human Rights, representing the residents of Susya against Regavim and the adjacent settlement also named Susya, will continue to fight for justice in the rest of the High Court discussions. We will attempt to expose and debunk the underlying base assumptions which Regavim has used to mislead the Court, even has the State has acquiesced through silence.

An unexpected result: Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s impressions from the court hearing of Regavim’s petition against the residents of the Palestinian village of Susya:

After all our preparations we had an unexpected result when the Supreme Court judges decided to join together the different cases of Susya, and to set an additional court date in 4 months. Nothing essential happened in court. Even the indication that the court will issue an interim order to freeze the building in the village of Susya, reflects the preservation of the status quo. But, as we explain in our press release, the atmosphere was distressing.

In the time between this hearing to the next one we will be again in court (on July 25th) with another appeal. It is our demand to give the Palestinian authority to plan their communities in area C.

I do not have enough words to thank all those who worked many hour to help to defend the residents of Susya: Adv.Avital Sharon; the head of the legal department Adv. Quamar Mishirqi-Asaad and the rest of the legal team: Keren, Mia, Neta, Muhamed and Guy; the communication team: Yariv, Mati and Kobbi; the secretaries Rivka and Tiferet;Dror Etkes; the backup of the organization’s Executive Director, Ayala; our partners from Taayush and Breaking the Silence; the organization’s rabbis; Rabbi Wittenberg from British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights, and all the diplomats who came to court; special thanks to those who translated in court; and a big thank you to the brave Susya residents who experience the pressure and violence, and who trusted us and let us represent them in court.

The curtain rose; no one can know what will be the end of the play, but we promise to do our best to reach a just ending.

Supreme Court finally issues order to destroy illegally built Arab buildings
Tel-Chai Nation blog
June 12, 2012

For once, the Israeli supreme court has done something right:
The Civil Administration handed demolition orders on Tuesday to 52 buildings and tents in the Palestinian Authority Arab outpost of Susya, which lies between Kiryat Arba-Hevron and Arad, according to a report in Haaretz. […]

The demolition orders were issued by the Supreme Court following a petition filed by Regavim, an NGO watchdog group for Jewish national property rights, against the massive illegal Arab construction taking place in Susya.

The judges, headed by President Asher Grunis, along with Justice Hanan Meltzer and newly appointed Justice Daphna Barak Erez, recently held an urgent hearing over the petition, after Ovad Arad, director of the Judea and Samaria section of the Regavim, documented the Arabs continuing to build illegally.

The judges expressed their anger and Justice Meltzer opined against the continued illegal construction by Arabs on state-owned lands, even after the filing of the petition. The judges then issued a temporary injunction, prohibiting the Arabs to continue to build in the area.

Regavim’s attorney, Amir Fisher, recently wondered in a conversation with Arutz Sheva why is it that the Civil Administration knows how to enforce the law when it comes to Jews but does not do the same when it comes to Arabs.

“Palestinians everywhere are building freely without obtaining building permits and yet the Civil Administration ignores this,” said Fisher. “They built near an Arab outpost near Susya, on state land. Not only did the Civil Administration not remove them, they ordered local Jewish farmers to leave the area so as to prevent friction.”

Founded in 2006, Regavim seeks to “prevent foreign elements from taking over the Jewish People’s territorial resources,” but its permit is under development.

Aiming to see equal enforcement of Israeli law in Judea and Samaria, Regavim serves as a counter-weight to the numerous left-wing and Arab organizations seeking the destruction of Jewish communities.
They deserve a lot of credit for getting this ruling passed through. If law enforcement would do its job properly, there wouldn’t be much of a fuss over the demand to wreck those 5 buildings in Ulpana, and people wouldn’t feel so resentful. If the authorities do start to do their job, then everyone will be much more satisfied.

[Tel-Chai Nation is a blog written by Avi Green, born in Pennsylvania USA in 1974, now living in Jerusalem. He says ‘I enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public’s right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I do not know if I’ll ever be as good as him, but I do my best.’ He presents his blog thus: “Israel, much like the fortress of Tel-Chai that Jospeh Trumpeldor fought to defend against Arab conquerors in 1920, finds itself beseiged by enemies both within and without. Terrorists, would-be friends inside and outside Israel, and even bad government officials. Here are the discussions of one proud Zionist resident on the state of the nation and abroad.”]

Regavim’s vision and goals
From ‘About us’, Regavim website

Setting a Jewish Zionist agenda for the State of Israel, toward official Zionistic policies by all the authorities, with an emphasis on the land and its preservation.

Based on the belief that the government holds the key to resolving this issue, Regavim
is operating through state channels to recruit all the official state bodies to act based on the principles of Zionism – to protect national lands and properties and prevent foreign elements from taking over the Jewish People’s territorial resources.

Expanding and intensifying activities all over the country – more surveys, more oversight, more enforcement!!!

Wide-scale publicity and advocacy to increase public awareness of the issue.
Forming a strong lobby among decision makers and molders of public opinion.
Forming a foreign relations network with international government and administration officials and with Jewish organizations in the Diaspora.

Initiating and bolstering joint ventures with Zionist organizations with common interests.

Writing and promoting ideas, work plans and legislation to protect national interests.

South Hebron Hills: A military regime for none or for all

The right-wing organization “Regavim” wants you to overlook why the Palestinians in Area C are pushed into building “illegally”; Regavim wants you to ignore the fundamental inequality of status between Palestinians and settlers.

By Yariv Mohar +972
June 5, 2012

The first High Court hearing will be held tomorrow [June 6th] on a petition submitted by the right-wing organization “Regavim” which demands the demolition of the entire Palestinian village of Susya in the South Hebron Hills. Regavim’s strategic goal is to expedite the Israeli policy of pushing as many Palestinians living in Area C, which is most of the West Bank, into the crowded and small enclaves of area A. Usually this is done household by household, but Regavim aims to up the ante by seeking to force out an entire Palestinian village, a poor village called Susya.

Next to Susya sits a Jewish settlement with the same name: Susya. Palestinian Susya has already experienced expulsion once, in the 80s, when its residents were moved from their original location to adjacent farmland. The village was built “illegally,” naturally: from the outset the residents of Susya had no possibility of obtaining valid building permits, and thus were never given the option of ”obeying the law.”

Regavim, whose subtitle translates roughly to “Preserving the [Jewish] Nation’s Lands,” defines itself in its petition to the court as a non-political movement, but a quick look through its newsletter reveals that Regavim’s Zionist vision is defined explicitly in a way that discriminates against Palestinians. For example, about a Supreme Court decision to cancel tax breaks for Jewish “periphery” towns only (within the 1948 borders) Regavim writes: ”[this decision joins] a chain of severe rulings that erode the State’s Zionist character and forbid the state from giving preference to Jewish settlements.” Regavim is basing its current lawsuit on these shaky ideological foundations and is asking the Court to erase the Palestinian village of Susya from the face of the earth.

Susya, an extremely poor village made up of tin-roofed structures and tents, is regarded by the IDF and settlers in the area as a nuisance, and its population is seen as unfortunate surplus. Despite the fact that there are no disputes over ownership of the land, the residents of Susya are referred to as ”taking over the land,” i.e., intruders. The people of Susya went to live on their agricultural lands after they were expelled from their historical dwelling place, which was declared a “national park” and thus confiscated. Repeated efforts have been made to expel the residents of Palestinian Susya, efforts ranging from land confiscation, to violent attacks by extremist settlers, to continued infrastructure neglect by the authorities (including the Palestinian Authorities). All of these factors have damaged the social fabric of the village.

Regavim’s petition compares planning policies for settlers to those for Palestinians, and claims that there is discrimination against the former. Aside from the phenomenal lack of precision that characterizes Regavim’s petition, such a shallow comparison between settler and Palestinian planning rights simply has no basis. First, Palestinians do not have civil planning bodies with representation for the local citizens, as is customary in democracies. Instead all planning is done for the Palestinian areas in Area C by the IDF. If Regavim is concerned with equality in terms of planning rights, perhaps it should advocate for Palestinians to receive planning rights that resemble those given to the settlers or to transfer the building rights of the settlers into the hands of another nation, with absolutely no representation from local residents: perhaps settlers’ planning rights should depend on Palestinian security forces.

Second, according to the logic of equality: maybe as a starting point, settlers should be stripped of citizenship and their right to vote in the Knesset elections, so that they will not be able to exercise political power to change their situation in terms of planning rights. If some people in a certain area are forced to live under military rule, then shouldn’t all the people in that area be forced to live under military rule?

Regavim wants you to overlook why the Palestinians in Area C are pushed into building “illegally;” Regavim wants you to ignore the fundamental inequality of status between Palestinians and settlers.

Unfortunately, this discussion is relevant to far more than one village, and the threat against hanging over Susya is a threat that hangs over many Palestinian villages throughout the occupied territories. Even if Regavim’s petition fails in Court, it’s still likely to encourage the State to destroy more Palestinian structures built “illegally,” and even if rejected, it will probably be due to formalistic and narrow views of military law, and not through any meaningful moral/constitutional reexamination of the insane day to day reality of the occupied territories.

To the residents of the settlement of Susya, we say the following: The fact that you did not build a wall between your expansive villas and the “slums” – the tin-roofed structures of Palestinian Susya – is a good sign. I’m sure the yuppies of the luxury Sharon area (a largely affluent, snobbish and liberal area within ’48 border) would have built a tall fence if they happened to live near a village like Susya. You’ve acted rather humanely in not doing so.

In the same vein, do you truly want to live as equals with your Palestinian neighbors, under some political arrangement or other [to be determined by the politicians]? Or do you actually want to continue a discriminatory regime in which you live as privileged elite over Palestinian subjects lacking all rights? If you erase the existence of the village of Susya, how can you honestly criticize Palestinians who seek to destroy your settlement? There have been suggestions about how to create Jewish villages under Palestinian rule, suggestions which have been approved by people at high levels in Palestinian society who could, in a different political environment, overcome opposition within their society. But when you actively trample Palestinian rights, so too your rights will lose their legitimacy. Strength alone will not protect you, and it is incumbent upon you to remember that you will not always be strong.

The discussion of the case will take place, as stated, tomorrow, Wednesday,[June 6] at 9:00 AM in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.

Yariv Mohar is a former journalist, a blogger and a campaigner for social and political activism

Important Update from Attorney Qamar Mishirqi-Assad on the Situation in Susya
Villages Group
June 17, 2012

In continuation to our previous update (see below), Attorney Qamar Mishirqi-Assad who represents the people of the Palestinian Susiya, informed us what she learn from the official fax that arrived at her office today (Sunday): The New information included in this fax is that the good people of the Civil Administration decide to cut short from two weeks to one week the time granted to her to submit the objections to the demolition orders issued in Susya last Tuesday.  The civil administration’s seven days countdown starts from today and due to end next Sunday (24/6/2012).

Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group

Update about the Situation in Palestinian Susiya
From: The Villages Group
June 15, 2012

Today (Friday), we got an update from Attorney Qamar Mishirqi-Assad.
Qamar, who works for the Rabbis for Human Rights, represents the people of the Palestinian Susiya in the appeal to the Israeli High Court submitted against them by the settlers of the Jewish Susiya and the settlers NGO Regavim.
As you might recall, over 50 final demolition orders were handed out in the Palestinian Susiya by the officers of the Civil Administration on Tuesday 12.6.2012.

According to Qamar, she reached an understanding with the legal adviser of the Civil administration of the Israeli Occupation Army, that the period for submitting objections to these demolition orders will be expanded from 3 to 14 days.
If the officers of the Civil Administration will choose to respect this understanding, no action of demolition will take place in Susiya in the next 10 days.

Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group

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