This post contains accounts of serious human rights abuses and is for mature audiences only. This post has taken me many days to write and the people in this cafe must think I’m a bit strange since I have been visibly disturbed more than once.
The map shows the location of the Palestinian town of Susya, which has no label on Google Maps. The nearby labeled town of Susya is the new, invasive, settlement which has taken the name.
Susya is another village in the South Hebron Hills, about two hours by donkey from Mufaqara. Like many towns in this area, the Zionist movement is trying to erase this village and re-colonize the area with Israeli settlers. The story of Susya is inspiring because their resistance has been especially determined. Yet terribly sad because of what they have been through, and the fact that the same thing has happened to hundreds, even thousands, of other villages like Susya. In most instances the Israeli military was successful long ago and the towns no longer exist.
The town of Susya has been under threat for many years, and life has been very difficult since the settlements began. In the past, the town has been destroyed by the military more than once. Many people left, but some stayed and rebuilt their homes. Recently, the military has renewed their efforts to destroy the town. Five months ago the military issued statements that are coming to destroy 15 of their buildings. With support from an American Zionist organization, a new court case was been opened against the town of Susya, in February. The case claims Susya to be an “illegal outpost”, although the village has existed here long before the state of Israel.
This month, June, 2012, the military has announced plans to destroy 42 buildings in the village, and 9 in the nearby village of Wad Jayesh. This is most of the structures. They are mostly tents. Since the military intends to destroy the entire village, of course this includes the kindergarden, clinic, cisterns and the only school in the area which Palestinians are allowed to attend. The military keeps the schedule of the demolition a secret, and their threat means that the bulldozers will show up any time between three days and many years, but most likely within months. This unpredictable timing makes it almost impossible for anyone who does not live in the village to document and witness the demolition and other accessory crimes when the bulldozers and soldiers do come. Lack of witnesses makes it easier for the military to rough the families up at the same time as destroying their houses; when the bulldozers recently came to Mufaqarah to destroy the house of Mahmoud’s son, the soldiers broke Mahmoud’s wife’s leg while they were at it(1).
On my first visit to Susya, I walked with a group of visitors around the town and heard testimony from people living there. One of the older women related a story from the beginning of the settlement, in the 1980s. She was picking tomatoes when four settlers came and started to destroy them. When she asked them why they were doing this, they told her to shut up, and threatened her with a gun. Without dropping the tomatoes gathered in her dress, she took their gun away. I suppose she must have given it back rather than using it, because they soon beat her with stones and came to threaten her husband with the gun. They issued a report to the authorities, but as I’ve noted before the authorities do not enforce an equal rule of law and it is not a surprise that they apparently did nothing(2).
Husband and wife, residents of Susya and owners of the story about the attack in the tomato garden.
We listened to accounts of destroyed caves, settlers using their sheep to destroy olive orchards, stolen grape orchards, soldiers watching while settlers attack people and midnight fire bombings.
We hear an account of the murder of a teenage boy: He was harvesting grass in his family’s field when the soldiers handcuffed him and forced him to lie on the ground. A settler then shot him while he lay on the ground. The soldiers fabricated a cover story that he was a suicide bomber attacking a school.
The farmers of Susya put up with a plethora of harassment on a daily basis. Recently, a villager’s grain harvest was burned in the night as it lay collected in the field, waiting to be threshed. Palestinians are denied access to the water table, although there are 18 wells nearby. Settlers are allowed to build houses, but Palestinians are not. Palestinian homesteads lie meters from electrical cables and water lines, but are denied any access to them. A nearby settlement has even taken the name Susya, pretending to be the village that they are attempting to destroy.
A Palestinian observes the piles of burned grain. A new Israeli industrial building is in the background. Photo courtesy of Operation Dove.
The callousness, aggression and brutality of the new neighbors makes an impression on us all. Despite the behavior of the settlers the villagers tell us that they are not asking for the massive reparations I suppose they deserve, or even for the settlers to leave and return the land. We are told that all the Palestinians here are asking for is to be able to build their own lives and homes, as they see the settlers doing. I know that many Palestinians do want their land back, but a speaker in Susya told us that they only want to live unharassed. It seems like a very modest claim indeed.
After the tour there is a brief closing talk and many of us retire to Mufaqarah to sit under the stars, have some dinner and discuss.
Social and informal organizing time for the resistance, after the visit to Susya.
Susya at sunset, showing about half the village.
“There is no security. There is no safety, for women, for children. We are stressed all the time.” – Resident and Spokesperson of Susya
-To be Continued-
1) The Israeli army has been known in the past for their deliberate policy of breaking civilian’s bones, especially during the siege and looting of Bethlehem.
2) Some things have not changed since the initial settlements, and I witnessed clear examples of this in Hebron. From my observations, settlers (especially younger ones) are allowed to assault people, while “authorities” watch and preventing the person being assaulted from fighting back during the assault. Witnessing and contemplating such extreme physical injustice is very frustrating. I can only imagine what it would be like to be attacked in such a way.