With Israel trying to prove itself open to the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians, the State Department today warned that it would be a “provocation” to send the Israeli military into the West Bank Palestinian town of Susya and bulldoze it to the ground, despite an Israeli High Court ruling approving that action.
Susya, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, has already been demolished 4 times in the past 35 years, and is adjacent to the site of an Israeli settlement. With the settlers regularly attacking the Palestinian residents, the Israeli military has often been called in to tear down the Arab homes and expel them all.
Which they do, but the Palestinians come back. They don’t really have a choice from a legal perspective: the Palestinians are refused Israeli permits to use their own land, but if they don’t use the land, the Israelis can declare it “abandoned” and seize the property outright. Instead, they just keep demolishing the village and chasing everyone away for building without the permits they aren’t able to obtain.
The Susya problem is well known in the Arab world, particularly among Palestinian leaders, and has become in many peoples’ eyes the prototypical case of the unfairness and brutality of the Israeli occupation. The Palestinians were chased out of their village, so they lived in tents and collected rainwater in cisterns, so the tents were demolished and the military blew up the cisterns. They are denied the use of land that even Israel recognizes is theirs for no real reason, and are regularly attacked by the settlers and the military.
In 2013, the Israeli High Cort once again affirmed that the Palestinians legally owned the land in Susya, including land seized into Mitzpe Yair, an Israeli settlement that even the Israelis view as illegal. Despite this, the court urged them to simply relinquish that ownership, saying there was no way they would be allowed legal use of the land they legally own. In May, the High Court again declared Susya an “illegal” Palestinian village, despite being built on land legally owned by the Palestinians, and authorized the military to destroy it yet again, and to expel the 450 residents.
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