New demolition threat to Palestinian village

August 23, 2015

Palestinians in Susiya demonstrate in May against Israel’s plans to destroy the village. Photo: Sarah Levy/Electronic Intifada.

The Palestinian village of Susiya is at imminent risk of demolition. On May 5, Israel’s High Court of Justice refused to grant an interim order to freeze the demolition until the outcome of an appeal brought by villagers to prove the village’s legitimacy.

About 340 people live there, and face homelessness if their homes are demolished.

Located in the West Bank, Susiya was established in 1986, after residents were evicted from their original village nearby.

Since then, residents have faced severe restrictions. There are few essential services provided by the Israeli government. Structures in the village consist of tents and makeshift sheds.

The government says these structures are illegal, but residents say they have never been granted legal permits to build, despite repeatedly applying.

Rabbis for Human Rights said the demolition of the village is “part of a larger initiative to squeeze Palestinians out of Area C and into areas A and B” in the occupied West Bank. Area C is under full Israeli control.

The right-wing Israeli settler movement is also pushing for the demolition. Israeli pro-settler group Regavim has been lobbying the Supreme Court and the government to approve the village’s removal.

A nearby Israeli settlement — illegal under international law — is not under threat of removal. It is suspected the demolition of Susiya is designed to make way for this settlement to expand.

The demolition of Palestinian housing happens frequently in the West Bank. More than 500 structures have already been destroyed this year.

An international campaign has begun to fight the demolition, which could be carried out at any time. In July, delegates from the European Union visited Susiya and demanded Israel not implement the eviction orders.

The Australian government has also been forced to respond. The ABC's 7.30 reported on July 30 that Australian aid money, administered through a program run by international aid group ActionAid, was used to build the village’s small clinic and kindergarten.

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network and ActionAid have launched a petition asking Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to call on Israel to halt the demolition.

Bishop was reported as saying she had asked for “both sides to exercise restraint and not to undertake any activities which would undermine a return to peace negotiations”.

Greens foreign affairs spokesperson Scott Ludlam said: “The proposed destruction of this village is unjustifiable. A US State Department Spokesperson has declared the proposed demolition 'harmful and provocative'.

“The UK consul-general in Jerusalem has pointed out that such evictions are 'in all but the most limited circumstances contrary to international humanitarian law'. It is time that the Australian Government added its voice.”

An appeal hearing was scheduled for August 3, but was postponed. Instead, residents of Susiya met with Israeli officials on August 11 where they again put the case for the village to be given approval and the people allowed to stay on their land.

[Sign the petition to Julie Bishop.]

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