Activists march against planned demolition of West Bank village

Hundreds protest uprooting of 340 Palestinians in Sussiya, near Hebron; residents say state trying to make room for settlement

Palestinians, foreigners and Israeli peace activists demonstrate in the southern West Bank village of Sussiya against the demolition of the Palestinian village in the Hebron Hills, on June 5, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
Palestinians, foreigners and Israeli peace activists demonstrate in the southern West Bank village of Sussiya against the demolition of the Palestinian village in the Hebron Hills, on June 5, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

Hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians marched Friday in support of a West Bank village slated for demolition, a plan they said epitomizes the Israeli occupation.

The march in Sussiya, southeast of Hebron, took place on the anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Naksa ( or “setback”), a day commemorating the displacement of hundreds of thousands following Israel’s victory against Arab states in the 1967 Six Day War.

The village is located on Area C of the West Bank, an area under full Israeli civil and military control, meaning that while residents of Palestinian Sussiya claim ownership of the land, they often lack the needed Israeli permits to build or expand it.

Sussiya’s residents claim that Israel is trying to push them closer to the Palestinian Authority controlled Area B, making additional room for the nearby Jewish settlement of the same name.

Israel’s High Court ruled in May that Sussiya’s 340 residents could be relocated and its structures demolished, which Human Rights Watch derided as “a grave breach” of Israel’s obligations to the Palestinian populace under its military rule.

HRW said the villagers built the homes in 1986 on agricultural land they owned, after being evicted by Israel from their previous dwellings on land declared as an archeological site.

Authorities then argued that the new site was unsuitable for habitation due to its remote location, HRW said.

סיור "לוחמים לשלום" יצא בהצלחה לסולידריות עם הכפר סוסיא ולא ניתן כי יהרסו ויגרשו את תושביו. על המאבקשבת שלום! #Savesusiya

Posted by ‎שומרי משפט – רבנים למען זכויות אדם‎ on Friday, June 5, 2015

During the protest, members of Combatants for Peace, an NGO that brings together former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants to promote peace, held signs reading “There is another way.”

Dov Khenin, a Jewish member of parliament with the Joint (Arab) List, said no place was more suitable than Sussiya to mark the anniversary of the 1967 war.

“Sussiya tells the entire story in a nutshell,” he told marchers. “The residents are told ‘you’ve no place on the face of the earth.'”

The event was organized by Combatants for Peace activist Shai Eluk, 24, himself an ex-soldier who served in the area three years ago.

“The demonstration today was because of the recent court decision,” he told AFP. “The Palestinian members asked that the demonstration to mark 48 years of occupation take place in Sussiya.”

The pro-settlement NGO Regavim, which fights against illegal Palestinian and Israeli Arab construction in Israel, petitioned the High Court to force the state to carry out the demolition order.

Regavim defined the villagers as “residents living illegally on state land,” and criticized the efforts of Human Rights Watch and other NGOs for “attempting to undermine the Israeli legal system.”

The Israeli army has refused to say when it plans to demolish the village, but indicated it can legally do so at any time, in accordance with the court ruling.

Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures in the area. Amnesty International says only 76 were issued between 1996 and 1999.

And from 2000-2014, only 206 permits were issued, Israeli NGO Bimkom said.

In 2014, Israel granted a single building permit in the area, which covers more than 60 percent of the West Bank, according to the NGO.

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