Ehud Krinis, David Shulman and Neve Gordon: The Palestinians from the South Hebron hills need your help





While all eyes are on the crisis in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians who live in Susya, in the hills to the south of Hebron, are in imminent danger of being expelled from their homes. They are surely not the only ones who might be evicted from their ancestral lands in the upcoming months -- the inhabitants of the small village Nuaman just south of Jerusalem, for example, are also under imminent threat -- but they are among the most vulnerable people living under Israeli military rule in the West Bank.

The inhabitants of Susya have already experienced the harsh sword of expulsion. About two decades ago, over a dozen families were driven from their homes so that Israel could establish an archaeological park on their land. Shortly before their expulsion, a Jewish settlement, also called Susya, was set up nearby also on lands taken from these same Palestinians. Several Palestinian families were thus forced to leave the area, while those that remained are presently living in ramshackle huts and tents on a small rocky hill between the archaeological park and the Israeli settlement.

For years, however, they have been living in constant jeopardy. The settlers and the soldiers regularly terrorize them, often severely beating them, sometimes shooting at them, and preventing them from accessing their fields or even the water wells they depend on for survival in this arid region. Moreover, the so-called Civil Administration­that is, the Israeli occupation authority­has, in the past, issued demolition orders against all their modest homes and dwellings.

It is quite amazing that even though some of Susya’s residents have been expelled by the military and the settlers several times, they have always managed to return to their lands. They continue to eke out a frugal living from their herds of goats and sheep and by farming the few fields that have been left to them.

For some years, these Palestinian residents alongside the joint Israeli-Palestinian group Ta'ayush and international groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove have been waging a political battle to keep the Palestinian residents of Susya in their present homes. These struggles include petitions to the Israeli courts. Unfortunately, a few days ago the Supreme Court threw out an appeal against the demolition orders on technical, bureaucratic grounds. Consequently, within a month the homes of the Susya’s Palestinian residents can be legally demolished.

Those who know the reality in the territories know that it is almost impossible for Palestinians to get building permits, and casuistic arguments like those brought against our friends from Susya are regularly used to further a policy of violent expulsion. We are, however, continuing to fight this battle in the courts, and we are in the process of submitting new applications for permits. So long as we can keep the legal process alive, we gain precious time. If we fail, Susya will be destroyed­and with it, perhaps, a series of other small Palestinian villages in this area. The Palestinian inhabitants of Susya will become refugees.

The situation is dire, and the threat of expulsion immediate. To fight it, we are incurring significant legal expenses. In the short term we will need approximately $10,000 simply to defray the lawyers' costs. Ta'ayush is an organization of volunteers and has no resources of its own. We call upon you to help us to save an innocent civilian population that is about to fall victim to the concerted effort of the Israeli authorities to exile them from their lands and homes.

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