Facebook Twitter YouTube SoundCloud RSS

NAKBA 2017: The Never-Ending Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Susiya village, overlooking neighbouring mountains in South Khalil. (Photo: Robert Inlakesh)

Robert Inlakesh
21st Century Wire

Susiya is a Palestinian village located in the Southern hills of Hebron (al-Khalil). This village has borne witness to infinite cruelty from the illegal state of Israel and endured a long history of harassment, destruction and ethnic cleansing. The current situation, unfortunately, is a repeat of the past and because corporate media has paid no attention to this important issue, I decided to visit the village to find out, first hand, what was going on.

In 1983 Israeli occupation forces made way for their illegal settlement in this region, which now belongs to the council of Har Hevron. Three years later in 1986 the Israeli army then made the decision to destroy the original village forcing the locals from their homes and to a nearby site further alongside the mountain. Since Susiya is in ‘area C’ of the West Bank – an area which takes up 60% of the West Bank and is completely under illegal Israeli military occupation, without the presence of the Palestinian Authority – it is required to produce permits for any structures built by and for its residents. Between the years 1993 and 2001 Susiya faced 6 demolitions, again facing significant demolitions in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Notably the Israeli settlements built in former Susiya, house over one thousand Jewish Israeli citizens that out-number the small Palestinian population that have chosen to remain at the site of their historical homestead. This population is an estimated 350 Palestinians. Now after pressure from an Israeli Settler group called Regavim, Susiya is living under the threat of annihilation again.

Israel’s ‘Defense Minister‘ Avigdor Lieberman, announced in confidence earlier this month, his government’s intention to commit a war crime against Palestinian villages within the West Bank. Lieberman’s announcement voiced the Zionist government’s plans to completely demolish Susiya village. Lieberman also outlined the way in which Israel would embed their colonialist flag deeper into the turf of the West Bank, through the forced expulsion of all those living in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.

Khan al-Ahmar is set to be ethnically cleansed within the next few months, this decision is all but set in stone by the Zionist government. This ethnic cleansing pogrom is justified by describing residents as Bedouins rather than indigenous peoples. The move by the Israeli government has been condemned by human rights organizations such as B’Tselem and is said to “constitute a war crime”.

Khan Al Ahmar residents face certain expulsion. Their case does not have a chance in an Israeli court and final resolution has been pre-determined by Avigdor Lieberman. The Israeli government have been justifying the destruction of Bedouin villages – primarily in the Jordan Valley, claiming they are illegitimate and under Israeli military law in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, these villagers must gain a permit to exist. The hope for Khan al-Ahmar has all but died, yet Susiya is currently in a different predicament.

The case of Susiya is not yet over, there is still an ongoing legal struggle being pursued in order to prevent the Israeli government from bulldozing what remains of the village and this has been picked up by a small number of human rights organizations.

Tents set to be demolished in Susiya village. (Photo: Robert Inlakesh)

Being made aware of the situation that Susiya faces, I decided to visit and gather what information I could regarding the future planned for this small and purposefully isolated village.

When travelling from any area to another in the West Bank, you have to pass through various roadblocks and checkpoints to do so. After making my way from central Hebron (al-Khalil) to a village nearby through catching a bus and getting driven by a local in their car, only to trek the last two and a half hours on foot – due to Israeli forces blocking the road with large jagged rocks, in order to prevent Palestinians from pursuing their journey by car – I reached the small village of Susiya.

The journey was long and tiring, having been forced to walk the last leg of the journey, adding hours to an already lengthy trip. A painful reminder of what Palestinians have endured for decades.  I was confronted by armed Israeli soldiers at two separate guard towers I passed. Without hesitation they trained their rifles on me and monitored me until my arrival at Susiya village.

I arrived to a scene that swept me with a great tidal wave of depression. As I journeyed up the hill to where everyone was situated, people began to emerge from their tents to greet me and invited me in to eat with them. Despite the fact that these people live in caves and tents, are persistently harassed and face a future of despair, their attitude warms the heart. I was truly amazed by the courtesy and genuine hospitality I experienced despite being someone they have never seen with limited Arabic.  I was also profoundly touched by their passion for their village and their right to stay on this land.

I eventually got speaking to a man named Nasser Nawaga who told me:

“The Israeli soldiers routinely come and harass us (villagers), they check our cars and confiscate our belongings… life here is very difficult”.

Nawaga explained the history of Susiya and how he and his family are routinely harassed by the IOF and Jewish fundamentalist settlers, primarily from New York. These extremists act out their brutal ideological racism and consciously choose to live in an illegal settlement, knowing that they are there to help the Israeli government seize control of more Palestinian land.

Israel’s strategy of isolating villages and getting their way by keeping each community distracted.

The key impressions I took from my visit to the village, was the fact that Israel had gone to such lengths to completely isolate Susiya from not only the main city of Hebron, but also from all surrounding villages. It is evident to anyone that will visit Susiya, that it is particularly difficult to get to.  It is an arduous journey (from the Palestinian side). Israel also have set up multiple gun towers surrounding the site and placed soldiers on duty there that are quick to threaten you with automatic weapons for trekking in the direction of the village.

It occurred to me on my way to Susiya, that Israel has employed a policy of isolation in order to achieve its clandestine destruction, which can be be shown through the latest destruction of al-Araqib.

This systematic campaign of isolation ensures that each village turns in on itself and is too focused on its own issues to be concerned by the larger Israeli trickle ethnic cleansing project that is being implemented across all villages in the occupied territories. Israel understands well that when you are being routinely harassed, your property is being confiscated and you are trapped in an asymmetric legal process, you are too “occupied” to attend to the overarching agenda.

The Israeli government planted their settlers to help completely ethnically cleanse the West Bank slowly and the evidence from Susiya clearly illustrates how they are doing it.

Along with a concerted effort by the Zionist government to ethnically cleanse villages such as Susiya, there is also a radical & extreme apartheid movement from within the settlements themselves. Many Jewish settlers have formed far-right racist gangs and terrorist organisations such as ‘the hilltop youth’ who in July 2015 burned to death 3 members of the Dawabsheh family including an 18-month old baby. The settler groups were created in order to expel the Palestinian population through physical violence and harassment. The court system also works in their favour and facilitates their colonial project.

The villagers of Susiya are currently facing the wrath of a settler organization called Regavim. Regavim was founded in 2006 by Yehuda Eliahu.  Regavim claim to be a ‘non-governmental organization’ (NGO), yet are partially subsidized by local Israeli authorities. They work with clearly stated illegal political agenda – their aim is to completely cleanse and destroy Palestinian villages in order to make way for Jewish only settlements. De facto they work in lock-step with the Zionist state.

Susiya Israeli settlement from ground level. (Photo: Robert Inlakesh)

Regavim were also caught spying on human rights NGO’s and activists as exposed by Haaretz Newspaper in 2016.

When I was visiting Susiya, the settler organization (Regavim) had sent over a drone to scout out and document the activities of the village residents.

Regavim perform these drone flyovers in the hope of finding any new constructs or land cultivation so that they can submit this to the courts, which would then issue a demolition order. Drones are commonly used by Revagim and have been used also in places such as Um al- Khair. It was Regavim that motivated the Israeli government to participate in court proceedings to fast-track the latest case for demolition of Susiya. 

The people of Susiya are forced to go through these long, draining court battles in order to get permits for tents they construct or for agricultural land cultivation.

Despite the fact that under international law the settlements are completely illegal, the village is deemed an “illegal Arab outpost” by the Zionist government and the “master plan” for Susiya submitted in 2014 was rejected.

Susiya’s Current Legal Situation

During my visit to Susiya I obtained the contact details of Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, the attorney representing legal cases for Susiya. I called Assad and she informed me that the next court hearing had been postponed until early November. She also told me that she has not yet received official clarification of the legal basis for the case.

Regardless of the court outcome, Avigdor Lieberman has undeniably made the decision to completely demolish the village.

Susiya illegal Israeli settlement taken from nearby hills in South Hebron. (Photo: Robert Inlakesh)

Due to Mishirqi-Assad’s [MA] legal representation of Susiya, they have successfully postponed court hearings twenty times. They have secured a minimum 14 day notice period for the 20% of structures that are not considered as inhabitable buildings of any sort. Without this notice period, Israel would be able to bulldoze these structures without any prior warning.  The remaining 80% of Susiya’s structures are better protected by a minimum 40 day notice period.

A cursory plan was drawn up by the Israeli administration regarding the relocation of the displaced residents of Susiya. It was proposed that they will have to be located close to an Israeli military base in the surrounding area. MA quipped:

“…they (the Israelis) don’t give any specifics, they just say that it will be somewhere around this or that area… this prevents us from going through the legal process to build there”.

Israel is working for complete ethnic cleansing and cases like that of Susiya clearly illustrate this.

Susiya matters and should be highlighted because it exposes Israeli policy in the West Bank for what it is. The goal for the illegal state of Israel is not peace with Palestine or recognition of the State of Palestine. The Zionist policy is one of methodical and systematic ethnic cleansing, a policy that began with the Nakba in 1948 and has continued until today. A policy that is not admitted or confronted by the international community.

According to Israeli Human Rights Group ‘B’Tselem’, the Israeli government is evidently committing a “war crime”, further stating to the Israeli government:

“We call on you to refrain from the human rights violations that will result from demolishing these communities. We caution, yet again, that these actions would constitute a war crime committed at your instruction and under your responsibility, and for which you would bear personal liability”.

What is happening in Susiya has happened before and will continue to happen unless we address this issue on a global stage with the clear intention  of bringing the Zionist entity to justice for its rapacious domestic policy with regards to the treatment of the people whose land it has appropriated illegally and whose people it has murdered or driven from their homes and condemned to diaspora for an eternity.

View of Susiya, looking upwards to village structures. (Photo: Robert Inlakesh)


Cover image is by Ezz al Zanoon, Gaza. 

READ MORE PALESTINE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Palestine Files




Get Your Copy of New Dawn Magazine #203 - Mar-Apr Issue
Get Your Copy of New Dawn Magazine #203 - Mar-Apr Issue
Surfshark - Winter VPN Deal