50 demolition orders for south Hebron hills 19Jun12 June 19, 2012

Alternative Information Centre  -  18 June 2012

The same story continues: displacement, gross violations of human rights and the cruelty of racial discrimination.

On the edge of the desert in the southern West Bank, where Israel commenced a continuous process of displacing the Palestinians many years ago, this same process continues today, even stronger than ever. As you drive along the highway to the southern West Bank, you notice many of the manifestations of this policy: modern houses and infrastructure in the Israeli settlements and in the same area, the impoverished and marginalized Palestinian villages with tattered infrastructures and no water. Palestinian land owners here, who once again face internal displacement, have also seen the area’s settlements built on the ruins of their homes and fields. Settlers in the south Hebron hills are notorious for their violence and attacks against Palestinians, which often happen right under the nose and in many cases with the indirect and direct cooperation and participation of Israeli soldiers.

A week ago, dozens of Israeli soldiers and civil administration officials raided the South Hebron Hills village of Susiya, delivering 43 demolition orders for homes, animal shelters, a school, medical clinic and kindergarten.

Through these orders, all residents of Susiya are threatened with displacement; some Susiya residents were already displaced from their homes to the east of the village in 2001.

Local interpretation of this Israeli policy is not difficult to understand. Azzam Joseph Noadjah, 50, summed it up by saying  “as you can see, to the west of the village is a settlement  and to the east is another settlement. They want to deport us  from our village in order to unite the settlements here and confiscate additional land.”

President of the Susiya Charitable Society, Mohamed Jawaj’a, told the AIC that  “If this decision is implemented, the region will be completely emptied out of Palestinians for the development of the settlement movement. Two hundred people will be without homes. As people who make our living from agriculture and livestock, our fate will be destitution from this new displacement.” 

In the past, Palestinians living near an Israeli-defined “archaeological” site, Al Khirba, were expelled for the sake of preservation and history. However, following displacement of the Palestinians, a family of settlers moved into the site and a settlement soon evolved in the area.  This is indicative of the extent of discrimination practiced by the occupation authorities. Forbidden to Palestinians, but permitted for settlers. This example clearly highlights how law is adapted to facilitate the settlement movement and perpetuate the occupation.

Last week when my colleague Sergio Yahni and I visited Susiya, we went back in time twelve years, to when the AIC began highlighting the plight of this area in 1999. We collaborated with numerous Palestinian institutions and with then Mayor of Yatta, Abu Jamal, now passed away. We worked with so many local and international activists to raise the seriousness of Israeli policy in this region.

During our visit two facts were clear: rapidly growing settlements with beautiful gardens and close by, the Palestinian landowners living in miserly, deprivation and displacement. The Israeli system of racial discrimination is uniquely and distinctively cruel in the South Hebron Hills area.

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