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Rabbis defend Palestinians

Former Belvedere student and Magis Ireland volunteer Emmet Sheerin has sent possibly his last and certainly his most disturbing newsletter from the West Bank where he is working as an independent human rights observer on an Ecumencial Accompaniment project.

In it he speaks of the plight of villagers in yet another Palestinian village that the Israeli settlers are intent on destroying. Below is the summary he sent about what’s happening there.

SUMMARY OF EVENTS:

Generations of Palestinians have lived the village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills. Yet, this village, sandwiched between Israeli settlements, has been consistently denied building permits, basic infrastructure and has unjustly accrued dozens of demolition orders over the years for various structures in the community, as it is unrecognized by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA).

Many of these pending demolition orders were never executed, until a right wing, Israeli organization called Reqavim recently submitted a petition (HCJ Case 1556/12) to the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), requesting that all “illegal outposts” in the Palestinian village of Susiya be immediately destroyed by the ICA. 

Thus, on Wednesday, 13 June 2012, the ICA distributed three maps to the people of Susiya, identifying three areas within the village where demolitions will take place. There are a total of 51 structures located in these areas, which if demolished would forcibly displace 160 people.

The maps came with a letter that gave the community 3-days to file an objection. Upon request by Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), the ICA extended this deadline to Sunday, 24 June 2012. RHR will file an objection in due time, but expects the objection to be denied outright.

Thus, RHR is simultaneously using this extension to prepare a petition to freeze the demolition orders (also unlikely), and to finalize a proposed master plan for Susiya, which will be sent to the ICA for consideration. It is also unlikely that the ICA will approve the master plan for the community, but these procedures could possibly delay the demolitions for a few more months.

Unfortunately, legal means to prevent these demolitions are increasingly becoming exhausted, as the ICA seems determined to drive Palestinians out of Area C (62% of the West Bank) and into the Bantustans of Areas A & B. It seems as though the demolitions will be inevitable if challenged only in Israeli courts. 

The people of Susiya are calling for international assistance to increase media exposure about their case and to apply diplomatic pressure on the Government of Israel, both in an effort to stop these demolitions from happening.

Structures in Susiya that are threatened with demolitions include homes, animal shelters, water cisterns, a green energy electricity station, a school, health clinic and cultural center. 

INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW:

Article 23 of The Hague Convention of 1907 clearly states that, “it is especially forbidden (for the occupier) to destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.”

Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 states, “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

Photo: Israeli settler: Emmet Sheerin/ EAPPI