Israel: Stop Demolishing Palestinian Homes

Three years ago, I walked through the ruins of Palestinian homes on a mountain top in the occupied West Bank. The shepherds and olive farmers were expelled in 1967, forbidden from returning, and the land was designated a “closed military site.” A sign in Hebrew casually marked their dispossession. Now, trailers of Israeli settlers dot the hill. But this type of displacement and resettlement isn’t the past; it’s happening right now all throughout the West Bank.

Like the relics of the Palestinian village I visited three years ago, a similar expulsion was approved for the Palestinian village of Susya last week. On Thursday, February 1st, the Israeli High Court ruled that the homes of over 40 people will be immediately demolished.

The people of Susya have already been through hell: in 1986, Israeli surveyors declared their wells, caves, and prayer space “a closed archeological site,” built a fence around it, bulldozed their homes, and told them to move to Yatta, a town several kilometers away. The residents of Susya refused. Since then, their water cisterns have been filled with gravel and their children have been attacked by nearby settlers. Additionally, homes and other structures in Susya are demolished every few years.

For the past few years the right-wing Israeli organization Regavim and its U.S. funders, such as the Central Fund of Israel, have made it their mission to demolish Susya and other, similar villages in order to expand Israeli settlements in the South Hebron Hills and elsewhere.

Since 2016, we have been campaigning to stop the demolitions of Palestinian villages in Area C of the West Bank, as part of our Stop Demolitions Build Peace campaign. Students on campus are astounded by the videos and photos we show them of families who have not been allowed in their homes for years. Area C is currently under full Israeli military and civil control, and is the site of much of the rapidly growing settlement enterprise. The demolitions of Susya and Palestinian villages like it make way for Israeli settlements to expand into the recently emptied land, a tactic of the Israeli far-right’s long-term agenda to annex the West Bank, in order to ensure a “Greater Israel.” This is a strategy known as “creeping annexation.”

Susya is not nearly the only village under threat of demolition. Just over the weekend, two elementary school classrooms were demolished in the village of Abu Nuwar. This is not 1948; this is not 1967; this is 2018. Pro-Israel, pro-peace, anti-occupation Americans must act now to make our voices heard: we will not stand for demolition. The possibility of a peaceful, sustainable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is quickly slipping away.

We are calling on our community at IU and all over Indiana to speak out against Susya’s demolitions along with demolition threats facing other Palestinian villages. We are calling on our elected officials, leaders in the Jewish community, and everyday individuals to speak out. We need all pro-Israel, pro-peace, anti-occupation Americans to raise their voices in support of Susya. We must do everything we can to help stop this destructive pattern – while we still can.