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Thursday, 23 July 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation


A homeless man sleeps beside a wall covered with movie posters in Los Angeles [photo: Frederic J. Brown]: image via AFP Photo Department @AFPphoto, 21 July 2015

The sun sets behind the minaret of a mosque in Ramallah on 16 July, marking the end of the last fasting day of Ramadan: photo by Nasser Nasser/AP,  16 July 2015

Holiday on the West Bank: House Raid

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Israeli army kills Palestinian man while trying to arrest his son #West Bank: image via Middle East Monitor @MiddleEastMnt, 23 July 2015

Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian in West Bank: Palestinian doctor in Hebron identifies man who died in house raid, in which two others were injured, as Falah Abu Maria: Reuters in Ramallah, Thursday 23 July 2015

Israeli soldiers have killed a Palestinian and wounded two others during a raid on a house in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian medical officials.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers were attacked while trying to arrest a suspect in the village of Beit Ummar and opened fire on the main attacker.

As the forces left the scene, the spokeswoman said, they were attacked once more, with rocks and bricks, and “responded to the assaults with fire towards the main instigator”.

A Palestinian doctor in a Hebron hospital said a 52-year-old man had been shot and killed and two of his sons were injured. The doctor identified the man as Falah Abu Maria.

Yusuf Abu Maria, an anti-Israeli settlement activist in the town, said there had not been any clashes and that the shooting had taken place inside a house.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian was killed in a separate arrest raid when clashes erupted with residents.

Israeli troops enter Palestinian-controlled territory frequently to detain people suspected of militant activity. Palestinians condemn this practice as an encroachment on the limited self-rule they hold in parts of the West Bank.

23 July Dozens of Palestinians in the #WestBank  city of al-#khalll participate in the funeral of martyr Falah Abu Maria, 52: image via Al Qassam Brigades @qassamsms, 23 July 2015

Israeli forces kill Palestinian Falah Hamdi Abu Maria in the town of Beit Ummar in the West Bank while trying to arrest his son: Middle East Monitor, 23 July 2015

The Israeli army on Thursday killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank while trying to arrest his son.

Witnesses told Anadolu Agency that Israeli forces killed Falah Hamdi Abu Maria in the town of Beit Ummar.

Medical reports said he was shot in the chest.

"Dozens of Palestinians have begun arriving at Abu Maria's house, amid anger in the town," witnesses added.

On Wednesday, Israeli military forces killed a young Palestinian man in the northern West Bank.

More than 20 Palestinians have been killed and another 2,156 have been detained by the Israeli military in 2015, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said in a report issued earlier this month.

23 July Dozens of Palestinians in the #WestBank  city of al-#khalll participate in the funeral of martyr Falah Abu Maria, 52: image via Al Qassam Brigades @qassamsms, 23 July 2015

23 July Dozens of Palestinians in the #WestBank  city of al-#khalll participate in the funeral of martyr Falah Abu Maria, 52: image via Al Qassam Brigades @qassamsms, 23 July 2015

Holiday in Gaza

A Palestinian man takes a picture of his daughter at sunset at the sea port in Gaza City [photo: Mohamed Abed]:  image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 22 July 2015 

 A man hangs ears of corn out to dry before selling them on the beach in #Gaza. Photo by #MohammedAbed #AFPphoto: image via Catherine Weibel @Catherine Weibel, 18 May 2015

 #Gaza City - Palestinians in rubble of buildings destroyed during the 50-day war. By Mohammed Abed #AFP: image by AFP Photo Department @AFPphoto, 22 July 2015

 #Gaza City - Palestinians in rubble of buildings destroyed during the 50-day war. By Mohammed Abed #AFP: image by AFP Photo Department @AFPphoto, 22 July 2015

 #Gaza City - Palestinians in rubble of buildings destroyed during the 50-day war. By Mohammed Abed #AFP: image by AFP Photo Department @AFPphoto, 22 July 2015

A Palestinian street vendor carries balloons on a street in #Gaza City. #MohammedAbed #AFPphoto: image via UNICEFpalestine @UNICEFpalestine, 18 May 2015

Palestinian children pose for picture on a makeshift boat at the port of #Gaza City. #MohammedAbed #AFPphoto: image via UNICEFpalestine @UNICEFpalestine, 20 May 2015

  Un petit garçon regarde une lampe de #Ramadan sur un marché de #Gaza City. Photo by #MohammedAbed #AFPphoto RamadanKarim!: image via Catherine Weibel @Catherine Weibel, 18 June 2015

Holiday on the West Bank: Don't Level My Village

  • We ain't going anywhere sweetie @YDan10 @purplhaze42 @canarymission @charlesfrith @umm_hashim @avibono: image via Shim Rational @shimrational, 30 May 2015

    More than 900 Israeli settlement housing units approved #West Bank: image via Middle East Monitor @MiddleEastMnt, 23 July 2015

[Middle East Monitor:] 651k Israeli settlers live in 185 illegal settlements and 220 unauthorised locations in #WestBank and Jerusalem at the start of 2015: image via Palestine @ops_pal, 18 July 2015
US, EU take strong stand against Israeli demolition plan: Akiva Eldar, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, 20 July 2015
The timing of the announcement by US State Department spokesman John Kirby regarding the Barack Obama administration’s position on the small Palestinian village of Susiya was no less important than its content. Kirby made the statement July 16, as the administration was going out of its way to douse the flames in US-Israeli relations following the signing of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

While world opinion speculated about the effect of the Iran agreement on US-Israeli relations, Kirby arrived for his briefing armed with a stern declaration about the potentially far-reaching implications of the planned demolitions in Susiya in the Judean Mountains south of Hebron.

Kirby made clear that the consequences of Israel's harassment of Susiya residents would extend beyond the demolitions’ impact on the villagers and their families. He noted that the planned expulsions and land appropriations in Susiya were particularly glaring given the settlement activity in that same region. Several hours beforehand, Dorothy Shea, acting US consul general in Jerusalem, had used similar language. She, too, urged Israeli authorities to abstain from demolishing the homes in the village. These sharp public pronouncements thus turned the Susiya affair into the first test of Israeli foreign relations in the post-Iran nuclear crisis era.

According to information acquired by human rights organizations in Israel and the territories, the Israeli civil administration did not wait until the end of the month of Ramadan to hand out demolition orders for 37 structures. It intends to carry out the orders before Aug. 3, the date set for the Supreme Court to hear an appeal submitted by the Palestinians and these organizations.

European capitals are also eyeing with concern the bulldozers parked outside the tiny village, whose residents have the dubious distinction of living in a region of the West Bank known as Area C. The Oslo Accord divided the West Bank into three zones -- A, B and C -- with Area C under complete Israeli control.

A Palestinian man, Jihad Nuwaja, stands next to a tent in Susiya village, south of the West Bank city of Hebron: photo by Mussa Qawasma/Reuters, 20 June 2015

On June 29, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, said the EU’s humanitarian affairs agency had reported that every month, Israel destroys five to seven projects that the union funds in Area C. “We’re talking about European taxpayer money,” the envoy said at a conference on Susiya held by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The ambassador stressed that European aid does not free Israel of its responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure a reasonable quality of life for the Palestinian population under its control. He noted that Area C constitutes some 60% of the West Bank and, therefore, is a key to the establishment of a future Palestinian state.

According to EU data, said Faaborg-Andersen, recent years have brought an increase in the number of demolitions in the region (in addition to extensive demolitions in Bedouin villages in Israel). He explained that this stems from the minute number of building permits Israel grants the residents of Palestinian villages throughout Area C.
“If people knew where they could build,” Faaborg-Andersen said, “it would prevent construction without permits and demolition orders.” He added that Yoav “Poli” Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories, shares the view that the appropriate way to overcome the problem is to prepare an Israeli-Palestinian master plan that would enable the Palestinians to build in a legal and orderly manner.

“Unfortunately,” Faaborg-Andersen remarked, “the master plan process has been taken hostage by other events that have been going on between Israel and the Palestinians,” such as complaints against Israel lodged by the Palestinian leadership with international organizations. Like the American speakers, Faaborg-Andersen did not forget to mention that even as Palestinian homes are being destroyed, the settlements are taking over more and more land for construction and security needs.

One can assume that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not keen to see footage of bulldozers destroying the homes of indigent Palestinians on television screens worldwide, bumping reports on the condition of human rights in Iran. Even if the prime minister could be persuaded that he should seek a way out of this affair, he could expect a fair number of obstacles along the way.

A Palestinian woman holds a Palestinian flag in the West Bank village of Susiya: photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters, 24 June 2012

On the one hand, the international community is pressing him to stop the bulldozers. On the other, Netanyahu is being held hostage by the settlers and their representatives in the leadership of the Likud and HaBayit HaYehudi parties. They will not leave him alone until he wipes out the village stuck in the craw of the settlers of the south Hebron Hills. Yisrael Beitenu, the right-wing opposition party led by former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, would have a field day were Netanyahu to surrender to the left.

This equation is missing an important element -- the Israeli left-wing opposition. The Zionist Camp has once again left the Meretz Party to face the right alone. The silence of the main opposition party on the Susiya affair can be added to the absence of its members from the vote on force feeding hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners held on security-related offenses, its vote in favor of the nationality bill that tears apart Palestinian families, its support for thwarting peace activists’ Marianne flotilla to Gaza and its competition with Netanyahu to slam the Iran agreement.

This time as well, Meretz was the sole Zionist party to rush to the defense of the downtrodden. This time, too, a handful of Israeli peace activists -- led by members of the organizations Ta’ayush (Living Together, in Arabic), B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights -- are standing by the weakest group among the occupied Palestinian population. A chosen few among them, like professor David Shulman, serve as voices delivering the shepherds’ and farmers’ messages to air-conditioned administrative offices in Washington and at European Union headquarters in Brussels.

In his book Dark Hope: Journal of a Ta'ayush Activist, Shulman, a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and recipient of the prestigious Emet Prize, writes about how he and his friends collected poison pellets that the settlers had scattered to kill the Palestinian residents’ goats and sheep, planted olive trees to replace the ones uprooted by settlers, helped a farmer cross the few yards to his well and provided blankets for uprooted Palestinian cave dwellers.

“Two relentless national movements are engaged in a conflict, street to street, house to house,” Shulman wrote. “One side is infinitely stronger than the other, but not more magnanimous. It abuses its power over and over -- the tremendous machine of a state and army and judiciary -- in order to disown, threaten, expropriate, control, destroy.”

The well-oiled mechanism of the major powers proved in reaching an agreement with Iran in Vienna on July 14 that it can use its power to achieve compromise, to bridge, to rehabilitate and to build. Now this mechanism is free to focus on dismantling the ticking time bomb on the heights of the Hebron Hills.

[Middle East Monitor:] 651k Israeli settlers live in 185 illegal settlements and 220 unauthorised locations in #WestBank and Jerusalem at the start of 2015: image via Palestine @ops_pal, 18 July 2015

West Bank villagers deliver final plea to save homes from destruction: Shlomi Eldar, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, 20 July 2015

On July 12, the residents of the Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya, located in the Mount Hebron area of the West Bank, had a meeting with Gen. Yoav (“Polly”) Mordechai, the commander of the Israeli military's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit. It was only then that they discovered that at the beginning of August, the Civil Administration, which administers civilian activity in the West Bank on behalf of the Israeli government, plans to demolish half of the structures in the village.

If this happens, the curtain will fall on the legal battle they have been waging against the state for more than 20 years, ever since they were expelled from the caves where they had previously lived and which were designated a national park. After their expulsion, they set up several temporary structures on farmland they cultivated while they were living in the caves. According to the state, these structures are illegal. Israel plans to relocate the residents of Khirbet Susiya to Area A in the environs of the village of Yatta. Khirbet Susiya is located in Area C. Under the 1993 Oslo Accord, Area C is under full Israeli control, while Area A is under full Palestinian civil and security control.

Some 350 people currently live in Khirbet Susiya, half of whom are under 18. Located nearby is the Jewish settlement of Susiya that was established in 1983. Some of the residents of the Palestinian village who used to live there had given up because of the harsh conditions and unending legal battles. Instead, they moved to the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

“One day, in 1986, we were notified that we had to leave our village and go somewhere else. We were never given the opportunity to protest and no alternative location was offered. I was a child back then and I remember the trauma,” Salah Nawajeh, a resident of Khirbet Susiya, told Al-Monitor. “We were given a couple of days. Then the military showed up, put up fences and we were barred from going in. This was our land, our life, our homes. We were told that that was an archaeological site and that from that moment on it would be run by the settlers. But we came [to the cave village] because we were banished from our first natural territory.”

Salah’s father, Muhammad Nawajeh, told Al-Monitor, “We used to live in the area of Tel Arad [in the eastern part of the Negev Desert]. We had been there all our lives, since the times of the Ottomans and the British. We stayed there even after [Israel’s 1948 War of Independence]. In 1952 we were banished for the first time and then we built our village in Susiya. We dug caves and water wells. In 1986 we were expelled from there, too. Now we are being banished for the third time. I’m already 70. I’m old and tired. I was born before Israel was founded on this land, and this is where I want to die. All I can remember from the Jews is banishments.”

  • Don’t destroy #WestBank village: EU to Israel: image via Press TV @PressTV, 21 July 2015

The residents of Khirbet Susiya claim that for years their requests for construction permits were denied. Two years ago, they submitted to the Civil Administration a zoning blueprint they had prepared with the hope that the living structures they had built would be legalized. However, the Civil Administration rejected the plan, arguing that it did not meet the basic standards of living. With the help of the organization Rabbis for Human Rights, the residents filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against the rejection of the blueprint. Concurrently, they requested that the demolition orders be stayed pending the court hearing. In May of this year, Justice Noam Solberg turned down their petition. In the wake of the ruling, the residents have been looking for a new avenue for their struggle: international pressure.

In fact, already in 1986, in a bid to dissuade Israel from uprooting them from their land, the residents of Khirbet Susiya turned to the US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Pickering, asking that he intervene on their behalf. Pickering, they say, pledged to assist them, but two weeks later the area where they had been living was fenced off with barbwire. Now they have approached the US Embassy once again, asking that it pressure Israel not to demolish the village. It appears that their efforts have not been unsuccessful.

“An assistant and an attache from the embassy came to see us,” Salah said. “We explained to them about our legal battles against the State of Israel for the past 20 years and how everything works here in Susiya, with pressure brought to bear by the settlers. I told [the Americans] that in 1986 the ambassador promised that we would not be banished, but he didn’t keep his word. That’s why I asked that they not let us down again. Our fate, our lives are in their hands. If the Americans don’t exert pressure on the Israeli government, we, the residents of the village who have been living here for centuries, will be expelled again. This will be a blot on everyone’s reputation for generations to come.”

Recently, the Civil Administration has started promoting the demolition of the structures, submitting to representatives of the residents a list of the structures slated for demolition. As noted, the residents of Khirbet Susiya claim that the Civil Administration is being pressured by the settlers  and that they heard things in this vein during their meeting with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. In response to this allegation, the Civil Administration says that Mordechai, on his own initiative, invited representatives from the village and their attorneys to find alternative solutions in keeping with planning considerations.

Presently, the residents of Khirbet Susiya refuse to accept the proposed solutions, claiming that the land has been theirs for many generations.

“We turned to whoever we could,” Salah said. ‘We used the Americans and the Europeans and even the Palestinian Authority. If the houses are demolished, we will turn to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. If Israel talks about coexistence and peace, it’s time to show it and not act because of pressure from the settlers. They have brought calamity on us ever since they arrived here and took over our lands. It was only a week ago that they uprooted four old olive trees, and they keep stopping us from working our land. That’s the reality of things and this is what we’re fighting against.”

[Middle East Monitor:] 651k Israeli settlers live in 185 illegal settlements and 220 unauthorised locations in #WestBank and Jerusalem at the start of 2015: image via Palestine @ops_pal, 18 July 2015

Israel, Don't Level My Village; Nasser Nawaja in Susiya, West Bank for New York Times, 23 July 2015
In 1948, as Israeli forces closed in on his village of Qaryatayn, my grandfather carried my father in his arms to Susiya, about five miles north, in the South Hebron Hills area.
“We will go back home soon,” my grandfather told my father.

They did not. Qaryatayn was destroyed, along with about 40 other Palestinian villages that were razed between 1948 and the mid-1950s. My family rebuilt their lives in Susiya, across the 1949 armistice line in the West Bank.

In 1986, my family was expelled from our home once again -- not because of war, but because the occupying Israeli authorities decided to create an archaeological and tourist site around the remains of an ancient synagogue in Susiya. (A structure next to the abandoned temple was used as a mosque from about the 10th century.) This time, it was my father who took me in his arms as the soldiers drew near.

“We will return soon,” he said.

We did not. Without compensation, we were forced to rebuild Susiya nearby on what was left of our agricultural lands.

A Palestinian child runs in the village of Susiya on the West Bank: photo by Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times 23 July 2015

If, in the coming weeks, the Israeli government carries out demolition orders served on some 340 residents of Susiya, I will be forced to take my children in my arms as our home is destroyed and the village razed once again. I do not know if I will have the heart to tell them that we will soon go home; history has taught me that it may be a very long time until we are able to return.

In 2012, the Civil Administration branch of Israel's Defense Ministry issued demolition orders against more than 50 structures in Susiya, including living quarters, a clinic, shop and solar panels. The reason given in these orders was that our village was built without permits from the Israeli military authorities.

The new Susiya was built on Palestinian villagers’ private agricultural land, but that is no safeguard. In practice, it is virtually impossible for a Palestinian living in what is known as Area C -- the 60 percent of the West Bank under both civil and security control of the Israeli military -- to receive a building permit. According to Bimkom, an Israeli nonprofit focused on planning rights, more than 98 percent of Palestinian requests for building permits in Area C from 2010 to 2014 were rejected.

The threat has now become immediate. Following the initial distribution of demolition orders, there was a political and legal campaign spearheaded by the residents of Susiya that had support from Palestinian, Israeli and international activists and rights groups. The village was not demolished, our case returned to the courts and the pressure let up.

But this past May, a few months after the re-election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Supreme Court justice Noam Sohlberg, who himself lives in an Israeli settlement that is considered illegal under international law, caved in to pressure from right-wing and settler organizations and ruled in the High Court that the Israeli military could go ahead with demolitions in the village -- despite the fact that the higher-ranking Supreme Court had scheduled a hearing for our case on Aug. 3.

[Middle East Monitor:] 651k Israeli settlers live in 185 illegal settlements and 220 unauthorised locations in #WestBank and Jerusalem at the start of 2015: image via Palestine @ops_pal, 18 July 2015

Earlier this month, I learned from lawyers working against the demolition of Susiya that representatives of the Israeli military had stated their intent to demolish parts of our village before the Aug. 3 hearing. Since the May ruling, we in Susiya have been grateful for an outpouring of support and solidarity. Last week, the State Department’s spokesman, John Kirby, made a strong statement on the issue.

“We’re closely following developments in the village of Susiya, in the West Bank,” he said, “and we strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village. Demolition of this Palestinian village or parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes, would be harmful and provocative.”

That was a step in the right direction, but we need more than mere declarations now. If the Israeli government demolishes all or part of Susiya once again, it will be for no other reason than that we are Palestinians who refused to leave, despite immense pressure and great hardships of daily life under occupation.

The situation in Susiya is only one of many such situations in Area C of the West Bank. Several villages near ours have pending demolition orders as well. If Susiya is destroyed and its residents expelled, it will serve as a precedent for further demolitions and expulsions through the South Hebron Hills and Area C of the West Bank. This must not be allowed to happen.

This story is not a story of Jews against Muslims, or even a story of Israelis against Palestinians. We’re grateful for the many messages of support our village has received from Jewish communities around the world, and the groups and activists working by our side include many Israelis. This is simply a story of justice and equality against dispossession and oppression.

Nasser Nawaja is a community organizer and a field researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.

At any moment, Israeli occupation forces may demolish Palestinian village of Susiya near Hebron: image via Ben White @benabyad, 1 June 2015
  • At any moment, Israel’s Civil Administration (CA) might demolish all homes and structures in Khirbet Susiya, a small Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills, the West Bank. On 4 May 2015, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) denied a request for an interim injunction that would prevent the CA from implementing the demolition orders it had issued. The request was made during a hearing of a petition filed by the villagers, the latest measure in their battle against efforts by Israeli authorities to forcibly transfer them from their homes in Area C to Area B or A, as part of a policy to annex the area de-facto to Israel. Demolition would effectively mean banishing the residents from their land and their village. The residents of Khirbet Susiya were expelled from the original site of their village in the 1980s, after the CA declared it a “national park”. They then took up residence on their farmland but the Israeli authorities tried to expel them from there, too. After a protracted legal battle, the villagers remained on the farmland, but the CA issued demolition orders for all their homes and refused to authorize the master plan they drew up for the new village. In response, the residents petitioned the HCJ with the help of Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights. They argued that the CA had rejected their master plan on discriminatory grounds and requested that the court issue an interim injunction to stay the demolition until the petition is heard. Justice Noam Solhberg denied the request. Without homes to live in, the residents will remain without shelter in harsh desert conditions. Demolishing all structures in the village would be both cruel and illegal. International occupation law prohibits both the demolition of homes in such circumstances and the forcible transfer of an occupied population. Based on past experience, if the residents are forced to leave their land, settlers will take it over with the support of the state -- as they have already done with 300 hectares of village land. We can help the villagers fight for their land. They want to stay in their homes and need our help making their story public knowledge. At present it is virtually unknown to the world.  -- via btselem. org, 1 June 2015

  • Village of Khirbet Susiya, faced with demolition: photo via btselem. org, 1 June 2015

  • Residents of village og Khirbet Susiya, threatened with Israeli demolition: photo via btselem. org, 1 June 2015

  •  I want this to be a picture of dignity: a true canvas of the suffering of humanity. #MohammedAbed #Gaza: image via Jean Stürgoen @asicjk, 18 November 2013

  • A Palestinian girl plays outside a tent in the southern West Bank village of Susya on Wednesday. Israel's High Court ruled in May that Susya's 340 residents could be relocated and its structures demolished

    A Palestinian girl plays outside a tent in the southern West Bank village of Susya on Wednesday. Israel’s High Court ruled in May that Susya’s 340 residents could be relocated and its structures demolished: photo by Hazem Bader/AFP, 22 July 2015

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