Since the 1830s a village has existed in what we now know as the West Bank. Today you can find it at 31°23′30.67″N 35°6′44.45″E, but hurry, because it might not be there much longer.
Susya is a Palestinian village. In 1983 archaeologists found the remains of an ancient synagogue within its lands and subsequently, in 1986, the land was expropriated and its residents expelled. Today’s Susya lies on the agricultural lands of the historic village where the residents resettled. Since the initial expulsion there have been numerous attempts at demolition (including in 2001 when attempts were overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court and the residents were allowed to return) some of which involved the destruction of considerable parts of the village.
Palestinian Susya (unlike the neighboring Jewish settlement of the same name) is ‘illegal’. Today, its land falls under Area C of the West Bank which is under full Israeli military and administrative control. In order to build in Area C, people need permits from the Israeli Civil Administration. 94% of non-Jewish building applications in Area C are denied. It doesn’t matter that the land Susya is on is privately owned, because it is ‘illegally built’, Palestinian Susya has a demolition order hanging over its head. A master plan for its development has been submitted to the Israeli authorities but denied.
It’s ‘clear’. Susya is illegal. Susya must go.
The rule of law (or in this case the Civil Administration which is responsible for the territory) is invoked defence of the situation. The law is supposed to be a vehicle of justice and fairness. What is just and fair about the fate of Susya?
Israel carries the heavy responsibility of being Jewish. The laws of the state, with their guiding principles rooted in the Declaration of Independence, are reinforced by a deep understanding of the nature of being a displaced people and the immeasurable value of the connection of people to their homes and land, an understanding drawn from our collective historical experience. Bearing this in mind, in addition to our religious obligations to love the stranger, to pursue justice and to remember that we are all made in the image of God, I have to ask; what is going on in Susya? Where have these values gone? How do we get from here to bulldozers?
I’m not afraid to call myself a Zionist, and to grapple with all that involves. However, I am afraid when state building becomes an excuse for dehumanization, displacement and disregard for basic human dignity; when the ‘realization’ of the Zionist project becomes a by-word for dismissing the rights of others.
Susya isn’t just a collection of shacks and solar panels. It’s a community. Branding Susya as illegal suggests that there would be a way for Susya to be legal, yet the attempts of its residents to gain legal recognition have been refused. Precedent tells us that wherever the residents of Susya go next, they will still be ‘illegal’. בצלם אלוהים, really?
How can we as Jews find voice in another way but to cry out from the depths of our religious and moral core that something is desperately wrong here? The law in Area C isn’t a vehicle of justice and fairness, because the administration denies those it is responsible for the basic right to build homes on their own land.
Hear O’Israel, Don’t you wonder what God thinks of all of this?
Nasser Nawajah, one of the village’s residents has created a petition, you can find it here.