Op-Ed: Oppose Susya home demolitions

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - 5:30pm

If you’ve attended a J Street U event at the University of Michigan in the last two years, you’ve probably heard of Susya. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of its children or hillsides. Maybe you’ve listened to stories from people who have traveled there. Maybe you’ve even made phone calls to government officials about it or posted #SaveSusya and #WontLookAway on social media.

The village of Susya lies in the South Hebron Hills, in the area of the West Bank, known as Area C, which is under full Israeli military control. Susya is currently home to 350 Palestinian people. Unless people take action, more than 40 residents of Susya could soon lose their homes.

The Israeli far-right settler movement, led by the organization Regavim, has spent the last few years lobbying the Israeli government to demolish Susya and villages like it so that Israeli settlements can expand through the South Hebron Hills. Persistent demolitions of Palestinian communities deep within the West Bank are part of their strategy of creeping annexation. The far-right movement hopes to secure a “Greater Israel,” expanding Israeli control over land that would become a future state of Palestine after a negotiated two-state solution. In effect, these efforts are eliminating the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict, and both peace and security for all Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli security professionals have spoken out about the dangers of creeping annexation and the entrenchment of the occupation. They recognize that the demolition of Susya would clear the way for the demolitions of other vulnerable villages facing similar threats, and turn the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution into an imposed one-state nightmare. These members of the Israeli security establishment are joined by United States lawmakers such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who wrote a letter in November that was co-signed by eight additional senators expressing opposition to home demolitions and the threat of creeping annexation.

Over the past year, J Street U students from the Univeristy and across the U.S. have developed a relationship with Susya. Our students have traveled to the village to speak with community leaders about their lives and the challenges they face. This fall, J Street U hosted Susya resident and village spokesperson Nasser Nawaj’ah at multiple national gatherings of students, where he spoke about the uncertainty he feels about his children’s security and future. Through our Stop Demolitions, Build Peace campaign, we have voiced resistance to the demolition of Susya through education and solidarity events.

Now, more than ever, it is critical for us to stand in solidarity with Susya. On Feb. 1, the Israeli Supreme Court decided to permit the demolition of seven structures in the village. These structures are home to more than 40 people, half of whom are children or elderly. When exactly these orders will be carried out is unclear, but it is now possible for bulldozers to drive into Susya at any time.

J Street U University students call on our fellow students and community members to oppose this decision. Statements and pressure from U.S. leadership have successfully delayed demolitions in the past. In response to the court decision announcement, Feinstein and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., put out statements standing up for Susya. We call on our elected representatives to follow their example of leadership on this issue. It is critical that we make our voices heard now, for the sake of the people of Susya and a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians.

J Street U is a national student organization working for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the occupation.