Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Opinion

Open letter on Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Area C

  • Nawa’jah's village. Israel says it should be demolished for his own good (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

My name is Nasser Nawa’jah.

I am 32 years old and I live in the Palestinian village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills, in the occupied West Bank.

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My father was three years old in 1948 when his family was expelled from Gerityan, the village in which he was born, and they moved to join their relatives in Susyia El Kadim (ancient Susiya).

My grandfather hoped to return to his village but its lands became part of the State of Israel and his temporary exile became permanent.

I was born in Susiya El Kadim, but like my father, I didn’t have the chance to grow up in the place in which I was born. I was four years old in 1986 when military forces evacuated my family by force after Israel declared our village and the surrounding area a “national archaeological park.”

We have not returned since. I am prohibited from visiting the “national park,” which is home to the cave where my mother gave birth to me.

We have not been able to live in peace and quiet since. Israel has repeatedly tried to expel us from our homes and lands, while the Israeli settlement “Susiya,” established nearby in 1983 is flourishing.

In the beginning of the 1990s, military jeeps kicked us out of our homes, but we returned to live on our lands along with several other families. In 2001, we were again evacuated by the army, which demolished the caves we resided in, blocked ancient water cisterns, and destroyed our fields.

The Israeli Civil Administration (Israeli military governance) deems our tents to be “illegal” settlements and is threatening to expel us.

Our story is the story of many Palestinians who live in Area C, which comprises 60 percent of the West Bank.

Between 1988 and 2013, the Civil Administration issued 12,570 demolition orders on various structures in Area C, of them, 2,470 were carried out. Not far from Susiya, there are residents of 12 villages who have been under constant threat of expulsion for 15 years.

The Israeli military declared the area they live in a “fire zone” (Fire Zone 918) and, since 1999, has been trying to evacuate the residents and banish them from their lands. Around 700 residents were evacuated in 1999 and today an estimated 1,300 residents live in the caves and tents.

Like us, they are forced to fight for their right to live on their families’ land within the Israeli court system. As Palestinians we do not expect to find justice within this system, though we work within it to buy time to stall the demolitions of our homes.

IDF chiefs in EP

Two Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officers, responsible for administering the civil aspects of life for Palestinians like me who live under occupation, will arrive in the European Parliament on Tuesday (3 February)

Major general Yoav Mordechai and major general (reserves) Grisha Yaacovitch will meet with MEPs on the Israeli delegation.

We did not elect them and we have no influence over the policies they implement. This is why I am asking for your help, as members of the European Parliament, who may attend the meeting today with these officers.

Please take this opportunity to ask them what we cannot. And after you hear them, I personally invite you to come to Susiya and see the reality in which we live.

Where’s my water?

I want to start with a question regarding one of the most basic human needs: Water.

Why does Israel withhold a water supply from us, while pumping water out of the aquifer in the West Bank, which is considered part of Palestinian territory under international law, into Israeli settlements?

The pipe that transfers water to the Israeli settlement of “Susiya” passes through our private fields. While the settlements and outposts enjoy a regular supply of water, Israel refuses to connect us to the water system.

We use dozens of water cisterns to collect the little rainwater that falls in our area, but at present, our access to 70 percent of these water cisterns has been blocked.

Even when we receive a permit from the military to access one of our water cisterns, we are subject to violent attacks by settlers in the area. We have no other choice but to purchase containers of water, and pay five times what our friends in Israel pay for water.

Please do ask these officers: Is it fair that we pay five times more?

Why can’t I live on my land?

The land on which I live belonged to my family before the State of Israel was established. With what authority does the Israeli military deem our homes to be “illegal?”

What kind of law turns me and my family into ”criminals” because we insist on living on, and working, the land that has belonged to us for generations?

In an attempt to protect our village, we even devised a master plan. Why did the Civil Administration’s planning committee reject the plan with - racist - claims that our plan, which intended to preserve our way of life, “is damaging to us?”

Since the military destroyed our caves, we live in tents. Many of them were donated by European countries and we are thankful for the contribution to our existence. But the Civil Administration has issued demolition orders for these tents as well.

What justice is there in Israel asking to destroy our village and expel us from our lands, while providing infrastructure and protection for Israeli settlements and outposts in violation of international law?

Is Europe listening?

I am the father of three small children who have never known what it means to live in a secure home. Israel is trying to turn them into refugees in their own land, but I will not let this happen.

My family and I are staying on our land despite the difficulties.

We hope the European community will listen to us and help us protect our rights, so that we can live in security in our own home, in our own state, alongside Israel.

Nasser Nawa’jah is a Palestinian resident of Susiya, a village in the South Hebron Hills, and a non-violent Palestinian activist

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