The US Administration has warned Israel against demolishing the Arab village of Susiya in south Mt. Hebron, according to a story in Ha’aretz this week. Both Israeli and American senior officials have warned that should Israel go ahead and demolish the village, US response would be harsh.
Susiya is a legitimate archaeological site in the southern Judean Mountains that bears the archaeological remains of a 5th century CE enormous synagogue, one of the largest and most magnificent ever discovered, which was turned into a mosque by the Arab invaders in the 8th century.
The name has bee usurped by Bedouins who have stayed in area caves during grazing season. It is also the name of a religious Jewish community established in 1983 under the jurisdiction of Mt. Hebron Regional Council. In 1986, the area of Susiya claimed by the Bedouin shepherds was declared an archeological site by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and the IDF expelled the Bedouins, who then moved a few hundred yards southeast of the original location.
The Zionist Regavim movement, whose goal is to reclaim areas of the land of Israel from Arab occupiers, has been conducting a bitter court battle to declare Bedouin Susiya illegal and to remove its structures, which are, for the most part, tents and lean-tos. It should be noted that since 1994 the Arabs have been establishing illegal settlements in the entire area between Jerusalem and Susiya, which Israeli governments have failed to challenge for more than two decades. Susiya is only the tip of the sand dune (somehow using the iceberg metaphor in August, just doesn’t work).
As Jewish Press Online reporter Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu wrote back in 2013 (The Saga of Ancient ‘Palestinian Susiya’ – The Town That Never Was), “None of the land was ever registered as owned by anyone. During the Ottoman Empire, and under the British Mandate, the rulers of Hebron would sit in their living rooms and parcel out lands arbitrarily. That was the extent of ‘ownership.’
“When Jews came to Beit Yatir, the Arabs followed. Three families from Yatta, a city adjacent to Hebron, fled because of family crimes, such as rape, and set up camp on a hill adjacent to Yatir, Their village quickly became known as the ‘Thieves’ Village,’ for obvious reasons. They claim, of course, that they have been living there from time immemorial.”
And now, apparently, the future of the Middle East depends on those few dozen shepherds getting to graze their flocks on rightfully owned Jewish land, and so, following intense propaganda from the Palestinian Authority, the US, the UK and the EU, as well as several international NGOs have been threatening that should Susiya be wiped off the map, they, Israel’s friends in the world, would find it difficult to continue defending it in international forums.
Israeli senior officials have told Israel’s many friends that at this point it has no intention to demolish the Susiya “homes” (a term that is being used generously), and that Israel would act based on the expected ruling of the Supreme Court. While Regavim has been pushing the case against the Bedouin enclave, a group called Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) has appealed the pending evacuation and demolishing of Susiya in the high court.
RHR is a foreign agent representing anti-Zionist entities in Europe and the US. Its annual budget of $1.6 million (most recently reported in 2014) is funded by AECID (Spain), European Commission, Misereor (Germany), Trocaire (Ireland), Norwegian Church (Norway), Kerk in Actie (Netherlands), Church of Sweden, Foundation for Middle East Peace (US), New Israel Fund, Social Justice Fund, and Moriah Fund (source: NGO Monistor).