Photo Credit: Courtesy Regavim
The illegal outpost of Nawaj'a near Susya in Judea / Photo credit: Courtesy Regavim

While this article was originally published in United with Israel on 11 November 2021, it remains relevant as the “Susiya playground attack” is still being brought up by anti-Israeli propagandists as if settlers really did attack kids in a playground. Here you have the more complete story of what happened and you can raise this when someone accuses settlers of being so violent as to do something so dispicable.

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A new fake news report, complete with a misleading video, is making its way around the globe. It follows about a month after Pallywood was exposed once more: Hebron-based anti-Israel activist Rateb al-Jabour, was caught pretending to fall from an alleged attack by a Jewish resident of Judea and Samaria, aka “settler,” at a demonstration near the Jewish community of Susya.

Susya, in Area C of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, has become a new focal point for the battle over land in the disputed territory. Area C is the land assigned to Israeli control according to Oslo Accords, the contract signed in 1995 by late PLO chief Yasser Arafat and Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in the now-famous ceremony on the White House lawn under the auspices of then-US President Bill Clinton.

According to that contract, Area A fell under total Palestinian Authority (PA) control whereby the previously non-existent PA was created by means of this very contract. Area B was assigned conjoint control by both the PA and Israel.

Basel Adra, an activist with the leftwing anti-Israel Israeli NGO B’Tselem, provided the fodder for this fake news, and it was shared without question on countless social media posts:

Extremist settlers stormed the village of Susiya shortly before Where they stormed a children’s park and this was done under the protection of the army. The settlers wandered inside the village and between the homes of the citizens, which left fear in the hearts of the residents.

It was even picked up by well-known and respected Israeli news sites. The Jerusalem Post headline, for example, reads Israeli settlers push Palestinians out of West Bank playground, and the first sentence claims:

Settlers and rightwing extremists took over a small children’s playground in the illegal Palestinian encampment of Susiya, located in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank over the weekend.

The article later refers to Peace Now activists who claimed that the Jewish group were not residents of Susya but from a nearby outpost set up only in the past few months. Did Peace Now get that information from someone who was at the site during the altercation, or were they there themselves? If the latter, it raises an important question: Peace Now activists do not live in the area. If they were there, then the question is why they were there.

Were they visiting Arab friends for coffee? Or were they there to instigate a confrontation with Jewish settlers?  We get the answer to this question from an article in the equally respected news site, Times of Israel, which states that “leftwing activists were on the scene.”

According to Times of Israel, these leftwing activists accused the settlers of having “expelled Palestinian children who were in the playground.”

Another question arises from these reports: Did these events happen the way they were described by B’Tselem and Peace Now? Did the settlers set out unprovoked to damage a children’s playground just because it was for Arab children?

There are two things we need to do to examine this question: first, to look again at the video and the claims made regarding what we are seeing. Do we see what B’Tselem and Peace Now tell us, or could it be something else?

Second, we need to talk to a representative of the Jewish settlement of Susya.

But before even doing so, it is important to point out that the playground under question is on land that the Israeli Supreme Court ordered cleared nine years ago, and this has still not been carried out.

The ‘Incriminating’ Video

According to International Media Center Middle East News,

Rateb Jabour, a local anti-colonization activist, told Wafa news reporters that around 200 Israeli settlers attacked the playing ground and attempted to smash some of the fixtures and equipment that were installed by the France-based Action Against Hunger for the area’s children.

At least the Israeli news sites, including Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post, did not make the easily debunked claim that the settlers — there certainly were not 200 of them by a long shot, as seen in the video — attempted to destroy playground equipment. A simple viewing of the video sees the Jews walking around quietly with no tools in hand. In fact, as acknowledged byTimes of Israel, “the settlers can be seen milling about in the playground, surrounded by the army, with little evidence of a struggle.”

“It’s unusual for Israeli civilians to take over a park with swings and a seesaw,” the Times notes.

There is an exchange of harsh language between the Arabs and the Jews, and Israeli soldiers can be seen keeping the two sides apart. Since one of the settlers can be heard on the video wondering aloud why the soldiers were protecting the Arabs, and an anti-Israel witness later claims that the soldiers werere there to defend the Jews, one might conclude that the IDF maintained a respectful neutrality.

It seems, in fact, that there was little to report here. If this is the best they can do, then the pickings must be thin.

Jewish Resident Provides Context

In an interview with United with Israel, Michal Frankel, a spokewoman for the South Hebron Hills Regional Council, provided context for the incident from her perspective. She first explained that when she was a child growing up in Susya, there was no Arab presence in the area.

We used to walk freely between our homes in Susya and the archaeological site. The Nawaja  clan has since established itself between the two. They understand the strategic importance of the site and have been increasing their presence there..

On the archaeological site stand ruins of an ancient synagogue that was active between the 4th and 9th centuries CE, followed by its conversion into a mosque and later populated by Crusaders — and then, abandonment. The reconstructed synagogue, massive mosaics and ongoing archaeological dig all bear witness to the site’s Jewish origin. From the Ottoman Empire on, however, shepherds from the nearby Arab town of Yatta, where the Nawaja tribe resides, would pitch temporary tents and lean-to’s in order to graze their flocks among the ruins over the winter.

The spokeswoman continues:

On Saturday (6 November 2021), a group of Palestinian Arabs and leftwing Jewish activists left the outpost and started moving in the direction of Susya. When residents of the community saw this, they also came out. The point at which they came together was, simply, at the playground. You must understand that, like the outpost itself, the playground was also built illegally, on state land and without a permit. The playground was completed two weeks ago.

Of course, there was no violence on our part. There was vocal violence, one could call it, when the residents of Susya told the demonstrators to stop coming there every Shabbat and disturbing their peaceful way of life.

Therefore, there was a vocal confrontation and the army was present, but it never developed into a physical altercation.

According to Frankel,

The residents of Susya live their lives quietly. Jewish leftwing activists, together with Arab activists such as Rateb al-Jabour, periodically harass them, trying to create incidents that could be spread in the media and blacken the reputation of Jewish Israelis who otherwise have had good relations with their Arab neighbors for decades.

After having been exposed to both sides of the story,.you may want to take another look at the video provided by anti-Zionists as evidence of settler violence at Susiya playground,

{Reposted from the author’s blog}

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Sheri Oz, owner of www.israeldiaries.com, is a retired family therapist exploring mutual interactions between politics and Israeli society.
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