Khirbet Susiya (Susya) is a small area in the south Hebron hills, located across the 1948 “Green Line”, and the site of an ancient and important Jewish archeological site. There are widely divergent narratives regarding its modern history; according to Israeli sources, the structures were built illegally in recent years in order to expand the Palestinian presence in the area. The Israeli government issued demolition orders and a protracted court battle ensued. Numerous political NGOs, including many associated with the New Israel Fund, are playing a leading role in the campaign to prevent the demolition and force the Israeli government to accept the construction as a fait accompli.
- In 2015, the Israeli High Court ruled that the structures were constructed illegally, entirely without permits or approved plans, and clearing the obstacles to demolition. (Under the Oslo legal framework, Israel is responsible for planning and construction in Area C, which is where Susya is located.)
- Since July 2016, the Court has been corresponding with the government in order to decide whether to demolish the structures or to support a compromise.
- As with many such contentious issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict, many NGOs are active in promoting the Palestinian narrative, which is then repeated by the European and U.S. officials. These NGOs are themselves heavily subsidized by European and U.S. entities.
- Following an ongoing campaign of number of political advocacy NGOs, Ha’aretz reported (August 10, 2016) that the United States and the European Union are pressuring Israel to legalize the construction, noting that they will “respond harshly if Israel demolishes the Palestinian village of Sussia in the southern Hebron Hills”. In June 2015, European diplomats in the Palestinian Authority “visited Susya, accompanied by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.”
- Writing in the Times of Israel Elchanan Miller (“Awaiting bulldozers, South Hebron residents appeal for Western help,” July 19, 2015) wrote:
“Little wonder the Europeans have rushed to Susya’s aid. Practically the entire hamlet is being sustained by EU funding. The solar panels generating its electricity were donated by the German foreign ministry; the clinic and water purifying systems were donated by Italy, and the master plan which the Israeli court is to debate on August 3 was funded by the UK. Significantly, 22 of the 37 buildings scheduled for demolition are EU-funded.”
J-Street enters the Susya campaign in the US
- In the recent weeks, J-Street has become active on this issue, telling its supporters “to urge Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene with the Israeli government on behalf of residents of the Palestinian West Bank village of Susya”
- In August 2016, J-Street stated that “our campaign is working” and circulated a petition to “tell Secretary Kerry to keep the pressure on until the demolition is averted” and to “use the full influence of the United States”.
NGOs involved in the Susya campaign
- RHR is one of the leading political NGO involved in this campaign and petitioned the Israeli High Court to prevent the demolition.
- It also “submitted a master plan for Susya [editors note – funded by the UK] and asked that it be reviewed by the court before the village’s houses are leveled.”
- Funding: from the UK Consulate. Jerusalem: NIS 387,046 in 2014, NIS 291,254 in 2015 and NIS 321,618 in 2016; NIS 217,733 from the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands), Spain, EU Misereor (Germany), Trocaire (Ireland), Norwegian Church Aid (Norway), Kerk in Actie (Netherlands), Church of Sweden, Foundation for Middle East Peace (US), New Israel Fund, and Moriah Fund.
- Argues without legal foundation that demolition would constitute “the forcible transfer of an occupied population.”
- Staff member Nasser Nawaj’ah, “field researcher for the Southern Hebron hills”, is a resident of Khirbet Susiya and part of the extended family prominent in the campaign against the demolition. Nawajah, who is widely quoted in the media about Susya, also set up a petition by the NGO known as Avaaz.
- B’Tselem alleges that “the demolition policy applied by the Israeli authorities in Area C, of which the planned demolition of Susiya forms part, is not based on considerations of planning, building, law and order. Rather, it constitutes the cynical manipulation of planning laws in order to restrict the presence of the Palestinian population and to expand the settlement enterprise.”
- Funding: 2014 budget NIS 9 million (latest available; accessed August 18, 2016). Donors include: European Union,France, DanChurchAid (Denmark), Diakonia (Sweden), Norway, Christian Aid Ireland, EED (Germany), UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services (US), World Vision, IHL Secretariat (Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands), ICCO (Netherlands), Trocaire (Ireland), UK, and the New Israel Fund.
- “We, who served in the area, know this story up close. Some of us guarded the settlements around Susya, some of us took part in previous demolitions – but we all witnessed the consequences of our military control over the civilian population.”
- Breaking the Silence arranges “tours” to Susya for delegations, European parliament members and US congress members. According to one of BtS members, “Yehuda [Shaul] takes ambassadors, consuls, and parliament members every week”
- In August 11, 2016, J Street conducted a conference call with Breaking the Silence’s Yehuda Shaul and Amna Farooqi, President of J-Street U. The conference aim was to “discuss the Palestinian village of Susya, a large part of which is currently facing the threat of demolition”.
- Funding: 2015 annual budget of NIS 5 million (latest available; accessed August 18, 2016). Donors include the European Union, Misereor (Germany), Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Norway, AECID (Spain), Dan Church Aid (Denmark), ICCO (Netherlands), CCFD (France), Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (joint funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands), Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK), SIVMO (Netherlands),Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Institute, and New Israel Fund.
- Position paper on a Negev village and Susiya (which it refers to as Bedouin) claiming “that it highlights the state’s common policy of forcibly displacing the Bedouin on both sides of the Green Line”
- Also released a film called “From Al-Araqib to Susiya” with the same theme, which was funded by Christian Aid.
- Funding: 2014 budget NIS 5 million (latest available; accessed August 18, 2016). Donors include the European Union, Switzerland, Germany (via EED and Medico International), Spain (via ACSUR), IHL Secretariat (Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands), UN Development Programme (UNDP), New Israel Fund, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, Oxfam-Novib(Netherlands), Christian Aid (UK), and Broederlijk Delen (Belgium).
- Organized a July 24, 2015 demonstration, joining “the residents of the village in saying no to demolitions.”
- Funding: 2014 budget NIS 1 milion (latest available; accessed August 18, 2016). Donors include: Rosa Luxemberg Stiftung (Germany), Sivmo, British Shalom- Salaam Trust (UK), and Foundation for Middle East Peace (US).
The New Israel Fund
- The New Israel Fund is one of the major coordinators and funders of political NGOs, include those who involved in Susya campaign.
- In a public letter sent by Daniel Sokatch, NIF’s CEO (August 12, 2016), ostensibly addressed to Defense Minster Lieberman, he claimed “This is a direct threat to prospects for a just, secure, solution to the conflict. It is exceptionally cruel.”
- “The New Israel Fund and our grantees have been working tirelessly to prevent the demolition of Susya and all demolitions in Area C that are the result of the IDF’s policy of refusing to create master plans: B’Tselem, Yesh Din, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Breaking the Silence, Rabbis for Human Rights, Bimkom, and other organizations have challenged the laws and advocated for the rights of Palestinian communities to build homes, in Susya and elsewhere in Area C.”
- In 2015 (latest available), the NIF authorized $101,170 to Adalah, $252,208 to B’tselem, $104,304 to Breaking the Silence, $296,420 to Rabbis for Human Rights and $20,243 to Combatants for Peace.
- All That’s Left is “a collective unequivocally opposed to the occupation and committed to building the diaspora angle of resistance.” Contributors to their blog are affiliated with Jewish Voices for Peace and at least two were New Israel Fund Shatil fellows.
- In August 8, 2016, All That’s Left, along with the American NGOs “The Center for Jewish /nonviolence” and T’ruah (which recently started an official collaboration with Breaking the Silence), published a call to “Host a solidarity Kabbalat Shabbat demonstration as part of a “Global Shabbat Against Demolition” due that “forced displacement, dislocation, and demolition do not represent our values. These demolitions represent a continued policy of systematic discrimination.”
- “Here is a link to your local Israeli embassy, but please target whatever institution is most appropriate for your community. Following this Shabbat, we will be calling upon you to participate in specific campaigns over the coming months on behalf of each of the endangered communities.”
- In mid-June 2015, All That’s Left held a solidarity event in Susya: “Over 70 Diaspora Jews, Israelis and allies are joining Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills to engage in building projects and action in solidarity with local Palestinian communities living under occupation.”
- The event was “organized in partnership with Ta’ayush, Breaking the Silence, and The Center for Jewish Nonviolence and others.”
- Avner Gvaryahu from Breaking the Silenceis a member of the collective.
- EAPPI was founded in 2002 by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) and is considered to be the WCC’s flagship project on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- A number of EAPPI activists are “part of a team of internationals providing ecumenical accompaniment and protective presence to the village.” One activist claims “My team and I are here to shed light on this ongoing violation of human rights by standing in solidarity with our Palestinian host and by giving voice to their lived experience of oppression and abuse. The light of hope is kept shining through this public witness and presence on the ground”.
- Upon returning to their home countries, many EAPPI activists use their experience in the West Bank to promote anti-Israel campaigns, including promoting BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) (see below).
- The activists cooperate with other political NGOs (non-governmental organizations) operating in the West Bank. For example, one EAPPI activist claimed that during his activity at the checkpoints “we also worked with Israeli peace groups like Breaking the Silence and New Profile.”
- Publishes numerous blog posts on the subject. One such blog, from July 14, 2015, repeats the Palestinian narrative of demonization: “This ongoing struggle includes repeated violence and destruction from adjacent Israeli settlers that includes demolitions of homes and agricultural structures, poisoning of wells, cutting of olive trees, and physical violence against the residents including stoning and gunfire.”
- Funding: The WCC does not publish financial data for EAPPI. According to NGO Monitor’s research, in 2015, WCC provided a $1.5 million grant to the program, including $1 million for “Ecumenical Accompaniers” from Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
NGOs involved in building infrastructure in Susya
- Provided water infrastructure to “more than 20 families as well as the community school and clinic in the communities of Wadi el-Rachim and Susya.”
- Funding: Received a two-year, €486,913 grant (2014 – 2015) from the EU(Partnership for Peace) “to promote socio-economic development of marginalized Palestinian communities in Area C.” Partners include Germany,Medico International (Germany), Netherlands, Ireland, France, Belgium, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Swedish Postcode Lottery, and Swiss Olive Oil Campaign.
- Sponsored construction of illegal structures
- NPA is a leader and mobilizer of anti-Israel BDS (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions) campaigns.
- Funding: NPA receives millions of Euros in funding from Norway and European entities.