Sussiya and Khan al Akhmar: Truth and lies

Anti-Israel, pro-BDS groups whitewash the obstructionism of the Palestinian Authority and the cynical use of the Ja’alin and Nawajah families as pawns in the PA’s corrupt game.

TENTS AND a Palestinian flag at the Beduin community of Susiya (photo credit: REUTERS)
TENTS AND a Palestinian flag at the Beduin community of Susiya
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Recently, Arik Ascherman of the “Rabbis for Human Rights” organization reported on his “testimony” before a US Senate briefing. In a manipulative misuse of the emotive words of our liturgy, the author implied that the Government of Israel, its Supreme Court, and by implication each and every one of Israel’s citizens, is somehow to blame for “playing God” and conspiring to take the lives of innocent Bedouin individuals and communities.
Irrefutable facts, supported by documentation and aerial photography, have been repeatedly examined, and now form the factual basis of numerous Supreme Court decisions debunking the spurious claims of the squatters of “Palestinian Sussiya” and Khan al Akhmar.
Nonetheless, illegal construction and flagrant disregard of the law continue.
Anti-Israel, pro-BDS groups whitewash the obstructionism of the Palestinian Authority and the cynical use of the Ja’alin and Nawajah families as pawns in the PA’s corrupt game and disregard the endless rounds of negotiation, compensation and relocation schemes and compromises offered by the Government of Israel. They have fabricated a narrative of persecution and victimization that bears no resemblance to reality.
Here are some facts: The “Palestinian (Arab) village of Sussiya” never existed. The entire Nawajah family are in fact residents of the Sha’abin neighborhood in the village of Yatta, located in Area B, under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. On August 14, 2013, the Population Registry Department of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) confirmed that all 30 households of the Nawajah family reside in Yatta and that each owns a house there. As residents of Area B, housing solutions for the Nawajah clan are the sole responsibility of the Palestinian Authority.
Leftist organizations, aided by the European Union, have attempted to create facts on the ground by steady, stealthy encroachment into Area C through the construction of permanent housing, crafting a campaign of emotional blackmail that centers on the “plight” of the “dispossessed” shepherds of the Nawajah clan.
While there are hundreds of dunams of privately owned land in the area between Yatta and Sussiya, a small portion owned by members of the Nawajah family, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the land they now claim to own. Under Israeli and international law, land belongs to the State unless documentation of private ownership proves otherwise – and the Nawajah clan has never brought any such proof. Although there are registry deeds, they are more than 100 years old and don’t clearly identify the property.
The deeds indicate that certain tracts were jointly owned by 64 people; today, this would translate into many hundreds of heirs who own the land jointly. If the Nawajah family could prove ownership, it would be to a tract only a fraction of the size of the area upon which they are currently squatting. In other words, the Nawajah are attempting to lay their hands on land that does not belong to them – and never has. “Palestinian Sussiya” is either State land, as the Supreme Court concluded, or it is private land that belongs to others. Either way, the State is obligated to evict them.
Anti-Israel propagandists insinuate that the archeological site at Sussiya was somehow “created” for the purpose of dispossessing the Nawajah clan. This is patently ridiculous: The ancient synagogue at Sussiya is a remnant of the Jewish community that thrived there thousands of years ago, and it was discovered and surveyed in the 1950s. The removal of the squatters has simply restored the status quo at the site. Another “demand” is that the Beduins be permitted to rebuild the caves from which they were expelled. As is common knowledge, shepherds often camp in caves or other shelters in their grazing areas. The Beduins themselves don’t considered them “residences,” and the idea that the State is responsible for creating or replacing such shelters is laughable.
Despite these facts, the State of Israel offered to build a permanent community for the Sussiya squatters in Area C, on land contiguous with Area B – but the PA rejected the offer and with the help of EU funding, proceeded to construct more illegal structures, some 200 meters away from the Bedouin encampment and even further into Israeli-controlled Area C.
The facts regarding Khan al Akhmar, the flagship settlement in a web of illegal “communities” erected by the Palestinian Authority with EU funding, are equally clear. Aerial photos prove that the area was completely barren of structures, settlement, or agricultural activity of any significance in 1967. Like so many other places throughout the Middle East, the area was a seasonal grazing ground; as in every other place in the world, this does not afford rights of ownership. Nonetheless, the State of Israel has invested millions in the Abu Dis area, laying the groundwork for legal, modern communities for the Ja’alin clan. In addition, the State has offered them permanent housing at Talet Nueima, near Jericho.
In both cases, all compromise solutions were rejected by the Palestinian Authority.
The Israel-bashers’ manipulation of the facts reveals their underlying hypocrisy: Israeli sovereignty is neither a given nor a desirable state of affairs in their eyes – not in Judea and Samaria and not in Jerusalem. To them, Israel’s judicial system, its democratic system of government, and its sovereignty, are legitimate only when they serve a very particular agenda. Supreme Court decisions and Israeli and international law are respected only when they further the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel cause.
I call upon the anti-Israel left to set aside their bias and consider the damage they and the PA are doing to the Bedouin they claim to represent: The callous manipulation of these people has denied them the ability to reach a compromise with the Israeli government, to comply with the law, and to resettle – legally, in organized, modern communities. The leftist radicals who turn a blind eye to the immoral and illegal conduct of the PA owe the Nawajah and Ja’alin clans an apology; this is an auspicious time of year for them to offer it.
The writer is director of policy and government relations at Regavim.