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LETTER: Conflict in Old Susya



History often repeats, but it’s not inevitable. In June 1986, surveyors from the Israeli military bureaucracy discovered the ruins of an ancient synagogue in the Palestinian village of Old Susya in the hills south of Hebron. Bedouin and Palestinian shepherds still dwelled in the caves around the site. They drank from the same old well, built their homes from the same stones and cultivated the grapes and olives in the nearby agricultural valleys, as people had done for a thousand years.

​When they returned from the harvest that summer of 1986, they found the Israeli army had built a fence around Old Susya, declared it an archeological site and bulldozed their homes. If you visit Israel today, you can tour “Susya: The Ancient Hebrew City.” The villagers moved close to a new site a few kilometers away. Since then, according to U.N. watchdog groups, their caves were blown up, their solar panels confiscated and their rainwater cisterns filled with cement and gravel. At the same time, the military government connects the nearby Israeli settlement to the water grids, road system and power lines, despite its commitments to the Geneva Conventions not to transfer its own civilian population to occupied land.

Last week, the Israeli military announced its intention to demolish 1/5 of the homes in Susya by Dec. 6, evicting roughly 100 people, half of them children, immediately before the onset of winter. The state and their settler supports argue “there was no historic Palestinian village” there and that the residents are ‘intruders’ even though the military has not approved any of the building plans they’ve submitted. This demolition and 11,000 other demolition orders of Palestinian homes amount to a troubling attempt to alter the demographic composition in favor of Israeli control. It violates human dignity, undermines Israel’s long-term security, and endangers a two-state peace that respects both national community’s self-determination. 

Indiana senators, it’s time to recognize that. 

In a letter sent last Wednesday, ten other US senators have entreated Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt plans for the demolition, writing that “your government’s efforts to forcibly evict entire Palestinian communities and expand settlements throughout the West Bank not only directly imperil a two-state solution, but we believe also endanger Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy.” Your names were absent.

Senator Donnelly, almost a year ago, you indicated concern over a lack of U.S. leadership in the U.N., remarking that “The only way to achieve a true and lasting peace is through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” Why would Palestinians negotiate with a government they see as actively cleansing and colonizing their homeland? Now is your chance to display leadership and condemn an action which could irreparably damage the prospects of future peace negotiations.

Senator Young, your recent efforts to secure humanitarian aid in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan have been nationally recognized. You recently drafted legislation to sanction Burma’s military for atrocities against the Rohingya. You espouse family values shared by so many Hoosiers. Which of these values allow us to stand by as dozens of Palestinian families are forced from their homes? Opposition to Susya’s eviction should not be an exception to your past moral leadership. 

Senators, please speak out against this eviction for the people of Susya. Your voice can ultimately guard the integrity and security of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and ensure the possibility of a lasting peace. 

JStreet U

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