Deputy defense minister: Embattled Palestinian village doesn’t exist

The man charged with managing the day-to-day life of Palestinians in the West Bank calls Susya, a village facing imminent demolition, a ‘ploy by leftist organizations to take over Area C of the West Bank.’

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan. (Photo: Natisabu/CC)
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan. (Photo: Natisabu/CC)

Deputy Defense Minister and new head of Israel’s Civil Administration Eli Ben Dahan openly denied the existence of Susya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, while speaking to the Knesset on Wednesday.

“There has never been an Arab village called Susya,” Ben Dahan said, calling the village “a ploy by leftist organizations to take over Area C [of the West Bank].”

Ben Dahan, a Rabbi from the Jewish Home party — who previously said that Palestinians are sub-human and that even homosexual Jews are superior to non-Jews — was responding to a formal query lodged by Joint List Member Dov Khenin, who inquired as whether it is true that the Civil Administration plans to demolish half of the village’s structures.

Khenin, who was visibly enraged by Ben Dahan’s remarks (you can view a video of the exchange here, in Hebrew), responded: “I have not heard such a response so detached from reality in a long time.” He then went on to quote Plia Albeck, a pro-settler former government official who oversaw legal decisions regarding West Bank land, and who herself admitted in 1982 that the old synagogue in what is now the Jewish settlement of Susya is “surrounded by an Arab village,” and that the land is registered in the Israel Lands Authority as being privately owned by Arabs.

Susya made headlines earlier this week after both the U.S. State Department and the EU warned Israel against any demolitions there. Israel’s Civil Administration notified residents of its intention to demolish half of the village’s structures following the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Mohammad Mousa Abu Ghanam passes in front of one of his animal shelters ,which were demolished earlier in the day by the Israeli army, Susya, South Hebron Hills, August 28, 2012. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org
Mohammad Mousa Abu Ghanam passes in front of one of his animal shelters ,which were demolished earlier in the day by the Israeli army, Susya, South Hebron Hills, August 28, 2012. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

The story of Susya, however, did not begin last week. Israel first expelled Susya’s residents from their land in 1986 in order to build a Jewish settlement of the same name, and to establish an archaeological site on top of the Palestinian village. The displaced Palestinians moved the village to their adjacent agricultural lands and have been fighting to subsist there ever since.

The Israeli army, however, never gave Susya’s residents permission to build their homes on the current location. Susya is located in the south Hebron Hills, in Area C of the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords is under full Israeli control.

The reason Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills build illegally is because Israeli authorities systematically refuse to grant them building permits or recognize any planning rights. The Israeli army rejects 90 percent of Palestinian planning requests in Area C, and most villages in the area face almost identical restrictions and demolition threats. Settlements for Jewish Israelis, however, continuously pop up in the area.

Last May, the High Court of Justice gave the state the green light to destroy the village at any moment by refusing to issue an injunction until an appeal is heard.

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