Palestine: Uprooted Trees, Uprooted Lives

by CPT-Palestine

Israeli military uproots 200 olive trees in the Palestinan village of SusyaIsraeli soldiers and border police used a backhoe to destroy 200 young olive trees in the Palestinian village of  Susya in the South Hebron Hills on 23 April. 

The uprooted trees had been planted about a year ago on land belonging to three families of the village across a valley from an Israeli settlement, also called Susya.

The Palestinian village of Susya has existed since around 1830, and is shown on British maps from 1917.  In l983 Israeli settlers built a settlement at Susya, and many of the Palestinian residents’ lives were uprooted when the military forced them from their homes.  These families now live nearby in isolated sites to the north of the settlement. 

The Israeli authorities have informed residents of Palestinian Susya that they intend to carry out six demolition orders issued in the 1990s and in 2001 despite the fact that Palestinian ownership of the land is well established legally.  The orders cover 50 buildings, including homes, animal pens, solar energy panels and water cisterns.

Since 2001 Israel has uprooted, burnt and destroyed more than 548,000 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers and land owners in the West Bank and Gaza.

Under the 1995 Oslo II Accords,  the West Bank and Gaza were divided into 3 administrative regions know as Area A, B and C.  Area C includes 61% of the West Bank and falls under complete Israeli civil and military control.

International law prohibits land appropriation, resource exploitation and population transfer by an occupying power.  However, since the 1970’s, Israel has confiscated the vast majority of Palestinian land in the South Hebron Hills (Area C.) 

Life for Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills is characterized by home demolitions, confiscation of livestock, restricted access to farm land and daily harassment from settlers and Israeli military forces.  Most communities lack basic services such as schools, clinics, electricity, telephone lines, running water, or sewage systems.  Any infrastructure that Palestinians build to meet these needs is frequently demolished by Israeli authorities.

Despite these egregious human rights violations, Palestinian communities continue to assert their right to exist and survive on traditional homelands.