I first heard about the community of Susya this fall. I was horrified to learn about the ways in which the inhabitants of the village, by virtue of the circumstances of their birth, are forced to live with the constant fear that their homes could be taken away at any moment. Susya is a Palestinian village of about 350 people, located in Area C of the West Bank.
This means that the village is under full Israeli civil and military control. Over the past 30 years, the Israeli Civil Administration has levied demolition orders against Susya time and time again. The Civil Administration has also confiscated Susya’s vital infrastructure, such as water cisterns and solar panels.
Action from the international community and various organizations, including J Street U, has helped lead to the successful postponement of several recent orders for the demolition of Susya. However, on Feb. 1, 2018, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to allow the immediate demolitions of seven structures in Susya.
These demolitions would leave more than 40 residents homeless, half of whom are children. Because the demolitions were authorized to be carried out immediately, the community of Susya is, in essence, living in a state of limbo where they could be left homeless at any moment.
Threats to demolish Susya are a result of the Israeli settler movement’s agenda to annex the West Bank and create a one-state “Greater Israel” in which Israel rules indefinitely over the Palestinians. The Israeli far-right, via extremist settler organizations like Regavim, has steadfastly worked to undermine the two-state solution by advocating for demolitions of Palestinian communities. These demolitions allow nearby Israeli settlements to consolidate into “settlement blocs.” These blocs are areas of the West Bank with several Israeli communities and no Palestinian presence.
Israeli security experts have repeatedly spoken out about the dangers of this phenomenon — known as creeping annexation — and the entrenchment of the occupation. They are joined by rabbis, students and prominent U.S. senators who are all concerned that demolitions and annexation threaten Israel’s future. In September 2017, when a prior decision about Susya’s potential demolition was looming,
J Street U at Hopkins held a phone banking event and photo event where members of J Street U and the broader University community called the Israeli embassy to voice our stance against the demolition. We joined hundreds of other students across the country participating in a national day of action to demonstrate to leaders that students would not look away from the these demolitions. Due to international pressure, the Israeli government postponed their decision on the demolition of Susya.
With Trump in office here and Netanyahu leading Israel’s government, responsibility increasingly falls on the American Jewish community and members of Congress to stand with Susya. Already, Susya and other vulnerable Palestinian communities have garnered support from various members of Congress. Representative Jan Schakowsky of the Illinois Ninth has released a statement condemning Susya’s demolition order, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders, along with eight other senators, published a congressional letter against village demolitions in Susya and Khan al-Ahmar.
Leaders in the Jewish community have also acted. 315 rabbis signed a letter condemning village demolitions. We need more U.S. leaders to speak out boldly against demolitions in Susya and communities like it. These demolitions create an unsustainable reality of violence and oppression and threaten a two-state solution and long-term peace in the region.
We are calling on pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-Palestinian, anti-occupation Americans to speak out in support of Susya. Many Hopkins students hope that our elected officials will speak out against the demolition order. Baltimore is home to important legislators, and they have the capacity to show Netanyahu and his government that demolitions are not acceptable.
They can emulate efforts like the Sanders-Feinstein statement against demolitions or the Price-Welch letter that called for restored funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). We must do everything we can to stop the pattern of creeping annexation. Susya faces demolition at any moment. It’s imperative that students, Jewish communal leaders and legislators act to ensure the survival of a two-state solution.
Bentley Addison is a J Street U at JHU board member. He is a freshman biology and history double major from Franklin Township, N.J.