The Truth About Susiya
Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously stated, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” This rebuke is an appropriate response to Alon Ben-Meir’s post, “The Dismantling of Susiya is an Israeli Injustice.”
In his apparent eagerness to condemn the “inhuman action” of demolishing an illegal Arab encampment, and to attack the “moral decadence” of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, he has created a fictitious scenario that maligns Israel.
Here is the truth.
Fact: The residents of the illegal encampment, which has come to be called “Ancient Arab Susiya,” illegally and systematically put up most of the structures on that “ancient” encampment between 2011 and 2013.
Fact: This case of illegal building has been before the Supreme Court of Israel for close to 15 years, and the claims of these Palestinian squatters have repeatedly been rejected. Ben-Meir fails to mention the extensive litigation before the High Court of Justice. During all of the litigation, the Arab residents have failed to show any proof of valid ownership of the land and even if they did, all land in that area is zoned agricultural land only and they have no rights to build on it. Instead, illegal construction has taken place for the duration of the judicial process, in blatant defiance of court orders.
Arab residents have joined the Susiya encampment knowing full well of pending court orders. It should also be noted that these residents are being assisted by the NGO Rabbis for Human Rights, which, although registered in Israel, is heavily funded by foreign countries including Germany, Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the EU.
Fact: As captured by aerial photos, this “ancient city” has sprouted from 4-5 temporary structures to today’s encampment of 64, with more than 30 of them having been built between 2011-2013.
At best, some residents of the area historically grazed their flocks in this region seasonally and then returned to their homes elsewhere. Such temporary sojourns do not establish ownership of land under Ottoman, Mandatory, Jordanian, or Israeli law.
Despite illegal Arab building even after the Supreme Court’s initial decisions, the justices exhibited the utmost respect as they attempted to resolve the issue and find other accommodations for the residents. This forbearance was based entirely upon humanitarian considerations and the good will of the Court and the Civil Administration. This is hardly the picture Ben-Meir attempts to paint.
While Ben-Meir may disagree politically with the decision to allow Jews to live in this territory, Jews have legal, historical, and moral rights to do so. When Jewish homes are determined to have been illegally built, they are demolished. This is called the rule of law.
Ben-Meir accuses Netanyahu of defying “the basic tenets of human decency.” He distorts the facts in order to slander Israel for abiding by the rule of law, an endangered species in the Middle East. The truth, however, is that Israel and its legal system stand as an oasis of democracy and freedom in a region on fire.
The author is a director of Regavim, a research based legal advocacy organization, dedicated to ensuring responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national land. For more information, visit www.regavim.org.