Saturday, November 16 2013 Umm el ‘Amad, Umm al-Ara’is and Susya by David Shulman

By a miracle of sorts, we had a mostly peaceful day in South Hebron today; such an event is so rare that I thought it might be worth mentioning to you. In lieu of a more substantial report, let me just say that Abu Sharif and Fadil plowed three fields, with an iron plow and a donkey, on one end of the wadi at Umm al-‘Amad, just under the settlement of Otniel– lands they were denied access to for some 15 years– and there was a slightly higher-tech plowing, with an old tractor, at the other end of the wadi as well. The settlers and the soldiers kept their distance. The goats grazed freely. The sun was sweet. If the rains come, there will be crops of barley in these newly regained fields.
At Umm al-Ara’is, on the other hand, the standard ritual played itself out; the ‘Awad owners were driven off their land, along with our activists, by the soldiers, as happens week after week.
Lest anyone be tempted to think that things are better, I should mention that the committee of the Civil Administration that has the authority to approve development plans submitted by the villages has turned down the plan of Palestinian Susya. This means that if the appeal to the High Court goes against them, the entire village, housing some 300 to 400 people, will be demolished and their inhabitants expelled (the demolition orders have been hanging over them for years, and the Civil Administration is talking about issuing final orders to destroy all the tents and shacks and infrastructures). The committee offered the following rationalization of its decision (I give the original Hebrew for the delight of Hebrew-readers, followed by a translation):

אין בתכנית זו כל תקווה לקדם את האכלוסיה מעבר לעוני ולבערות בהם נציגיהם שומרים אותם… ככל שהעיר מהווה מפגש של אוכלוסיות מגוונות היא מהווה מקור להעשרה תרבותית, כלכלית וחינוכית. בצד השני של הסקאלה, ככל שהמגורים הכפריים מקוטעים, מפוזרים, הם בנויים על שיוך שבטי ומשפחתי שסוגר על האזרח, על היחיד, ואינו נותן לו כלים לקידום חברתי משלו לפיתוח יכולות להזדמנות פרנסה, להעצמה תרבותית או חינוכית…

“המבנה העירוני מפגיש אנשים, מקרב אותם, מכפיל הזדמנויות, מעשיר את האופקים של כל אחד ואחד בתוך משפחתו ובתוך שבטו וגם בתוך החברה הרחבה. על כן מבחינתנו התכנית הנוכחית מהווה עוד ניסיון למנוע מאוכלוסיה דלה וקשת יום את האפשרות להתקדם, את האפשרות לבחור בין פרנסה חלקית או מקורות אחרים, מונעת מהאשה הפלסטינית לצאת ממעגל העוני, מונעת ממנה הזדמנויות לחינוך ולעבודה. כנ”ל תכנית כזו מונעת מהילד הפלסטיני לראות את כל האפשרויות העומדות בפני כל אדם אחר בזה שהיא גוזרת את גורלו לחיים בתוך כפר קטן, מנוון, שאין לו את הכלים להתפתחות.”

“This plan offers no hope that the population can be advanced beyond the state of poverty and ignorance to which its representatives have condemned it….The city, as the meeting place of diverse populations, serves as a source of cultural, economic, and educational enrichment. On the other side of the scale, the village dwellings are fragmented and scattered, founded upon tribal and clan identities which suffocate the citizen, the individual, and which offer no means for social development or opportunities for making a living, for cultural or educational experience… The urban structure lets people meet one another, multiplies opportunities, enriches the horizons of each and every one in the family or tribe as in the wider society. Thus, in our view, the present plan is but another attempt to prevent this impoverished population from making progress…It also prevents the Palestinian woman from liberating herself from the cycle of poverty and closes off opportunities for work and education. Similarly it keeps the Palestinian child away from the opportunities open to everyone else and condemns him to life in a small, degenerate village.”

If anyone had any doubt as to whether the Occupation of the West Bank is a colonial enterprise through and through, this passage should settle the question. The sheer cynicism is astonishing:  you can guess who has kept the Palestinians of Susya in poverty, and who now intends to expel them  from their ancestral homes and lands. The West Bank must be the last site in the world where this kind of language, reminiscent of French Algeria or apartheid South Africa or colonial Kenya or Tanganyika, can still be used without shame.