Posted by Guest on September 19, 2017 in Blog
Local elementary school students demonstrated their solidarity with Susiya by participating in Pinwheels for Peace ahead of the International Day of Peace by handing out pinwheels to those in attendance of the briefing
By Sarah Seniuk
Susiya is a small Palestinian village located in the southern Hebron Hills, and has been a particularly sought-after area of land by Israel. The villagers were first displaced in 1986 for an archaeological dig, and since have faced ever-renewing threats. Now, Susiya and its residents face imminent relocation. Susiya itself falls within Area C of the occupied West bank, which was placed under Israeli control during the 1993 peace accords, with the Israeli government crafting new arguments for the removal of Palestinians and the demolition of the village regularly. The latest demolition order is now being held up in court, neither granting the government explicit permission to begin removing residents, nor halting the slow encroachment of Israeli settlers.
This is where American constituents come into play. Today, the office of Senator Bernie Sanders (D – VT) hosted a Congressional briefing presented by Rebuilding Alliance to bring greater awareness to the plight of Susiya. Rebuilding Alliance’s founder Donna Baranski-Walker was joined by Alon Cohen-Lifshitz ofBimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, Kate Gould of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Rabbi Arik Ascherman ofRabbis for Human Rights and Torat Tzedek were joined by 15-year-old resident of the village, Aysar, to speak about Susiya and what Americans can do to help.
Aysar, 15, has spoken on behalf of Susiya for 3 years through Rebuilding Alliance. This year, he insisted on addressing the audience in English. Around him are Alon Cohen-Lifshitz and translator Rasha Mahmoud, who also works as the Manager of Philanthropy in the West Bank for Rebuilding Alliance.
Aysar has been speaking on behalf of his village for three years in Washington, DC, and was meant to be joined by five-year-old Tia, though she was only granted two of the three visas needed to travel from Gaza to the US. Aysar described how he's harassed by Israeli soldiers on the way to school, and said his dream is to one day live in a house with walls instead of a tent. He urged attendees to act and “let me imagine my future.”
As Ascherman, Baranski, Cohen, and Gould all explained during the briefing, it takes very little from American constituents to make a big difference for Palestinians facing the demolition of their villages. The US government and its people have always had an impact on shaping the scope and breadth of Israeli policy. And while many Americans may be concerned with political developments at home, their influence remains strong abroad. Here are some easy ways to help Susiya now:
· Call your representatives, ask them to vote no on S. 720 and HR 1697 - bills which aim to restrict non-violent BDS activism in support of Palestinian human rights, particularly how it relates to the UN’s 2016 recommended sanctions against Israeli settlements
From left to right: Mahmoud, Aysar, Baranski-Walker, and Ascherman
· Ask your representatives to tell the State Department and the Israeli Embassy that Americans do not support the destruction of Palestinian villages
· Make Susiya (and other villages like it) visible through social media, or by visiting the village itself if you have the opportunity and resources - Americans actively demonstrating their solidarity has a big impact both on the government and for the morale of Palestinians
Sarah Seniuk is a fall 2017 intern at the Arab American Institute.