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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

4 July 2001
Subject: Homes & wells of 500 Palestinians destroyed by Israeli army


I don’t have words to describe my horror at what was just done today by the Israeli army in the southern part of the West Bank. Some of you may recall our visit to this area a year and a half ago, when the army simply evicted the Palestinians from the shacks and caves where they lived – men, women, children, sheep, and chickens – turning them out into the desolate mountain region. These people are so poor, so disconnected from the urban centers, so marginal to affairs of state, that it took weeks for the story to trickle into town. But finally word got out, and after months of painstaking efforts by human rights organizations, the families were allowed to return.

That was a year ago.

Tonight, these homes are rubble and there is nothing for the families to return to anymore. The army smashed the shacks, blew up the caves, and bulldozed parched summer earth into the wells. How could we destroy their sources of water? I cannot, simply cannot, fathom it. Is this what our children are taught to do as soldiers? Some of this was shown on the Israeli TV news this evening. Have you ever witnessed such a scene – a shack that someone calls home bulldozed into broken pieces, the family clutching each other in grief and horror?

This, dear friends, is what occupation means, and this is what we must do everything humanly possible to end. Because it is being done in our names, as Jews, as Israelis, as human beings.

What follows is a report written by Gush Shalom.

Gila Svirsky

GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 -
July 3, Action Alert: Collective punishment leaves 500 Palestinians homeless

Last night, an Israeli settler named Yair Har-Sinai was shot to death near the settlement enclave in the south of the West Bank. Fellow-settlers, who were today very extensively interviewed, told two things about him: that unlike other settlers, he did not carry a gun and claimed to be in favor of coexistence; and that more than any other settler, he was zealous in staking a claim to “state lands,” i.e. confiscated Palestinian lands, herding his sheep on them day and night so as “to make them into Jewish lands in practice” – which, from their point of view, is the highest praise possible.

One could feel sorry for this misguided man, as for the ever-increasing number of victims claimed by the violent whirlwind of the past nine months. But any impartial observer would have to admit that Har-Sinai’s two attributes were in flat contradiction to each other. You just can’t be a seeker after coexistence, much less an unarmed pacifist, and at the same time actively engage in dispossesing your neighbors. Har-Sinai died of that contradiction.

This happened last night. This morning, just hours after Har-Sinai’s body was found, Israeli military forces entered neighboring Palestinian villages, systematically blowing up houses and the caves in which many of the poor Palestinian peasants of this area have their dwellings, destroying terraces and filling up wells. Some 500 people were rendered homeless. Full details are not yet available, since the army has surrounded the entire area, allowing in neither human rights field workers nor even the Red Cross which offered to provide tents to the newly-dispossessed families.

This was, clearly, an act of collective punishment, in flagrant violation of international law. It was also something even worse – use of a killing as a pretext for continuing the implementation of a long-lasting, comprehensive plan of dispossesion. Already in 1982, the whole area – some 86,000 dunam [roughly 22,000 acres] – had been declared “a closed military zone” and the Palestinians residing in it were ordered to leave, to make room for the creation of Israeli settlements. They refused to leave the string of small villages, often consisting of caves rather than houses, where their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years: Wad Rakhaim, Karbet al-Nabi, Imnaizel, al-Shatneh and Kharbet al-Sussia (the name of the last, as well as its lands, were appropriated for the Israeli settlement created nearby). For the past two decades they had been living precariously on the fragments left of their land, subject to harassment and constant encroaching by the settlers. Now, it seems, the killing is being used to complete the work of dispossession. (For some of the above information we are indebted to the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq ).

This tragic and infuriating affair illustrates as nothing else the deadlock in which we are. The government of Israel demands a ceasefire – “complete, utter quiet, with not a shot fired and not a stone thrown” in the words of Prime Minister Sharon. At the same time, settlers are allowed to continue expanding their armed enclaves and dispossessing their neighbors, under the protection of and with the active cooperation of the mightiest army in the Middle East.

Weary as you may be of our asking you again and again to send protest messages, they are still needed. By writing, you can give an immediate and powerful starting signal to the further struggle from within. You may use the sample letter later in this message or make your own, and send it by fax (preferably) and/or email to your choice (or all) of the following addresses. (We have to warn you, that not all the email addresses may remain accessible during this campaign, but many of them will go through.)

Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres
Fax: +972-2-5303704

Israeli Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer
Fax: +972-3-6916940 or 6976990

Prime Minister Sharon
Fax: +972-2-5664838

Copies to:

The Israeli embassy or consulate in your country;

President George W. Bush
Fax: +1-202-456-2461

Secretary of State Colin Powell
Fax: +1-202-261-8577

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
Fax: +1-212.963.5012

Personal Representative of the Secretary General to the United Nations in Palestine
Fax: + 972 8 282 0966

Political Advisers to Mr. Miguel Moratinos - Special European Union Envoy to the Middle East
Fax: + 32 2 285 87 52
Mr./M. Bernardino <>
Ms. Karin Roxman <>
Mr./M. Christian Jouret <>

Some Labour and Meretz Knesset Members,,,,,,,


Dear sir/madame:

I strongly protest the Israeli army’s attack, on July 3, of Palestinian villages near the Israeli settlement of Sussia in the occupied West Bank. The systematic destruction of homes, inhabited caves, wells and terraces, leaving at least 500 people homeless, cannot be justified by the regrettable killing of an Israeli settler several kilometres away. This is not only collective punishment, it is brutal dispossession motivated by greed for land, and as such it is a violation of international law and makes a mockery of words about the ceasefire violations of the other side.


For information about Gush Shalom visit the website:
(including the Boycott List of Products of Settlements)

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
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© 2001 Gila Svirsky, Gush Shalom.

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