Elham Asaad Buaras
A group of 30 rabbis asked Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, to assist in stopping the demolition of Palestinian homes in a West Bank village.
Signing their names under the umbrella group British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights, the rabbis mostly from the Liberal and Reform movements spoke out against the imminent destruction of 37 houses in the village of Khirbet Susiya on the West Bank.
Khirbet Susiya’s fate has become an international cause célèbre since Israel’s supreme court rejected a residents’ petition in May requesting an injunction on plans to demolish the village, whose roughly 300 residents live in tent-like structures.
The Israeli authorities argue that the village – lying between one long-established illegal Jewish settlement, also called Susiya, and another illegal settlement outpost – has been built without proper permits and is too poor to survive.
The villagers say the true agenda is to drive them out to enable the expansion of the neighbouring illegal settlements.
British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights joined the European foreign ministers and the US in warning against ‘harmful and provocative’ demolition or evictions.
In a statement, the European foreign ministers echoed a warning delivered by the US Government over the fate of the community of 350 in the south Hebron Hills.
John Kirby, a US State Department spokesman, warned that any demolition or evictions would be “harmful and provocative”. He said: “We’re closely following developments and we strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village.”
The EU’s council of foreign minister also urged Israel to abandon plans for the “forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure”.
The Rabbis said they were writing to Taub “out of deep commitment to Israel and to Judaism.”
They noted that, as it was recently Tisha b’av – a Jewish day marking the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem – the “injustice of destroying the homes of the villagers of Susiya therefore feels especially poignant”.
British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights say the recent ruling made by Israeli courts that 37 buildings in the West Bank village must be demolished because they were constructed without permits “reflects the greater injustice in which 94 per cent of all residential building applications are routinely denied to over 150,000 Palestinians”.
They continued: “Our greatest desire is for all the citizens of the state of Israel to live in peace and safety according to our shared Jewish values and teachings.
“The proposed action in Susiya is not only in itself unjust, but reflects badly on Israel’s image in the eyes of other nations and in the view of much of the Jewish community itself.”
Former Board of Deputies treasurer Laurence Brass spoke out against the “squalid surroundings” he witnessed during a visit to the West Bank last year.
The Chief Rabbi was unavailable to comment.