Illegal Arab construction in Susya (file)
Illegal Arab construction in Susya (file)Regavim

US State Department spokesperson John Kirby delivered a terse statement against Israel at a press briefing on Thursday, incredibly ordering the Jewish state not to demolish illegal structures built by Arab squatters on an ancient Jewish village.

The Israeli Supreme Court has given the green light for the demolition of 80 illegal structures in Arab Susya, significantly located on the ancient village of Susya in the Har Hevron region of southern Judea. On Thursday demolition orders were distributed to the Arab squatters.

After an Arab journalist asked about reports that Israel may carry out the demolition soon, Kirby said the State Department is "closely following developments," in comments that can be seen from 3:25 on in the video below.

"We strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village," warned Kirby. "Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes, would be harmful and provocative. Such actions have an impact beyond those individuals and families who are evicted."

Kirby said the demolition may "worsen the atmosphere for a peaceful resolution and would set a damaging standard for displacement and land confiscation particularly given settlement-related activity in the area."

From the video, Kirby clearly was reading a typed answer to the question, whereas in his other answers he spoke in his own words without a pre-scripted message. This fact would appear to indicate both the strong intentions expressed in the statement, as well as how the State Department was planning to address the issue - and possibly pre-arranged for the question to be asked.

The position on an illegal Arab settlement is particularly hypocritical given the State Department's vocal condemnation of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, labeling them as "illegal settlements" and urging their demolition - despite the 2012 Levy Report's finding that the Jewish presence in the region is legal according to international law.

What is Arab Susya?

The "Palestinian village" Kirby took such pains to defend was in fact built adjacent to the Jewish community of Susya which was established in 1983. Problematically, the Arab town was built on the archaeological site of ancient Susya, a Jewish village from the Temple Period.

While Arab squatters and leftists have claimed an Arab historical connection to the site, historical documents have thoroughly debunked that claim, showing how the Arab village is a very recent phenomenon whereas the ancient Jewish connection to the site is established in the records.

Tzviki Bar-Hai, then head of the Har Hevron regional council, told Arutz Sheva in late 2013 that the Arab presence in Susya is very recent.

"I was there in 1976, and aside from the synagogue that was built here in 1969, there wasn’t a living soul," he recalled. “We were able to restart the archaeological digs in 1983, and then, too, there were no Palestinians around.”

He noted how Arab farmers began to visit Susya for one or two nights at a time during certain parts of the year starting in 1986, revealing that those now claiming to be residents of Susya are actually from the nearby Arab town of Yatta.

"In recent years a few Arab families from Yatta are trying to settle near ancient Susya and to argue that they were expelled from the village of Susiya – which never existed," he said. "They are all from Yatta. They are supported by leftist activists, who come on weekends to help create the narrative of expulsion."