"security analysts" describe the Palestinian city of
Hebron as a "city of terror". This is true: Israel’s
state terrorism is nowhere as brutal. If you wish to see ethnic
cleansing at work, Hebron is a good instance.
a look at Map 1 Hebron District.
roughly, the district is a circle with a radius of about 10km
(6 miles) around the city of Hebron. Within this small area, the
Oslo Accords allocated to the Palestinian Authority dozens of
disconnected semi-autonomous enclaves ("Area B", civil
Palestinian control and Israeli security control). Hebron city
itself, with its 130.000 Palestinian inhabitants, is typically
surrounded to the north, east and south by contiguous "Area
C", which means full Israeli control, with settlements, by-pass
roads and checkpoints strangulating the city.
1997, Netanyahu’s Israel – the same Israel that argued, when Jerusalem
was at stake, that no city should be divided – divided the city
of Hebron in two zones. 90.000 of the city’s inhabitants came
under Palestinian jurisdiction (H1), whereas 40.000 Palestinian
Hebronites remained under direct Israeli occupation (H2), for
the sake of about 450 Israeli settlers living among them.
2 shows the division of the city.
is taken from the official website of Israel’s Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. Pro-Israeli propagandists repeatedly claim
that Israel is missing from Palestinian maps – a "proof"
that the Palestinians do not recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Take a look at the Israeli Map 2. Hebron is connected to Israeli
towns and settlements only: Kiryat Gat, Beer Sheva, Kiryat Arba
etc. Not a single Palestinian town is mentioned.
was not divided by chance. It is the centre that remained under
direct Israeli control, bringing the heart of the Palestinian
city – the main street, the market, the traffic – to a complete
halt. Map 3 of the city centre shows it quite clearly.
the map is from the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs; typically, almost all the sites depicted
are Jewish. From looking at the map, no one would guess that 99,7%
of the city’s population is Palestinian.
Jewish settlers of Hebron are fanatic extremists even by Israeli
standards. They regularly ransack Palestinian shops, cut electricity
lines and water pipes, wreck cars, and attack schoolchildren.
funeral of Netanel Ozeri, a Hebron settler shot dead by Palestinians
a month ago, gave a good demonstration of the settlers’ profile.
34 year old Ozeri was killed in his home in an illegal outpost.
Member of the outlawed racist Kach movement, Ozeri had just returned
home after serving a four months jail sentence for attacking a
policemen during a disturbance last July. Ozeri’s father-in-law
is a former member of the Jewish underground who was sentenced
to life in prison in 1985 for killing Palestinians in Hebron (and
later pardoned). Supreme Court had ordered several times to evacuate
Ozeri and his illegal outpost, following scores of complaints
from the dispossessed and harassed Palestinian owners of the land.
But the Israeli Army and Police, always so efficient in demolishing
"illegal" Palestinian houses, did not enforce the
Court decision in Ozeri’s case.
15-hour-long funeral procession was marked by a series of struggles
among his family and followers over where the body would be buried.
Ozeri’s "pious" followers hoisted his body on a stretcher
wrapped in a blue and white prayer shawl, and pulled back the
covering so his face was visible, in clear violation of Jewish
religious law – a spectacle deplored by the chief rabbi as "a
and after the procession, Ozeri’s comrades were busy carrying
out his legacy in Hebron itself. The Independent described
how "Jewish settlers rampaged through the West Bank city
of Hebron yesterday, smashing the windows of Palestinian homes
and setting cars ablaze" (20.1.03). Even the pro-Israeli
New York Times mildly mentioned "attacks on Palestinian
homes by settlers. The attackers broke windows with iron bars,
and at one point a young mother with a baby strapped to her chest
pounded a Palestinian house with a big rock. There were wild scuffles
as the army and the police tried to intervene, and the crowd taunted
the police, shouting insults." (21.1.03)
Terrorism, State Terrorism
not be impressed by police and army "trying to intervene",
as the NY Times carefully puts it. The 450 Hebron settlers
are supported by about 4.000 Israeli army troops, who are there
for the settlers, not for the Palestinians. Since mid-November,
following a clash with Islamic Jihad activists in which 12 Israeli
combatants were killed, the Army has been holding the city under
continuous curfew, lifted for only a few hours in more than two
months(!) to allow for shopping. When the Palestinians do venture
out on these rare occasions, they are often harassed by settlers,
who stage violent processions whenever they have a pretext. As
one Palestinian told US activist group Christian
Peacemaker Team, "They lift the curfew so they will
have people to beat".
are now underway for the construction of a "safe passage",
a "settlers’ promenade" that would link the settlement
of Kiryat Arba on Hebron’s eastern flank to the Old City like
a wedge thrust into the heart the city, confiscating 64 parcels
of private Palestinian property and razing at least 15 houses
in its wake. As Ha’aretz journalist Ada Ushpiz recently
reported, "The tourist ‘promenade’ project has never been
officially confirmed by the Army, but every caprice of the settlers
soon becomes a military necessity. The destruction of 15 Palestinian
houses for protecting the settlers is apparently a low price"
be demolished are some of the oldest Palestinian houses in the
Old City. Bimkom, a new NGO
of architects and affiliated professionals, warns of this fatal
blow to the one of the world’s most ancient cities. Unlike the
Taliban’s destruction of the Buddha sculptures in Afghanistan,
very few people in the West seem to be concerned about the destruction
of this internationally acknowledged cultural heritage. The Supreme
Court has meanwhile ordered the army to reconsider its plans;
but past experience shows that in the long term, almost all Court
decisions regarding the occupied territories are either supportive
of the army or ignored by it.
Jewish settlers of Hebron are thus a criminal gang actively nurtured
by the State – an extremely dangerous process not only for the
Palestinians, but for Israel itself. To be precise, it is the
junta that continuously nurtures these organised and heavily
armed criminal elements. An overwhelming majority of Israelis
supports evicting the provocative stronghold. Following the 1994
massacre, in which a Jewish settler murdered 39 Palestinians during
prayer in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, there was a majority
even in Cabinet for evacuating the Hebron settlement. But Prime
Minister (and former General) Rabin refused to discuss the issue
in Cabinet. Similarly, during coalition talks last week, another
member of the junta – Prime Minister (and former General) Sharon
– summarily rejected a request by Labour leader Amram Mitzna to
evacuate the Hebron settlers.
Press (20.12.02) and the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronot have
recently quoted Palestinians in Hebron describing how"Israeli
border police have forced detainees to choose whether to have
a nose, arm or leg broken." Rujdi al-Jamal told AP that
he chose his hand, and the policemen broke it with a rifle butt.
A Palestinian student arrested on a different occasion told Yediot
Achronot: "I chose the nose because nothing hurts
as much as a broken arm or broken leg."
such individual cases can all too easily be dismissed as rumours
or "exceptions", senior Israeli officers operating in
Hebron have now repeatedly incriminated the Israeli army of an
overall criminal policy of applying pressure on civilian population,
in a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. When the
army invaded Hebron in the first week of February, with infantry
and armoured forces on an unprecedented scale, one of the officers
leading this invasion, a Lieutenant-Colonel identified only by
his first name Eran, told the evening news of both Israeli television
channels: "It is our intention to apply strong pressure
on the population in order to make it expel the terrorists from
its midst" (Ha’aretz, 6.2.03). The very next day,
another senior Israeli officer told Channel 1 that "the
economic pressure is not incidental, but part of a long process"
of applying pressure on the population.
means: "blocking the streets of Hebron to traffic by piling
mounds of earth or huge concrete cubes at distances of about a
hundred metres from each other, effectively cutting the city into
a series of isolated enclaves; the wholesale closing of local
radio and television stations, exactly at the time when the curfew-imprisoned
population needs them most; the invasion by soldiers of civilian
offices of the Palestinian Authority, which fulfill purely civilian
functions vital for the population, the destruction of computers
and furniture, expulsion of the staff and welding shut the doors;
the bulldozing of Hebron’s vegetable market, destruction of at
least a hundred stalls, and spoiling of much food-stuff in an
already very impoverished city; and the demolition of twenty-two
homes on one day, mostly on land which Israeli settlers have long
coveted for extension of their armed enclaves" (letter of
Gush Shalom to the Judge-Advocate
General of the Israeli army, 4.2.03).
Cleansing At Work
far, the junta’s policy has proven quite effective. Driven away
by economic strangulation and fear of settlers’ violence, the
population of 12.000 Palestinians who inhabited Hebron’s Old City
has dwindled to 5.000 souls since the division of the city in
1997. As for H1 in its entirety, Israeli Channel 1 estimated last
week that 20.000 out of its 40.000 Palestinians left their homes.
The camera showed rows of Palestinian houses with windows left
broken in spite of the cold winter, a clear evidence for a successful
policy of ethnic cleansing. Deserted houses are then taken over
by settlers, who get the chance to harass the next row of Palestinian
neighbours. Depicting Hebron as a purely Jewish city, the maps
of Israel’s Foreign Office are thus not just a distortion of reality:
they express both a desire and an actual policy of ethnic cleansing,
which is carried out with horrendous efficacy in this terrorised
Palestinian city. PS: I am well aware of standard Israeli propaganda,
so anti-Palestinian readers need not bother to remind me of the
67 Jews massacred in Hebron back in 1929. May they rest in peace.
Their children and grandchildren (none of whom is among the present
Hebron settlers) have repeatedly condemned the atrocities carried
out by the settlers, who claim to be heirs to the massacred, but
in fact desecrate their very memory by their crimes.