Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Hebron Tour -- Police Guard, Settler Harrassment

So today I went on the "official" Hebron tour, led by Breaking the Silence, the group of IDF veterans who themselves did military service in Hebron. The group has been given this tour for a few years now.

This time it was different. (See video below)

Twenty-three Israelis and a few members of the Breaking the Silence were encircled by over a hundred police and border police -- to protect them from the Hebron Jewish settlers. That works out to over six policemen per tourist. And the settlers were there, albeit not in full force. In fact, there were only about twenty of them, but their leaders had megaphones. So the planned chaos went on for two hours, as Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence and the tour's participants was verbally harrassed ("Homo," "Nazi,", "You sleep with terrorists"), while the police watched and did not interfere.

Each group did what it was supposed to do. The police can now tell the High Court that it accompanied the tour, as agreed, but at an enormous cost of manpower. The Breaking the Silence folks succeeded to have at least part of their "tour". And the settlers -- well, they were there to verbally harrass, and they did a good job. No rocks, no eggs, just a lot of insults at high decibels.

Have you ever seen the footage of blacks in the US South during the 1950s entering =schools and universities under heavy police protection, as they are being taunted by the crowd? Well, that's a bit how we felt. We weren't allowed by the organizers to say anything, to respond to the harrassment, to get off a good crack or some bon mot. We were stony-faced silent.

By the way, on the bus down, we were given a balanced portrait of Hebron that stressed its importance in Jewish history, and we were told of the settlement there, and the 1929 massacres. None of the Breaking the Silence leaders called for removing the settlers. On the contrary, the guides said that the settlers had legitimate security claims in Hebron. But what has happened on the ground has gone way beyond security. It is all about making life hell for the Palestinians so they will leave the area under Israeli jurisdiction.

Many have.

The video takes around five minutes of your time. I apologize for the poor quality. It's from my camera. All the noise you hear is from the settlers.


Anonymous said...

And today, according to Ynet, the settlers of Hebron attacked another breaking the silence tour. This time a tour given to British diplomats, so maybe someone will do something (though I doubt it).

Hebrew link:,7340,L-3579241,00.html

Anonymous said...

Legitimate security claims, my arse. If I behaved towards my neighbours like those settlers towards theirs I might have a security problem, too - that is, if law enforcement was "functioning" here the way it does there.

In hindsight it was probably one of Arafat's bigger mistakes to agree to the partition of Hebron. He may not have anticipated just what a bunch of psychopaths would move in. He must have foreseen however that the partition, far from simply acknowledging the importance of the city in Jewish history and providing Jews legitimate access to their holy sites, it would further accelerate the city's de-urbanization, already much in progress in 1996. Needless to say, every bit at the expense of the Palestinian Hebronites.

No, I'm not arguing for consolidation of ethnically cleansed (or "clean") areas, quite the opposite. In my view, Jews and Palestinians will only have a chance of living together if they start doing so. And that applies in all the land between the river and the sea.