Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Latest Hebron Settler Pogroms

Well, with pseudo-Jewish settlers on the rampage as I write -- smashing, burning, throwing rocks, and even shooting at defenceless Palestinians – a few questions should be asked.

First, since some of the pogrom apparently is in Area A, why aren't Palestinian officers arresting settlers? Second, why was the area declared a closed military zone so late? Third, why are the IDF and the police so ineffectual in preventing the settler rampage? Fourth, why aren't the police using the same tactics against the settlers that the IDF uses against the protestors in Bil'in. After all, the settlers are much more violent than the Bil'in protestors

Having asked all that, one can only wonder at the cowardice of the settlers. Have you noticed how they always wimp out big time when facing real armed forces? Remember Gush Katif? One of the settler's leaders, Haggi Ben Artzi, predicted mass suicides – heck, he even promised to kill himself. And, then, on the day of the evacuation he wasn't even there. If you are going to be a zealot, at least act like one. But when the settler thugs face the Palestinians, preferably Palestinians who have no weapons and no army to protect them, just look at the Jewish Heroes!

Ah, but it is Mikhael Manekin of Breaking the Silence, who reminds us that today's events really change nothing in Hebron. On the contrary, this sort of ritual has played out many times before. To paraphrase Menachem Begin (with changes), "When Jews fight Jews, Arabs are strung up on the tree." Actually, Begin said of world criticism of Israel's role in Sabra and Shatila that the goyim fight the goyim and the Jews are strung up on the tree. Just plug in Arabs for "Jews" and Jews for "goyim" – a pretty appropriate substitution – and you have Hebron today.

Here and below is Manekin's op-ed from the Jerusalem Post, which he wrote before the evacuation. Needless to say, the talkbacks to the article are mostly of the "glatt kosher fascist" variety.

P.S. I use the term "pseudo-Jews" only in deference to the Rambam (Maimonides) who writes in this great Code of Jewish Law, "The [Jewish] lineage should be doubted of whoever is cruel and shows no mercy. For only pagans are cruel…and all the Jews, and whoever accompanies them, are like brothers." (Law Concerning Gifts to the Poor 10:2.") From a halakhic standpoint, those Hebron settlers who wear tzizit and kippot (fringes and skull-caps), but who are cruel to innocent Palestinians, are suspect Jews.

It's only one house

Dec. 3, 2008

For those following the planned evacuation of the illegal settlement in Hebron ironically called the "House of Peace," it has been an eventful couple of weeks. Extreme violence on the part of settlers toward both Palestinians and Israeli police and soldiers, petitions of Knesset members to reverse the ruling of the High Court, letters to the president and countless threats of civil war have become the normal means of discourse.

Looking at these events from the outside, one would think that a major event in the history of Israel's control over the occupied territories was about to occur.

What other explanation could there be for all the commotion? It is important, though, to keep in mind that we are not talking about the evacuation of the entire settlement of Hebron (which consists of fewer than 1,000 extremist settlers in an area of some 500 square meters), but of one building deep inside the city that has been considered illegal almost from day one.

It is also important to remind ourselves that if the settlers are evicted (and that is by no means a certainty - there is already talk of postponing the evacuation to a much later date), Hebron will continue to be a place that embodies the worst of Israel's occupation policies. Hebron will still be a place where Palestinians are prevented legally from walking on their own roads, a city with sections that have become virtual ghost towns as a consequence of Israeli policies.

Palestinians will continue to suffer daily from harassment by soldiers and from the fact that the Israeli authorities do little to prevent settlers from attacking them, destroying their property and harassing their children.

As soldiers who served in Hebron, we at Breaking the Silence have long been aware of how things work there. We have seen firsthand how the policy of separation, paired with the absence of law enforcement vis-a-vis violent settlers, has affected the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians. We, too, have become subject to regular harassment and abuse from these settlers as we guide tours in the city. This will not change if and when the building is evacuated.

NONE OF this is to say that eviction of the settlers from the "House of Peace" is unimportant.

If they are allowed to remain, it will be another nail in the coffin of the rule of law in the West Bank (and how many more nails does that coffin need?). We must pressure our government to enforce the law and evacuate these illegal settlers.

But when the day comes and thousands of soldiers and policemen arrive to do just that, we must keep in mind that nothing major is happening. Surely, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and fellow politicians will talk about the victory of democracy. They will boast about how the rule of law has prevailed yet again. They will sit in comfort in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and pat themselves on the back, saying that they triumphed over the religious fanatics.

But we, Israelis who have been through this before, will be there to remind them of Hebron's recent history. We will remind them that in the summer of 2007, they patted themselves on the back after 2,000 soldiers were needed to dislodge two settler families from the wholesale market. We will remind them that the year before that, they patted themselves on the back when they evacuated the Shapira House, yet another settlement in the city. Then, as today, the world may well have thought for a couple of minutes that something was changing.

But today we have enough memories to know better.

That is why we will remind them and ourselves that the occupation is only becoming more permanent. For every settler house that is demolished, dozens more are being built. We must remember that the Palestinians of Hebron will still be deprived of basic human rights, because they were born in a city where the lives of settlers are worth more than theirs.

Finally, we must remember that as Israelis, we have a long struggle ahead of us, one that involves hundreds of "houses of peace." We cannot call ourselves a society that upholds the values of human rights and democracy until we deal with these bigger issues, instead of focusing on just one house.

The writer is a member of Breaking the Silence, an organization of IDF veterans promoting awareness about the situation in the territories.




Jerry Haber said...

The answer to the first question above is that the Palestinian Authority was requested by the IDF not to interfere in places where the IDF has a presence -- that this will only complicate matters. So even if the settlers go on the ranmpage in Area A, it is up for the IDF to take charge of the situation.

Anonymous said...

"requested." I guess that's one way of putting it.

Unknown said...

Forgive me for not yet having read Manekin's piece & commenting nevertheless. But I agree that the entire brouhaha over the House of Contention is precisely the strategy that the settlers want. Make a huge stink over every single stone & clod of dirt in Hebron. Make every one a do or die proposition. Exhaust the nation. Exhaust the IDF. Finally maybe we'll all give up in exasperation & allow them to have their way w. the Palestinians.

Of course, this is but one house. And a battle won doesn't win the war. We've got to keep our eyes on the war against the settlers. If we lose that then we've lost everything including possibly Israel itself--or at least Israel as we know it.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I've seen your blog. It's both refreshing and sad to see a sole voice of reason on the issue of land.

You called these people "pseudo jews". No doubt they call you "self hating".

You describe people living on Palestinian land as "settlers"; I disagree. Anyone living on Palestinian land (as per the 1967 borders) is a squatter and should be labelled as such. Some people take great offense to that, but the reality is, the land is Palestine's, and what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, the gradual theft of land, is no different than what China is doing to Tibet or what was done to in the Sudetenland and Poland (no, I am not comparing jews to the Nazis).