Disgrace of Hebron
to Ibrahimi mosque is controlled by Israeli
The infiltration of Hebron began in the wake of the 1967 war when
followers of the extremist and very violent rabbi Moshe Levinger
took over the Park Hotel in the centre of the city. The Israeli
government claimed there was nothing it could do to stop them when,
in fact, Levinger and his followers were the brutal weapon the
state needed to begin the colonisation of the territories seized in
the June war. In the years to come, the stranglehold on Hebron was
slowly tightened. In the early 1980s, the central bus station was
closed down and turned into a sandbagged military outpost following
a 'terrorist' attack on settlers. Another early target was the
Ibrahimi Mosque, which was taken over from the Muslim waqf
(administration) by the military and sectioned into prayer spaces
for Muslims and the Jewish settlers living in and around the
Despite the encroachments of the settlers over the past four
decades, Hebron remained an Arab city. Since 1997, however, when
Yasser Arafat capitulated to combined US and Israeli pressure and
sanctioned the creation of a Jewish enclave at the heart of an
occupied city, Hebron has been subjected to a form of
state-sanctioned racism that can only be called urbanicide.
shops in Hebron forced to close
The next target of the assault on Hebron, after the bus station and
the mosque, was the central market. In the name of the 'security'
of the settlers harassing and abusing Palestinians under the
protection of Israeli soldiers, the 1400 shops in the market were
closed. They have now been shuttered for years. The once crowded
lanes are empty apart from Israeli soldiers and Jewish tourists
being given guided tours of old Hebron. Hundreds of Palestinian
families lived around the market. They have all been driven out in
the same name of 'security' as the shop owners. Their houses have
been vandalised by settlers coming down from the heights at night
so that they can never return.
Until 1997, about 35,000 Palestinians lived in central Hebron.
About 25,000 of them have since been driven out by the unrelenting
pressure of settlers protected by Israeli soldiers and the
government which gives them their orders. Several hundred settlers
live inside the city and about 5000 within the adjoining colony of
Kiryat Arba. The settlers, many of them the products of the
yeshivot (religious schools) of Jerusalem, and some of them
sociopathic Americans living out a messianic fantasy at the expense
of the Palestinians, are heavily armed and very dangerous. They
have no respect for anyone who is not Jewish. They have no respect
for their own government, which is finally taking action to curb
some of their excesses now that it realises what a danger they are
becoming to the state. There are only two parallels in history for
these deluded racist bullies. One is the Cossack bands who swept
through Jewish settlements in Tsarist Russia, looting, pillaging
and occasionally killing, but even they appeared only
intermittently and did not harass Jews every day of the week. The
other obvious parallel are the thugs who humiliated Jews on the
streets of Munich and Berlin in the early 1930s.
The settlers beat and vandalise and occasionally they kill.
Sometimes they kill in large numbers. It is a measure of how
twisted they are that they regard Baruch Goldstein, the American
who in 1994 murdered 29 Palestinians and wounded 150 with an
assault rifle as they prayed in the Ibrahimi mosque, as a hero of
the Jewish people. The settler children are a story in themselves.
These little monsters abuse and stone Palestinian women and
children as a matter of course. As they get older they take their
place amongst the 'hilltop youth'. For years these dangerous young
fanatics have been running around Hebron and across the land of
Palestinian farmers as unrestrained as a pack of wild dogs. They
terrorise Palestinians in their homes, set fire to their property
and deface their cemeteries with anti-Arab and anti-Islamic
The epicenter of this hatred and fanaticism is the Tel Rumeida
district of Hebron. Most of the Palestinians have been driven out.
The small number that remain live inside the wire cages they have
erected around their houses to protect themselves. They are stoned
and abused and dare not leave their homes empty because of the
danger that the settlers will take them over.
Older people are too frightened to move outside their front door.
The novelist Maria Vargas Llosa wrote recently ('How Arabs have
been driven out of Hebron', The Independent, April 19, 2008) after
a visit to Hebron: 'Some 25,000 residents have been cleared from
their homes in H-2 zone in five years. In the Tel Rumeida
neighborhood alone, where there is a [Jewish] settlement of the
same name, barely 50 out of 500 Arab families remain. The
extraordinary thing is that they haven't already gone, subjected as
they are to systematic and ferocious harassment by settlers, who
stone them, throw rubbish and excrement at their houses, invade and
destroy their homes and attack their children when they return from
school, to the absolute indifference of Israeli soldiers who
witness these atrocities'. Outside the city the settlers harass
farmers, prevent them from harvesting their olive crops and tear
the trees from their soil.
Behind all of this stands the state. The official expressions of
concern at their 'excesses' are rank hypocrisy. The state has
indulged their criminality all along. The indifference of soldiers
is sufficient testimony to its complicity. Only recently, with the
settlers now turning on soldiers and with the state embarrassed by
video film of settlers beating up Palestinians and besieging them
in their homes, has the government of Israel taken any action at
all to restrain them. In the past, virtually every complaint made
by the Palestinians has been met with complete indifference.
Even Israeli journalists have taken to describing what is happening
in Hebron as a pogrom, which must make anyone wonder why the
outside media refuses to apply the same historical parallels. Like
other pogroms in history, the Hebron pogrom is sanctioned by the
state. Every single Israeli government since 1967 has funded and
protected the settlers as they make life hell for the Palestinians.
Even now, it is only taking limited action to restrain them. The
Palestinians are virtually defenseless against their tormentors.
Yet the 'international community' does nothing to protect
Perhaps we should not be surprised seeing that the same
'international community' has taken no responsibility for the
catastrophic long-term consequences of the decision it took in 1947
when it decided to create the state of Israel in Palestine. The
criminal actions of settlers, the criminal indifference of soldiers
and the criminal complicity of the state must all be included in
the fine achievements for which the state of Israel was
congratulated by presidents, prime ministers and the speakers of
numerous parliaments on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.