- 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 city.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Settlers commit porgrom against Palestinians near Nablus
- 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
- Armed settler youths go on a rampage in Hebron
- 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
- 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
- Outside the city the settlers harass farmers, prevent
them from harvesting their olive crops and tear the trees from their soil.
- Settlers open fire on unarmed Palestinians
- 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 defenceless against their tormentors.
Yet the `international community' does nothing to protect them.
- 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.
- Jewish settlers want all the Palestinians out of Hebron
- Jeremy Salt teaches in the Department of Political Science,
- University, Ankara, and is the author of the recently
published The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder
in Arab Lands (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).