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The Disgrace Of Hebron
By Jeremy Salt
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 urbanicide. 
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.
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 graffiti. 
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 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. 
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, Bilkent 
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).

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