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Monday, June 23, 2008

Defending the revenants' Israel

Sunday's New York Times included an article by Nicolas Kristof called The Two Israels. As you can probably guess, in Kristof's mind, the two Israels are the 'good Israel' of B'Tselem, Machsom Watch and Akiva Eldar, while the 'bad Israel' is that of the settlers revenants, the 'checkpoints,' and 'Palestinian' poverty.
The security system that Israel is steadily establishing is nowhere more stifling than here in Hebron, the largest city in the southern part of the West Bank. In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people. To protect them, the Israeli military has established a massive system of guard posts, checkpoints and road closures since 2001.

More than 1,800 Palestinian shops have closed, in some cases the doors welded shut, and several thousand people have been driven from their homes. The once flourishing gold market is now blocked with barbed wire and choked with weeds and garbage.

“For years, Israel has severely oppressed Palestinians living in the center of the city,” notes B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, in a recent report. The authorities, it adds, “have expropriated the city center from its Palestinian residents and destroyed it economically.”

Rima Abu Aisha, a housewife in Hebron, has the misfortune of living in an area near the settlers. When she went into labor, an ambulance could not get the appropriate permissions in time and the baby died, she said.

Even if the Hebron settlement were not illegal in the eyes of much of the world, it is utterly impractical. The financial cost is mind-boggling, and the diplomatic cost is greater.

Perhaps greatest of all is the cost for any hope of a peaceful settlement: the barriers and checkpoints have undermined Palestinian moderates like President Mahmoud Abbas and have empowered Hamas. Polls show that two-thirds of Palestinians now approve of terror attacks against civilians in Israel, up from 40 percent in 2005.


It is here in the Palestinian territories that you see the worst side of Israel: Jewish settlers stealing land from Palestinians (almost one-third of settlement land is actually privately owned by Palestinians); Palestinian women giving birth at checkpoints because Israeli soldiers won’t let them through (four documented cases last year); the diversion of water from Palestinians. (Israelis get almost five times as much water per capita as Palestinians.)

Yet it is also here that you see the very best side of Israel. Israeli human rights groups relentlessly stand up for Palestinians. Israeli women volunteer at checkpoints to help Palestinians through. Israeli courts periodically rule in favor of Palestinians. Israeli scholars have published research that undermines their own nation’s mythologies. Many Israeli journalists have been fair-minded toward Palestinians in a way that Arab journalists have rarely reciprocated.

All told, the most persuasive indictments of Israeli actions come from Israelis themselves. This scrupulous honesty and fairness toward Israel’s historic enemies is a triumph of humanity.
Hebron community leader David Wilder has penned a lengthy response to Kristof, which unfortunately is unlikely to be published in the august pages of the New York Times, but which deserves at least equal prominence (Hat Tip: Israpundit via Memeorandum).
Kristof claims: More than 1,800 Palestinian shops have closed, in some cases the doors welded shut, and several thousand people have been driven from their homes.

The number 1,800 is greatly exaggerated. According to ranking IDF sources the number is closer to nine hundred. (This is one of the problems with foreign journalists who are quick to accept anything and everything given to them by B'tzelem or other left-wing organizations without demanding proof of their statements.)

Why are any stores closed in Hebron? Ten years ago they were all open. However, with the outbreak of the 'Oslo War' (the 2nd Intifada) in October, 2000, Arab terrorist gunman began shooting at the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron from the very hills transferred to them by Israel as part of the Hebron Accords, implemented in 1997. People were shot at on the streets, and in their cars and homes. An infant was murdered by a sniper [I strongly urge those who have not seen the video at this link to watch it. CiJ], others were wounded and a suicide bomber exploded on the main road, killing the Levy couple from Kiryat Arba. The IDF had no choice but to close stores in Hebron because of the security threat they posed. That threat still exists today. Terrorists are frequently apprehended, admitting that they planned to kill a Jew.

At the same time it must be noted that the Arabs of Hebron have access to about 98% of the entire city, whereas Jews have access to 3% of the city. The "Arab" side of Hebron, under the control of the Palestinian Authority is called "The Safest Place in the territories" by Danny Rubenstein, another Ha'aretz writer.


I totally and utterly reject the statement that thousands of Arabs have been driven from their homes. This is totally false. There are Arabs who have left of their own accord, but none have been expelled, as is written in the article.

The Abu Aisha baby story is also a fairy-tale. Did the author request proof, or accept it at face value? There is absolutely no impediment to an Arab ambulance reaching her home. It should also be noted that her home is a five minute walk to the checkpoint leading to the Arab side of the city. She and her neighbors have never had any problems getting to, or leaving their homes. [If any of you don't believe the 'Palestinians' fabricate stories out of air, think of Mohamed Al-Dura. CiJ]

Kristof writes: "Even if the Hebron settlement were not illegal in the eyes of much of the world, it is utterly impractical. The financial cost is mind-boggling, and the diplomatic cost is greater."

Firstly, the Hebron Jewish community was recognized and given legitimacy by Arafat himself, when he signed the Hebron Accords in January, 1997.
2. The claims that Hebron's Jewish community is illegal according to international law are nonsense. Jews lived in Hebron for thousands of years until being expelled in 1929, following the massacre which left 67 Jews murdered and scores wounded.
3. What 'the eyes of the world" think is absolutely irrelevant. The 'eyes of the world' were blind to the annihilation of 6 million Jews 60 years ago. Only yesterday we read that the UN opposes any military strike against the Iranian nuclear plants. What would they prefer: that Israel go up in flames?!
4. The IDF is stationed in Hebron for more than one reason. Of course, they are here to protect the city's residents and over half a million annual visitors. However, they are also in Hebron to prevent the city from becoming a terrorist nest, as was Jenin and other Samaria cities, when the IDF evacuated them. Terrorists from Hebron have perpetrated mass murder in Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. Only a strong IDF presence in the city can deter such attacks.
I strongly urge you to read Wilder's entire post. The Jewish community in Hebron may be the most unfairly maligned community in the entire Judea and Samaria. And the 'injustices' it allegedly perpetrates are largely the creation of the 'Palestinians' with the help of their friends - like Kristof - in the international media.

By the way, the picture at the top of this post is the Cave of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives Sara, Rivka and Leah. It is the second holiest site in Judaism and has stood where it stands today for some 3000 years. A bit before Islam ever came into being.


At 10:25 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Hebron is the only one of the Four Holy Cities in the Land Of Israel devoid of a Jewish majority but that is because Israeli governments since 67' have been both hostile to and have placed obstacles of Jews living at the place where the patriarchs are buried and where King David had his first capital before he moved to Jerusalem. What's amazing is Jews have managed to create a vibrant and living community despite the Israeli establishment and the world's hostility. Whatever others might think, the revanants of Hebron are there to stay. They deserve to be defend since if Jews have no right to be in Hebron, they have no right either to be in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. One would expect more even-handedness from the press but that's hard to expect from journalists who lean Left and uncritically accept everything they're told by the Left and the Israeli government. Here is one situation where the revanants have a good story to tell that deserves to be heard more widely.

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Wilder's post is somewhat marred by the absence of quotation marks. It's a bit difficult to figure out where the quotations from Kristof's article end and Wilder's responses begin, and Wilder switches back and forth.

I wish he'd talked in detail about the statement that the settlement land is "privately owned by Palestinians" and is being "stolen" by the settlers, as well as the water claim, but I take it he is saying that these are just being made up out of whole cloth by the "Palestinians." I'm quite willing to believe it, but one wonders how these things get started. Do the Palestinians just say, "Hmm, what outrageous things can we say off the tops of our heads that B'tSelem will repeat and that will then get echoed by naive reporters all over the world?"? Or is there some squirrely fact at the back of this stuff about the water and the private land that gives some specious plausibility to it but is being twisted?


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