The sickest imagination of present-day anti-Semites cannot compete with the handiwork of Israel and its emissaries the settlers in Hebron for the past 20 years.
- A protest camp as a test of Palestinian solidarity
- 21 years after Goldstein massacre, once-thriving Hebron is a mere memory
The demand for the Jewish return is broken down here into all its raw components: the expulsion of the Palestinians, the destruction of their homes and their cultural legacy, destruction of the economy, extreme ethnic-spatial separation and deranged prohibitions regarding movement and housing, attacks in the name of the Torah, harassment and denial of the other. If gentile foes were to say that that’s how Jews behave, the institutes for the study of anti-Semitism would sound the alarm.
Today, February 25, is the 21st anniversary of the massacre perpetrated by Dr. Baruch Goldstein against worshipers in the Ibrahimi Mosque (the Cave of the Patriarchs). The prime minister and defense minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, could have dismantled the nuclear bombs stored by his colleagues from Mapai (the forerunner of Labor) in the late 1960s - Yigal Alon and Moshe Dayan - when they allowed groups of messianic Jews to settle there and encouraged them by providing military protection and weapons. The evacuation of the settlers from Hebron would have been received with great understanding in 1994.
But Rabin decided to continue with the traditional policy, which was natural for Mapai, of pampering the settlers, and instructed the army to punish the Palestinians for the massacre committed against them by a Jewish doctor – an immigrant from the United States – with a prolonged curfew, restrictions on movement, the closing of shops and marketplaces, and criminal forgivingness for the violence of the settlers. Since then Israel has continued with its policy of punishing those who are being attacked.
Twenty-one years after the massacre, the settlers in Hebron have many reasons for celebration. President Reuven Rivlin visited them and gave his approval for the evaporation of the Palestinian community from the center of Hebron. Last week a second representative of the Hebron settlers entered the Knesset, instead of the late Uri Orbach: Rabbi Hillel Horowitz of Habayit Hayehudi, who is joining his colleague and neighbor Orit Strock. And even if it’s only symbolic and for a month or two, there’s a chance that another of their neighbors, Baruch Marzel, who lives in the settlement of Tel Rumeida, will preserve the handsome quota in the next Knesset: two elected officials from a community of several hundred people who have orchestrated one of the most violent and racist realities.
The Hebron settlers can be credited with several more accomplishments achieved in the past three years: another new promenade connecting Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs, an expanded Beit Romano, an archaeological park under construction, the Cave of the Patriarchs as a national heritage site, tours by school students and the main thing – a first settlement site in Hebron in 30 years in “Beit Hameriva” (“the house of contention”) in the heart of the a-Ras neighborhood, after the Supreme Court confirmed that it was purchased legally.
And among the achievements and festivities, the center of the city is deserted and in ruins. You have to visit there, repeatedly, in order to begin to understand not only how it looks when 120 blockades and checkpoints cut off abandoned streets in the middle, and how it is when young soldiers enforce the prohibition against visiting the family that insists on continuing to live in its home or to walk in the street that’s for Jews only, and how the elderly climb up the incline short of breath, because Palestinian cars are not allowed there.
The visit is necessary in order to understand this all-Israeli creation: Active and conscious assistance of Labor governments, and conscious support, indifference and the emotional and intellectual laziness of elites and ordinary people, have implemented the most extremist settlement-oriented-messianic-right-wing master plan since 1948.
Amira Hass tweets at @Hass_Haaretz.com