Opinion

How Israel Tries to Get a Palestinian Family to Quit Their Home

It seems the Jabaris' land is blocking the settlement Kiryat Arba's expansion hopes, so the army — following planted rumors about weapons — is raiding the house of a family where several children have been disabled since birth

The expansion of an illegal structure on the Jabaris' land near Kiryat Arba in the West Bank.
Amira Hass

What’s the connection between collecting municipal taxes, the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba and weaponry? Ask the Israel Defense Forces.

This is the second time in less than a year that our army, by rare coincidence, has seen fit to raid Abdul Karim Jabari’s house in Hebron just a few days after Kiryat Arba failed in its invidious, brazen attempts to collect municipal tax from the family.

Based on the exchange of comments by several soldiers who conducted the latest raid, and who were videotaped by a member of the family, one can conclude that they planted some kind of device in the house.

Here is part of the conversation the soldiers held while walking through the Jabari house as if it were their own.

Female soldier: So you’ll hide it in the bathroom, okay?

Male soldier: Too bad it doesn’t reach everywhere.

Male: In the bathroom, we have to think where we can bring it in from. As you said, we have to pass it under something.

Male: Everything here is low. I could put it on the window, but ...

Female: We’re working here and she’s filming it. It’s completely forbidden for anybody from the house to see it.

Male: Put it on the window.

Male: Start over. You can close it. Do it again in a room with closed doors. Close it and work inside. What’s the problem?

I’ll return to the question of whether the IDF planted a device in the Jabari house shortly.

The most recent nighttime raid happened on August 9. About a week earlier, during a High Court hearing on the family’s petition against Kiryat Arba, the settlement had withdrawn its demand that the brothers Abdul Karim and Zaidan Jabari pay the tax.

The previous nighttime raid happened on the night between January 19 and January 20. Three weeks earlier, the State Prosecutor’s Office had issued an unequivocal opinion that the settlement has no authority to collect municipal tax from the Palestinian brothers.

The IDF said both raids were due to information alleging that weapons were hidden in the Jabari house. No weapons were found, in either the first raid or the second. Nor were any arrests made, in either the first raid or the second.

Let me tell you what I think happened here. The Jabari family and its 25 dunams (five acres) of land, where the family has been living since long before the Gush Emunim settlement movement was founded, are obstructing Kiryat Arba’s expansion aspirations. Someone is using Israel’s sons and daughters in compulsory military service to harass the family until they leave.

Nave or stupid

I don’t know who exactly is planting rumors about weapons in the home of a family where several children have been disabled since birth. I don’t know if it’s being done with a wink that army commanders understand very well, or if the commanders are simply nave and pure-minded, or ignorant and stupid, and therefore fell into the trap.

A none-too-wide road separates the Jabari house from the western entrance to Kiryat Arba (where the grave of the murderer Baruch Goldstein has a place of honor. One of the 29 Muslim worshippers who were murdered in February 1994 by this doctor who immigrated from the United States was Abdul Hak Jabari, Abdul Karim’s older brother). On the hill overlooking the Jabari house lies the honored settlement of Givat Avot and an Israeli police station.

What haven’t we done to get the family to leave? We’ve forbidden them to work their land, we’ve repeatedly built illegally on their land, we’ve prevented them from driving on the road. When, under pressure from a High Court petition, the ban on working their land was rescinded, we found other ways to keep them from plowing and planting or harvesting their olives.

We’ve beaten, cursed, fought, abused, bullied, walked their land like masters and sent children to harass them. To plow a mere two meters from their doorstep, they have to coordinate with Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank.

‘Security check’

And the Jabari family? They didn’t get the hint and didn’t leave. So then we tried the municipal tax.

In 2015, shortly after the family petitioned the High Court against a hut that the settlers had built for prayer services on the family’s privately owned land, Kiryat Arba sent a brazen demand that they pay it municipal tax. Attorney Sliman Shahin then petitioned the High Court yet again against the tax.

In the end, as noted, the settlement rescinded its tax bill. About a week later, also as noted, the IDF once again raided the house.

The courageous Ayat Jabari, a volunteer with rights group B’Tselem, insisted on her right to film the soldiers while they raided her house. They staged a “security check” on her, in her own house, to prevent her from filming.

According to the IDF Spokesman’s Office, no device was planted in the house. According to the IDF, the raid was an “operation in the Al-Muhawal neighborhood whose purpose was to search for weaponry, which, according to our intelligence, was in the house. To conduct the search, the force was accompanied by a classified IDF unit that uses dogs trained to search for weapons by methods we cannot elaborate on. During the searches, security checks were performed on everyone present in the house, as standard procedure, while preserving the dignity of family members and the house.”

No weapons were found, but the goal was partly achieved. Once again, the family awoke in fear in the middle of the night to the sound of soldiers knocking on their doors. Once again, rifles were pointed at the frightened children, all the drawers were overturned and their new router was broken during the search. And they understood that this could happen again and again because their house and land are a wonderful place for Kiryat Arba to expand.