Israel's Logic of Dispossession

It is very tempting to say that the road to disaster is paved with logical steps, but the disaster is long in coming.

Israeli border police evict settlers from a Hebron home, January 22, 2016.
Haverim Leshah Tzarah

The invasion of two Palestinian houses in Hebron’s Old City last week by dozens of Israelis was an obvious, logical step.

We still don’t know on what basis the settlers decided that the two houses on Al-Sahla Street were purchased legally. The Zaatari family of Hebron, which owns the houses, denied selling them. In a complaint to the Israel Police, which was submitted via the (Palestinian) Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, the family demanded their immediate eviction. The mystery remains for the time being: Was a straw man hired for the purchase? Did someone from the large family give in to pressure to sell?

Whether or not they were sold, there is a very simple reason why these houses and hundreds of others in Hebron are standing empty and deserted. Emptying out the houses in Hebron is a link in a sequence of logical decisions and actions. In 1994 Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin punished the Palestinians for the massacre of Arabs in the Cave of the Patriarchs by Dr. Baruch Goldstein, and imposed a prolonged curfew on them to protect the settlers from acts of revenge. That is the same logic that to this day guides the army commanders, who are punishing the residents of the villages Kerioth and Jaloud, for example, for the violence of the settlers in the outposts Esh Kodesh and Yishuv Hadaat, and evicting them from thousands of dunams of their land.

All the settlements and outposts on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem march along the same path: The ground was prepared by the state, which evicts Palestinians from their natural surroundings with various excuses and with military and administrative orders. Then the Israeli settlers come, the ones who harass the Palestinians who were not evicted or failed to “abandon” the site. To protect the attacking settlers, it’s necessary to widen the circle that is empty of Palestinians, and forbid them to cultivate their land or reach their homes. Then there is room for more outposts, vineyards and settlers’ neighborhoods, and once again the secure area forbidden to the Palestinians must be widened, otherwise God-fearing Jews will attack them. Simple logic.

And all that started long before the wave of knifing attacks. That’s how the violent Shiloh bloc was created, or the sacred Ariel panhandle – which smashed the Palestinian space in the center of the West Bank. And that’s how the ancient, beating heart was torn out of Palestinian Hebron, which is now the setting of a horror film, or a paradise for settlers.

Political blogger Tal Schneider revealed that among those staying in the two houses for a night and among those claiming that the houses were purchased were important Likud members, residents of the Israeli heartland, and not only the familiar faces of supporters of the various incarnations of Habayit Hayehudi. At least one of those Likud members mentioned by Schneider was a real estate broker. That’s also logical: Holiness is good for profits.

Trust the settlers and the Likud members to overcome the petty technical obstacle placed before them by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, when he explained their eviction by noting that “no permit of transaction was issued by the Civil Administration.” That’s the same Ya’alon who approved a more sophisticated purchase of former church property, a new settlement stuck between the crowded, embittered Al Aroub refugee camp and the large, rebellious village of Beit Ummar.

The attack against Ya’alon as the latest Jew-hater is another sophisticated element in the technique of taking control of hearts and land. A single horseman ostensibly stands in the breach and draws a red line. But then the voice of the holy masses is decisive and another bar is crossed.

It is very tempting to say that the road to disaster is paved with logical steps, but the disaster is long in coming. The experts continue to hold the inciteful media of Hamas and Islamic Jihad responsible for the knife attacks, and with words alone they are renewing the permit for additional, similarly logical steps in Hebron and its environs.