President Isaac Herzog decided to kick off the celebration of Hanukkah by lighting the first candle in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Of all the places in Israel, the president chose Hebron, the ultimate symbol of the ugliness and brutality of the occupation and the violence and domineering of the settlers.
The visit by Israel’s No. 1 citizen to that place – most of whose Palestinian inhabitants have been forced to flee in fear of the settlers and abandon their homes and stores, turning the heart of Hebron into a ghost town – is tantamount to granting official legitimacy to the appalling injustices perpetrated there every day, both before and after Dr. Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Arab worshipers in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
In no other place in the West Bank is Israeli apartheid so horrifyingly flagrant: segregated streets on which Palestinians are prohibited from walking; vehicle entry barred to the Palestinians still living there; checkpoints at every turn – only for Palestinians, of course. Violence and humiliation are the daily fare of every Palestinian resident at the hands of the settlers and their children, as well as the army and Border Patrol personnel who are stationed on every corner.
That is where Herzog believes he must go. His planned visit to Hebron is a gesture of recognition of and solidarity with the most violent settlers and additional proof that occupied Hebron has been annexed to Israel, at least de facto. Otherwise, the president has no reason to go there.
It would presumably not occur to Herzog to meet, during his planned visit to Hebron, victims of the settlers there, thereby also recognizing the apartheid that is practiced in the city.
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This will not be Herzog’s first visit to settlements in the West Bank as president– and the most violent and extreme ones no less. About three months ago, shortly after taking office, the president was quick to visit Har Bracha – a settlement that, together with its unauthorized outposts, terrorizes the region's Palestinian inhabitants – and in doing so grants it legitimacy as well.
If Herzog, who comes from the Zionist left, wants to light candles in places that are sacred to Jews, that is of course his right. But as the president of the state, a president who declared that he wants to be everyone’s president, he should refrain from visiting the place that is completely contrary to this vision.
It is not yet too late to cancel this unacceptable visit.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.