Around 300 people went to Hebron Friday for a tour organized by 30 human rights organizations, including Breaking the Silence, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Peace Now and B’Tselem, in the wake of several recent incidents of violence against Palestinians and left-wing activists in the city. But the people who sought to protest the violence against themselves and Palestinians found that the army had declared Hebron a closed military zone.
“Based on our situation assessment, we decided to declare a closed military zone in several parts of the city of Hebron to prevent friction there,” the Israel Defense Forces said. “In line with this order, civilians who don’t live in this area were forbidden to enter.”
The IDF’s decision to declare Hebron a closed military zone in order to prevent a tour by human rights organizations sends an unambiguous political message – left-wing activists are to blame for soldiers’ violence against them. In the upside-down world of the occupied territories, the source of the violence is the people protesting against it. The bottom line is that the IDF fulfilled the demand expressed on signs held by counterprotesters from Im Tirtzu: “The People of Israel demands that the anarchists be kept out of Hebron.” They asked, and received.
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The IDF remembered only belatedly that it pays to prevent “friction” and “disturbances of the peace” by restricting entry to the city to nonresidents. Where was this responsible idea two weeks ago, when the army let tens of thousands of Israelis into Hebron for the annual celebration of the Hayei Sarah Torah portion – Israelis who rioted, destroyed property, threw stones at houses, beat and cursed both Palestinian residents and members of the security forces, and even injured a female soldier? Not only did the army not prevent them from entering the city, but it ordered Hebron’s Palestinian residents into their homes and prohibited commerce.
Last week a Givati Brigade soldier beat a participant in a tour of the Bnei Avraham organization, and another was filmed telling a second member of the group that “Ben-Gvir will impose order here” and a third activist, “Leftists, I’ll break your faces.” Granted, the soldier who made the threats was sent to jail for 10 days, but then his sentence was reduced by four days.
And whom did the army bar from Hebron? A Palestinian activist who lives in the city, Issa Amro, who filmed the Givati soldiers. The military judge barred him from his own neighborhood, Tel Rumeida, for six days, after a police representative called him an “instigator” because he escorts Israeli tours of Hebron and said they “create friction.”
The IDF’s decision to bar left-wing activists from the city was a political decision that puts soldiers and settlers on one side and leftists and Palestinians on the other. It gives impetus to violence against Palestinians and leftists. If this is how the army behaves even before Benjamin Netanyahu has formed a government with Itamar Ben-Gvir, the direction is clear: The worst is yet to come.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.