The Real Uprooting Is Taking Place in Hebron

Israel cannot be considered a state ruled by law, or a democracy, as long as the pogroms continue in Hebron.

Israel cannot be considered a state ruled by law, or a democracy, as long as the pogroms continue in Hebron. A state is judged by what takes place in its own backyard, and in the case of the "City of the Patriarchs" this is a particularly dark yard. What is involved here is not a political-diplomatic issue touching upon the existence or nonexistence of a particular settlement, but rather the character of the regime in Israel. This abscess should be uprooted immediately, unconditionally, before its malignancy spreads.

What is happening in Hebron is different than everything else in the occupied territories. In Hebron, the most severe atrocities of the settlement enterprise are being perpetrated. While the settlers are lamenting "their uprooting" from Gush Katif and the knights of sorrowful tears are preaching for reconciliation with them and empathy for their plight, the expulsion of Palestinians from Hebron is continuing at an alarming rate. There can be no reconciliation with these people, kin and kindred of the settlement enterprise, who treat their neighbors this way. Anyone who calls for compassion for the settlers evacuated from Gaza, yet remains silent about the action of the settlers in Hebron, exposes a distorted and sanctimonious sense of morality.

But the brutal behavior of the settlers is not the main thing that should be raising a storm, but rather the behavior of the state that does not stop them and even lends them assistance. Now there is talk about anarchy in Gaza? In Hebron, anarchy reigns under the malevolently closed eyes of a state that possesses sophisticated mechanisms for enforcing the law. The focus now is on the tragedy of uprooting people from their homes in Gush Katif? The act of uprooting and expulsion in Hebron is incomparably crueler. The number of people expelled is much larger, and they remain without anything. No one is worrying about their plight.

It is a bit difficult to believe that the reality in Hebron is hidden from the eyes of most Israelis and is not rocking Israel to its very core. During the past five years, some 25,000 residents have been transferred from their homes, less than an hour's drive from Israel's capital. And daily harassment continues under the auspices of the IDF and Israel Police, disregarded by the media. This harassment is aimed at expelling the remaining Palestinian residents from an area that until recently had a population of about 35,000 Palestinians and 500 Jews.

Those who have not visited the city in recent years would not believe their eyes. In the territory under Israeli control - H2, or Israeli territory, according to the Hebron accord - they will discover a ghost town. Hundreds of abandoned homes, like after a war, dozens of destroyed stores, burned or shuttered, their gates welded closed by the settlers, and an all-pervasive, deadly silence. According to unofficial assessments, no more than 10,000 residents remain in this place. The rest have left their homes and property after no longer being able to bear the harassment from the settlers and their children. This is the largest disengagement in recent years; this is the real expulsion.

Every day the settlers torment their neighbors here. Every walk to school for a Palestinian child has become a journey of harassment and fear. Every shopping outing by a housewife is a journey of humiliation. Settler children kicking old women carrying baskets, settlers siccing their dogs on the elderly, garbage and feces thrown from the settlers' balconies into the courtyards of Palestinian homes, junk metal blocking the entrances of their houses, rocks thrown at any Palestinian passerby - this is the routine of life in the city. Hundreds of soldiers, border policemen and cops witness these actions and stand by idly. They occasionally exchange jokes with the rioters, and almost never stand in their way. Residents' attempts to file complaints with the police are rejected outright under various and sundry pretexts. Even when there are mass pogroms with hundreds of settlers participating - as was the case about four months ago when hundreds of settlers entered the home of Dr. Tayser Zahadi in Tel Rumeida and destroyed everything they could lay their hands on - the security forces stood on the sidelines without intervening. The rioting was documented on videotape, but no one thought to broadcast it on Israeli television.

In the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, where only about a 10th of the Palestinian residents remain - 50 out of 500 families - this reality takes on monstrous proportions: The residents walk hunched over in their back yards, keeping close to the walls, whispering for fear of being heard. Children sprint home in a mad dash and neighbors move from house to house on rickety ladders. It is a haunted ghetto life - all because of a handful of rioters who live above them at the top of the neighborhood.

Ultimately, they have succeeded: The settlers' violence has proved itself, and Hebron is becoming more Judaized. To be more precise, Hebron is becoming emptier. Five-hundred violent residents have demonstrated that they have the power to expel tens of thousands of their neighbors thanks to the sponsorship the state has extended to them. None of the Yesha Council leaders has ever spoken against this phenomenon, and Yesha has thus become a partner in crime. The awful mistake of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who lacked the courage to uproot this settlement immediately after the slaughter in the Cave of the Patriarchs, continues to bear its rotten fruits. Ever since then, each day that the wild settlement in Hebron continues to exist is another day of shame for the State of Israel.