Nicholas D. Kristof called me a few days ago and we spoke for a while on the phone. Obviously he visited Hebron, but did not see fit to interview me at the time, preferring a phone conversation. That fact, in and of itself, is unfortunate, for had he spent some time with me on site, seeing Hebron through Jewish-Israeli eyes also, perhaps his column would have been written differently.
Perhaps, on the other hand, Kristof came to Hebron with an agenda and interviewed me only to be able to include a 'soundbyte' with a 'setter' in order to fulfill the seemingly 'objectivity obligation' of professional journalists.
His 'agenda' is all too plausible, considering, for example, the books he suggested as reading material, including one by Akiva Eldar, who is one of the leading leftist columnists in Israel, writing for the most leftwing daily in the country.
This thought is reinforced with Kritsof's reliance on "B'tzelem" – an Arab-Palestinian 'human-rights' organization, which cares only about Arab human rights, but has no interest in Israeli-Jewish human rights. It is composed of Arabs and extreme left wing activists, whose goal is Israel-bashing.
Of course, Kristof quotes only one short sentence from our interview. He seems to have forgotten a number of points broached during our conversation:
Kristof claims: More than 1,800 Palestinian shops have closed, in some cases the doors welded shut, and several thousand people have been driven from their homes.
The number 1,800 is greatly exaggerated. According to ranking IDF sources the number is closer to nine hundred. (This is one of the problems with foreign journalists who are quick to accept anything and everything given to them by B'tzelem or other left-wing organizations without demanding proof of their statements.)
Why are any stores closed in Hebron? Ten years ago they were all open. However, with the outbreak of the 'Oslo War' (the 2nd Intifada) in October, 2000, Arab terrorist gunman began shooting at the Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron from the very hills transferred to them by Israel as part of the Hebron Accords, implemented in 1997. People were shot at on the streets, and in their cars and homes. An infant was murdered by a sniper, others were wounded and a suicide bomber exploded on the main road, killing the Levy couple from Kiryat Arba. The IDF had no choice but to close stores in Hebron because of the security threat they posed. That threat still exists today. Terrorists are frequently apprehended, admitting that they planned to kill a Jew.
At the same time it must be noted that the Arabs of Hebron have access to about 98% of the entire city, whereas Jews have access to 3% of the city. The "Arab" side of Hebron, under the control of the Palestinian Authority is called "The Safest Place in the territories" by Danny Rubenstein, another Ha'aretz writer (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/857308.html).
He writes: Most Israelis imagine Hebron to be the site of harsh conflicts between Jewish settlers and Arab residents. But the truth is that with the exception of the point of contention at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, this is the quietest and safest city in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
While Gaza is the scene of daily shootings and infighting between a variety of groups, and one might say that personal safety in Ramallah and Nablus is also precarious, Hebron is tranquil.
There are no militias, no armed gangs and no hooligans. There is a traditional tribal social structure, no refugee camps inside the city and the town's large and powerful families do not permit lawlessness…The market… is a source of pride among Hebron residents. It is clean and organized. Trade between merchants is documented on computers and municipality officials say there is no more modern and efficient market in the entire PA. Nor is there a market like it in Jordan or even in Tel Aviv."
I totally and utterly reject the statement that thousands of Arabs have been driven from their homes. This is totally false. There are Arabs who have left of their own accord, but none have been expelled, as is written in the article.
The Abu Aisha baby story is also a fairy-tale. Did the author request proof, or accept it at face value? There is absolutely no impediment to an Arab ambulance reaching her home. It should also be noted that her home is a five minute walk to the checkpoint leading to the Arab side of the city. She and her neighbors have never had any problems getting to, or leaving their homes.
Kristof writes: "Even if the Hebron settlement were not illegal in the eyes of much of the world, it is utterly impractical. The financial cost is mind-boggling, and the diplomatic cost is greater."
Firstly, the Hebron Jewish community was recognized and given legitimacy by Arafat himself, when he signed the Hebron Accords in January, 1997.
2. The claims that Hebron's Jewish community is illegal according to international law are nonsense. Jews lived in Hebron for thousands of years until being expelled in 1929, following the massacre which left 67 Jews murdered and scores wounded.
3. What 'the eyes of the world" think is absolutely irrelevant. The 'eyes of the world' were blind to the annihilation of 6 million Jews 60 years ago. Only yesterday we read that the UN opposes any military strike against the Iranian nuclear plants. What would they prefer: that Israel go up in flames?!
4. The IDF is stationed in Hebron for more than one reason. Of course, they are here to protect the city's residents and over half a million annual visitors. However, they are also in Hebron to prevent the city from becoming a terrorist nest, as was Jenin and other Samaria cities, when the IDF evacuated them. Terrorists from Hebron have perpetrated mass murder in Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. Only a strong IDF presence in the city can deter such attacks.
As for the checkpoints, that is the only point the author allows me a reaction in his article. No point could be more valid.
The other so-called facts Kristof mentions in the articles are nothing more than well-polished regurgitations from the Arab propaganda machine. Again, no proof of facts, only oft-repeated claims, with nothing to back them up.
Kristof told me that he's not stationed in the Middle East. This is quite clear from the ignorance he portrays in this column. I would suggest that the next time the NY Times desires to print a column about Hebron, they should instruct their reporter to visit both sides, and examine the issues accurately and objectively, rather than publish such a biased, imprecise article.