Israeli civil rights groups attack Israel for preferring Hevron's Jewish minority over its Arab majority; Hevron's Jews say report is full of lies.
The Hevron Jewish Community has responded sharply to the recent report published by the ultra-left wing Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Btselem. These two organizations "have turned themselves into a trumpet of Palestinian propaganda," Hevron's Jews say, "and have lost the right to be called human rights organizations."
The left-wing report accuses Israeli security restrictions of causing thousands of Hevron Arabs to leave their homes and businesses, and Israeli soldiers of committing acts of "routine and violent harassment" against Arabs. The 120-page report also alleges that IDF troops "as a rule refrain from protecting the Palestinian residents from attacks by settlers."
More than 500 Jews live in three or four small neighborhoods in one portion of Hevron, amidst 115,000 Arabs living in the city. The report said over 40% of Arab homes in the city center were now vacant, and that 77% of Arab shops and other businesses had been shut.
"The report is nothing more than a string of lies, distortions and fact-hiding," the Jewish Community stated in a detailed response to the left-wing manifesto. The Community released its own report earlier this year, and bemoans the lack of coverage it received in the general media - certainly in comparison with the left-wing report, which was widely covered.
Excerpts from the Hevron Jewish Community response:
* The two organizations sponsoring the left-wing report receive much funding from international bodies, some of whom are anti-Israel, and are a type of "long arm" of international left-wing anti-Israel organizations.
* A check of the personnel in these organizations shows a clear pro-Arab bias. In Btselem, for instance, all the researchers are Arab.
* We have been saying for years that these organizations report false data that are generally accepted by their readers as true. Last week, at a Knesset Interior Committee session, an IDF representative showed that Debbie Gild-Hayo, ACRI's Director of Policy Advocacy, had brought false "data." The MKs rebuked Gild-Hayo for this, commenting that in the future they would be skeptical of data presented them by ACRI.
The Very Name of the Report Proves its Hostility
The fact that the report is named "The Public Market is Empty" proves its anti-Israel, post-Zionist tilt. This phrase is taken from the words of the famous song "Jerusalem of Gold," by Naomi Shemer, who refers to the Old City market before the Six Day War as "empty" - even though it was full of Arabs - because it was empty of Jews. The current ACRI/Btselem report, however, refers to the fact that Jews have returned to the center of Hevron for the first time since the pogrom of 1929, allegedly displacing Arabs there - and it is this situation that the Israeli authors call "an empty marketplace."
This proves "how deep down the authors have deteriorated: They look at Hevron - the most ancient Jewish city in the world, the City of the Patriarchs of Israel, the city of the 1929 massacre [of 66 Jews by their Arab neighbors] - with the eyes of post-Zionists, anti-Semites, and the Arab enemy."
The True Situation in Hevron
* The [left-wing] report terms Hebron a “Palestinian city.” The historical truth, however, is that Hebron is the world’s oldest Jewish city, one of the four holy cities in Judaism, and the home of a Jewish community at all times until it was eradicated in the ghastly Arab massacre of 1929.
* The Jewish community of Hebron is situated in the town’s ancient Jewish Quarter, in the same houses and on the same plots where Jews had dwelled until the 1929 massacre. All the buildings are Jewish-owned; no family has ever settled in “Palestinian” property. The restoration of Jewish life where it had been cut off by violent means is legal and historical justice. Objection to this kind of reclamation reflects a patently anti-Semitic approach.
* The reestablishment of the Jewish Quarter is backed by Government resolutions, the first of which was adopted by the Begin Government: “There is no impediment to the dwelling of Jews in Hebron, like anywhere else in the Land of Israel.” It is also anchored in an international agreement, the so-called Hebron Agreement, to which even the odious Yasser Arafat is signed.
* The organizations that signed the report state that Israel "is duty-bound ... to evict the Hebron settlers.” By taking this stance, these organizations oppose a resolution of the Government of Israel, the international agreement concerning Hebron, and the right of Jews to live anywhere in Israel.
The City Center
Regarding the report's findings regarding the city center of Hevron, the Jewish Community disputes their very basis:
* The Jewish district of Hebron is definitely not in “the center of the city.” This is one of the main falsehoods in the report. Historically, the area began to function as a commercial district only after, and as a result of, the slaughter, eviction, and dispossession of the Jews in 1929. It is an imperative of historical and legal justice that this area be restored to its original use as a quarter in which Jewish life is practiced. From the urban standpoint, the city center is west of this location.
* The real “city center” of Hebron is a flourishing area, abuzz with commerce and vigorous construction activity. The authors of the report conceal the fact that “Hebron is the quietist and safest city in the West Bank” (Danny Rubenstein, Haaretz, May 9, 2007), enjoying a construction boom and thriving commercial life - all of which is thanks to the “Israeli occupation.” Here is how Rubenstein describes the modern marketplace of Hebron, which is located in the real city center: “It’s clean. Everything’s organized there. Deals between the merchants are computerized and at City Hall they say there’s nothing as modern and efficient as this in all of Palestine. Not in Jordan, either. Not even in Tel Aviv... There are no checkpoints on the road from Jerusalem to Arab Hebron.” It is essentially the Israeli “occupation” that stops intra-Palestinian terrorism and makes the city quiet and safe for its Arab inhabitants - while in Gaza, innocent civilians are killed daily following Israel's departure. The authors of the report chose to conceal all these facts.
* The Hebron Agreement calls for free and unrestricted movement throughout the entire city for everyone, including Jews. Arab terrorism is that which has forced the IDF to adopt the “separation policy” that the report decries. The main casualties of this policy are the Jews, who are denied the right to circulate in 97% of the city, including areas under Israeli army control (H2). Jews are also unable to visit holy places that, explicitly according to the Hebron Agreement, should be accessible to them at any time. ACRI and Btselem do not discuss violation of Israeli citizens’ human rights in Hebron, however.
* The Arabs face certain mobility restrictions - not an absolute travel ban - in only 3% of the municipal area. Every attempt to ease these restrictions has immediately resulted in terror attacks and bloodshed. For example, Page 28 of the report shows a photo of the “A-Sahala Compound,” but the authors “forgot” to note that a Jewish couple, Gadi and Dina Levi, were murdered at that very spot by a suicide terrorist who had managed to reach this location because the movement restrictions in the area had been eased.
Palestinian Terrorism Causes Hardships
* The “separation policy” is a direct and inevitable result of murderous Arab terrorism that has claimed scores of victims in the Hebron area in recent years. Therefore, the fact that the Arabs, of all people, are complaining about this is a classic example of “look who’s talking” reasoning.
Importantly, the Israel High Court of Justice recently set down a guideline about movement restrictions: “The upholding of public order and the inhabitants’ safety… should be accomplished by taking appropriate measures against the factors that perpetrate violence and not by imposing further restrictions on the casualties of the violence”(Verdict 9593/04). In other words, the movement restrictions against the Arabs, originating in concern about terror attacks that they themselves will commit, are justified, whereas the sweeping movement restrictions that the Army has imposed on Jews in Hebron, due to concern about an attack against them and not an attack by them, are plainly unjustified. However, this "marginal detail" is also of no interest to the human-rights organizations that are signed to the report. Attached herewith is the real map of movement restrictions in Hebron, which also describes the restrictions that have been imposed on the Jews.
* All security operations by soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces - from setting up posts to security inspections in streets and homes and, when necessary, imposition of curfews, etc. - are the results of murderous Arab terrorism. All complaints about the hardships caused to the inhabitants should be addressed to the Palestinian terror organizations.
* While Arab families have to remain in their crowded homes due to “curfews,” Jewish families have had to do the same due to a year and a half of incessant Palestinian gunfire against the Jewish community of Hebron. While Arab children are afraid to step outside lest they be arrested by Israeli soldiers, Jewish children are afraid to step outside lest they be wounded or killed by terrorists’ bullets. While Arab mothers are afraid that Israeli soldiers may enter their homes to conduct searches, Jewish mothers are afraid that Arab terrorists will enter their homes to slaughter their families. This is the real balance sheet of human suffering in Hebron. However, the authors of the report concealed these facts, too, from the public.
Seizing Property - The Real Culprits
* The Jewish community of Hebron has not seized “Palestinian property,” as the report accuses. On the contrary: it is the Arabs who seized the Jews’ property after the 1929 massacre. The Jewish community has spent years trying to recover the plundered property and has managed thus far to restore Jewish life in about one-third of the stolen holdings. The willingness of self-styled human-rights organizations to overlook the dispossession of the Jews in 1929 is bewildering and shocking.
* It is none other than the Palestinian Authority that has been seizing private Palestinian property in Hebron, by means of a semi-governmental entity called the “Hebron Revitalization Committee.” The stated goal of this entity is to “strangle the Jewish community in Hebron” by forcing Palestinian families to move into the Israeli area... When homeowners are not interested in living in the area, the Palestinian Authority takes action to populate the properties with problematic tenants including low-life and criminal types and released terrorists’ families. The new tenants receive benefits such as exemptions from taxes, rent, water, and electricity; sometimes they even receive a regular monthly allowance... The authors of the report concealed this fact from the public.
* To return commercial activity to the town’s Jewish district, the “Hebron Revitalization Committee” brings unfair economic pressure against Arab merchants by forcing shop owners to do business there, even though the area is totally unprofitable. For example, “The Palestinian governor of Hebron forced business owners to return to the casbah market by threatening to assign their franchises to others” (Meron Benvenisti, Ha’aretz, November 18, 2005). The human-rights organizations that are signed to the report do not deal with human-rights violations of these kinds....
Enforcing the Law
* The leftist organizations’ false mantra - “There’s no law enforcement against the settlers” - is utterly groundless. The opposite is the case: the law is over-enforced against the Jews of Hebron and most resources of the Israel Police in the Hebron area are devoted to them. This fact was set down in 1995 in the “special procedures” that were written up by the Attorney General at the time, Michael Ben-Yair. Apart from minor modifications, these procedures remain in effect today.
* The authors of the report chose to conceal a letter that they received in January 2007 from the Deputy Attorney-General Shai Nitzan, stating that disturbance-of-[Arab-]public-order incidents in Hebron has fallen significantly.
* Against the Arab population, in contrast, the law is under-enforced. There are two reasons: lax procedures and the fact, as noted above, that most law-enforcement resources are invested against the Jews.
The Jewish Community's report includes maps and a chart reviewing the differences between the town’s two population groups in terms of law enforcement.