[The following article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on December 17, 2000. Due to renewed pressures on Israel to accept international observers into Judea, Samaria & Gaza, it has again, unfortunately, become supremely relevant.]

(December 17) The Barak administration is currently debating the merits of an international observer force to be deployed in Israel. Hebron has first-hand experience with such a force.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron, otherwise known as TIPH, has frequented Hebron's streets for the past four years. TIPH observers are citizens of four Scandinavian countries, Italy, and Turkey.

The TIPH mandate says explicitly, "It is TIPH's purpose to create a feeling of security among the Palestinian population of Hebron and contribute in restoring normal life." The allegations implicit are clear. Despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority controls 80% of Hebron, the city's Arabs are insecure and their lives are abnormal due to the Israeli presence in the city. On the other hand, TIPH has no obligation to observe Arab instigation or violence against Hebron's Jewish citizens.

TIPH observation is a one-way street. They see what they want to see and ignore what they wish to ignore. For example, in March 1998 soldiers near Beit Hadassah apprehended an Arab on the Israeli "wanted list." The Arab resisted arrest, reacted violently, and was subdued. TIPH observers did not arrive in time to witness the Arab's violent resistance, but did film his being restrained.

This summer a 16-year-old Hebron girl was physically assaulted by an Arab while walking from Hebron to Kiryat Arba. TIPH observers did not record the attempted rape, but did record the reaction of angry Jewish residents.

Many TIPH observers arrive in Hebron with preconceived notions and, perhaps, antisemitic attitudes. In an interview with an Oslo suburb newspaper, Nordstrands Blad, on April 5, 2000 observer Yngvil Mortensen said about Israeli soldiers, "they make noise, cause damage to houses, throw down waste and urine [from the rooftops] and let the Jewish settlers almost ravage freely." This [was never witnessed and] is, of course, an out-and-out lie?.

When asked about Palestinian stone-throwers, Mortensen responds, "Would you have liked to be checked three times a day by foreign soldiers? Or that your city is occupied by a foreign power? If we compare with the German occupation of Norway during World War II, we called the sabotage and attacks on Germans resistance fighting."

In a Periodic Report for October 1, 1997 through March 31, 1998, TIPH reports "Settlers in the Old City have harassed their Palestinian neighbors by throwing objects (stones, bottles, acid, vegetables and eggs), trespassing on Palestinian properties during the night, threatening and using abrasive language."

In fact, many TIPH observations are frequently based not on eyewitness accounts but rather on complaints issued by Arabs. Hebron's Jewish community has never been requested to respond to these charges, which are entirely false.

TIPH recommendations are absurd "Also, soldiers have been witnessed playing with children - the intermingling between settlers and IDF weakens the respect for the responsible security apparatus. It is also undermining the feeling of equal protection under the law - it is in the interest of all parties that such conduct should be stopped."

This report totally ignores the fact that during March 1998 Hebron came under a full week of literally hundreds of rock- and fire-bomb attacks, as well as two shooting attacks at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood.

There is a single mention of Arab violence against Jews in the 15-page report "TIPH has also observed and reported attacks against the settlers, who frequently complain about their feeling of insecurity. When settlers complain about lack of security, this often results in increased military

presence, exacerbating the situation for the Palestinians."

In other words, Arab complaints are legitimate, while Israeli grievances "exacerbate the situation." TIPH's influence on the IDF is thoroughly negative. An article in The Wall Street Journal on November 10, 2000 reported from Hebron " 'When TIPH comes past, we put our guns down,'" said a young Israeli soldier..."

The implications concerning an international observer force are apparent. Is Israel prepared to accept international observers in Gilo? How will Israel respond to observers stationed in Beit Jala during an Arab shooting attack on Gilo? Will the IDF dare retaliate, knowing that an Israeli strike may endanger the observers?

A final question concerns the effectiveness of an observer force in enforcing any type of normalcy. TIPH observers have theoretically increased the Arab sense of security over the past four years, thereby bringing about a relaxing of tensions in Hebron. Despite this, the Jewish community of Hebron has been under constant, almost daily, shooting attacks for over two months. If this is any measure of TIPH's ability to bring about peace and quiet, they can only be judged as a total failure.

Allowing such biased, ineffective, subjective, and, in some cases, antisemitic observers into Israel can only be detrimental to the best interests of our state.


The writer is a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron. His weekly radio commentary is broadcast on Arutz 7 every Monday night at 10:00 (Israel time) and can be heard through the Israel National News website.