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Open your eyes in Hebron and see the whole of the occupation

The settlements, checkpoints, and walls that have been the reality for Hebron’s Palestinian population are now being copied everywhere across the West Bank.

By Eyal Hareuveni

Israeli soldiers argue with a Palestinian woman during clashes at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Hebron, December 10, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers argue with a Palestinian woman during clashes at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Hebron, December 10, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

First-time visitors to the Jewish settlement in Hebron’s ancient city center might feel as though they have stepped into the heart of darkness. This is where the Israeli military occupation’s policies have reached the pinnacle of barbarism: regiments of soldiers are deployed to protect 700 Jewish settlers who live in an enclave that has been turned into a site of urban collapse as a consequence of the army’s security measures. The 200,000 Palestinians residents of the city can do nothing to counter the oppressive measures that make their lives all-but unbearable.

In Hebron, the army has destroyed or sealed the Mamluk-era homes lining the so-called Worshippers Way, a footpath reserved exclusively for Jewish settlers as their route to the Cave of the Patriarchs. Shuhada Street, once the bustling commercial hub of the entire southern West Bank, echoes with silence; merchants have abandoned their shops and nearly all the residents have left. Nor is it possible to ignore the dozens of checkpoints equipped with advanced facial recognition technologies. These 21st century iterations of medieval fortresses keep the Jewish settlement separate from the rest of Hebron.

A few Palestinians have remained, although their lives are controlled and managed by Israeli security forces. Almost all of them say they would have left the ghost town Israel has trapped them in long ago, if only they could. Every daily activity — going to school or work, visiting and receiving visits from family, attending family events, even shopping — involves lining up at checkpoints and being subjected to humiliating treatment.

Soldiers, police officers, and settlers commit acts of violence against Palestinians nearly every day, with near-total impunity. Soldiers subject Palestinians to humiliating searches, raid their homes in the middle of the night, and carry out false arrests. These are all common aspects of the occupation as a whole, but in Hebron they are far more intense.



In 2007, Hagai Alon, then aide to former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, said that the goal of these policies was “to empty Hebron of Arabs” — in other words, to evict the civilian population by force. Under international humanitarian law, the forcible transfer of a civilian population is a war crime.

The Hebron model is not unique. The occupying forces use the same tactics all over the West Bank, in different measures but with the same goal — the increasingly violent dispossession of Palestinians from their homes and lands. Settlements, checkpoints, and walls are closing in on the major Palestinian urban centers, as they are on villages like Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar. Residents in these two particular villages are also facing the threat of expulsion in an effort to force them into larger enclaves. The same thing is happening in the Shiloh Valley, the Talmonim settlement bloc, throughout the Jordan Valley where outposts have been springing up, in East Jerusalem, around Bethlehem, and in the southern West Bank. In other words, it’s happening everywhere.

Israel’s best and brightest have had a hand in this injustice: Supreme Court justices, senior military and security establishment officials, members of the Military Advocate General and the State Attorney’s Office, and, of course, politicians on the left and right. They have all tolerated the violence, in Hebron and everywhere else in the West Bank. They have all legitimized the dispossession of Palestinians and the theft of their property — and not just in Hebron. They have all supported the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians, even after the heinous effects of this policy became clear.

The settlers like to say “Hebron: then and forever.” But Hebron is much more than that: it is here, there and everywhere. Open your eyes in Hebron and you’ll see the whole of the occupied territories.

Eyal Hareuveni is a researcher with B’Tselem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. itshak Gordine

      What lies. Hebron is the third holy city of Judaism. Most of this city is occupied by the totally corrupt “+ Palestinian” authority. Only a small part of this city is under the control of Israel. I recently went there with thousands of froncophone Jews to support the Jews who live there. Recall that in 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was destroyed by Arab terrorists in general indifference. Now the Jews have come back to rebuild this community in this city where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Lea are buried.
      Btselem is a racist association funded by foreigners. They want the city of the Patriarchs to be Judenrein.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Of course, you cannot name a single lie the author is making because you know all too well, better than most, that he is telling the truth. The only recourse you have is to assemble a steaming pile of untruths and distortions to try to bury the truth. Your technique is like someone trying to smuggle drugs past border control, and in order to do this puts a pile of smelly used diapers in the car trunk to throw the sniffer dogs off the scent.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Whoa! You mean Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Lea are buried there? If you had just mentioned this earlier, Itshak, I would have realized that making the lives of 200,000 Palestinians a living hell is completely justified.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          You are wrong (voluntarily?): Most of the city is under the control of the entity of Ramallah. And most of his inhabitants too. Do not mix everything up.. Even if it seems inconceivable to you, Jews also have the right to live in their holy city …

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Itshak Gordine Halevy, you must think that we were born yesterday and that we can’t read.

            Exclusive: Confidential Report Based on 20 Years of Monitoring Claims: Israel Regularly Breaks International Law in Hebron
            The international monitoring force, recognized by Israel, disputes land ownership of settlers, slams restrictions on movement and worship, and says ‘normal life’ is nowhere to be found in the West Bank city

            An international observatory task force established two decades ago to monitor the divided West Bank city of Hebron has produced its most exhaustive and damning internal report on Israel’s actions in the city…cites numerous violations of international law by Israel and seems to confirm Hebron’s status as a city torn by both a civilian and military occupation…the city is more divided than ever due to the actions of the Israeli government and Israeli settlers. […] Israel is clearly in “severe and regular breach” of the right to non-discrimination as well as the obligation to protect the population living under occupation from deportation. The Israeli settlement in Hebron is a violation of international law and “radical Israeli settlers” make life in the Israeli-controlled area difficult for its Palestinian residents. […] The report is based, among other things, on over 40,000 “incident reports” compiled over the years by TIPH’s team…concludes that Hebron is moving in the opposite direction to the one agreed upon by Israel and the PLO in the Hebron Protocol.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            …Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled area of the city lack of freedom of movement and the right to worship, clear breaches of this right…Israel is constantly in breach of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention (IV), forbidding the deportation of protected persons (those living under occupation who are not citizens of the occupying country) from occupied territory.

            A diplomat who has seen the report told Haaretz that it says “this basic human right is breached regularly and more and more severely for the Palestinians in Hebron – and particularly for those living in H2 – relating to lack of freedom of movement and the right to worship.”

            “Normal life,” especially in Hebron’s Old City area in the Israeli-controlled area of H2, is nowhere to be found, the report says… Furthermore, the old Palestinian vegetable market has become an Israeli military zone, often occupied by settlers and a playground for their children, according to the report.

            The report also disputes land ownership claims in Hebron’s Old City made by settlers who say they represent previous Jewish owners who fled or were murdered during the 1929 Hebron massacre. Today’s settlers, the report says, have no family ties with previous owners of the property, and the question of ownership of land that had been inhabited or used by Jews prior to 1929 has still not been answered clearly.

            The report also notes the exodus from H2 of those Palestinians who can afford to move to Palestinian Authority-controlled H1, where they face fewer restrictions. Those who can’t or don’t want to leave H2 have to confront “radical Israeli settlers” who are supported by the Israeli government and Jewish foundations abroad, the report claims….

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            You know that all this is blah blah. Foreign reports are biased and Israel has been saying this for years. International observers (TIPH) deployed in the city with Israel’s agreement were asked to leave in 2019 following sabotage against the Jewish community. Jewish children have even been beaten by these observers. But the problem is not there. The only question is: is it moral to forbid the Jews to live in the third Jewish holy city of Hebron and former capital of King David from which they were expelled during an Arab pogrom of 1929? Is it moral to want a city empty of Jews? Why?

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Watch this video: Arabs from Hebron attack the TIPH building for a caricature issue. Israeli soldiers come to the aid of international observers:

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The structure of your reply is:

            1. False assumption about sovereignty and who is “foreign.”
            2. Selection of trophy misleading incidents.
            3. Supremacist shock at the insolence the “foreigners” dare display so that a Jewish child (who is presumed to have been just picking flowers, the picture of sweet innocence, when we know better about the aggressive, rude, humiliating misbehavior of settlers’ children taught to terribly mistreat people at an early age) could ever be mistreated in the land of Jewish Kings, while the wholesale brutal mistreatment of Palestinian children is just no big deal, outside the purview of “the only question.”
            4. A statement of “the only question” that could possibly interest anyone or be remotely relevant
            5. A reiteration of the “Judenrein” propaganda device.
            6. All of it shot through with self-righteousness and assiduous ignoring of context staring everyone in the face, while pumping up off the point incidents as more relevant than they in fact are.

            Let me know if I failed to make myself clear. Please number your response 1-6 or with the number of the point you are disputing. A response of “blah blah” or “avalanche” is not going to merit a response on my part.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Israeli soldiers come to the aid of international observers”

            You got love that one. The same Israeli soldiers that make life hell for international observers and international activists trying to defend Palestinians from the constant depredations of the settlers and the IDF all through the OPT are now the soldiers who “come to the aid” and save the day! Hooray!

            I can’t think of a better example of a settler’s deceitful propaganda efforts.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Yes, it’s all about Israel. The Israeli army (paid for by our taxes) intervenes because in their stupidity Arabs are attacking fiercely anti-Israeli foreign observers.

            Reply to Comment
      • Amir

        You should thank Muslims who allowed jews to settle back in Al Khalil after they were banned from living there by Byzantines.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @Itshak Gordine: “…Only a small part of this city is under the control of Israel…Btselem is a racist association funded by foreigners. They want the city of the Patriarchs to be Judenrein.”

        This rings about as honest as Trump insisting that his call to Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect” and that Adam Schiff and ‘the Dems’ are lying treasonous traitors and it’s all because he is being punished for his great victory over Hillary, and besides the Russians had nothing to do with it, and Valdimir Putin is a great guy and the Dems got the Ukrainians to meddle with the election and blame it on Putin and….

        Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      Jerusalem Post: “On February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a Brooklyn-born Orthodox Jew from the settlement of Kiryat Arba that lies east of Hebron and a member of the extremist Kach party, entered the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Cave of Patriarchs armed with an assault rifle, slaughtering 29 Palestinians and wounding 125 more. The survivors of the massacre beat Goldstein to death. Kach was classified as a terrorist organization shortly after the massacre…In the aftermath of the massacre, which took place on Purim, the IDF shut down the shops on the Shuhadah Street, which links the Cave of Patriarchs with the Jewish complexes in the city. According to B’tselem, the street has since been off-limits to Palestinians and Palestinian commercial activity.”


      Reply to Comment
    3. Dan Kelso

      Great Post Itshak Gordine.
      As you said, Eyal, Btselem and the left want the city of the Patriarchs to be Judenrein.
      Don’t forget, Btselem refused to help 52 Arab Victims of Palestinian Authority Torture because they couldn’t blame Israel. What Hypocrites are the left. Article about this.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        If you and supremacist settler Itshak (“The only question is”) Gordine Halevy think that piling up multiple examples of misleading propaganda and videos from settler outlets is going to distract from the main point here, you’re mistaken. I think it backfires, showing the tenacious dishonesty at the core of the “enterprise.”

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          When we do not agree with you, you treat us as supremacist, racist, etc. Are you a little bit intolerant, a little faschist in the depths of you ..?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Your premise is wrong. It’s not a matter of simple “disagreement” on matters we can all agree to disagree on—which would be a way of normalizing Kahanism as a respectable position. Which is what you would like me to comply with. I take umbrage at and therefore call out (1) Kahanist, Otzma Yehudit-channeling, Lehava-supporting racism, outward contempt for human beings cruelly oppressed—which as I said you are trying to normalize right here right now with your “why can’t we politely just disagree?” gambit. And (2) your deceit, your Orwellian disinformation habit. Which you have indulged right here on this page. I think, from your cynical, conniving tribal settler perspective, you just can’t believe anyone has any real integrity about justice issues and universal human rights. (Anyone Jewish who appears to must be a Euro-taking sniveling traitor in your mind.) You are disarmingly blunt about it: You just don’t care. Whether it’s the crimes in the territories or arms for brutal dictators elsewhere. You’ve said that many times. It’s like I’m an alien from another planet (“planet of the universal human rights valuers”) with strange ways you can’t imagine. Still, I would go a lot easier on you if I didn’t see you regularly drop heartless, degrading, contemptuous, dismissive, delegitimizing comments about people outside your narrow tribal circle. I won’t abide that, from anyone anywhere, hence my approach to you. You have a coldness that I find repellent. I’m not interested in normalizing that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordine

            Sorry to disappoint you. But you use as usual an avalanche of words to describe a situation you do not know based solely on totally biased sources.
            What you think does not matter to me, but I have to restore the truth. You look like a fasho of thought disguised as leftist. You must be very young to have such simplistic opinions. You remind me of the youth of the Revolutionary Marxist League in the 70s in Switzerland who distributed leaflets at the end of the school (with which we made paper planes). Yes, you are an Alien of preconceived ideas with an obtuse mind.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Get out your “avalanche” beacon, you’re going to need it.

            Let’s strip this of its ad hominem and empty verbiage, down to its basic claim: “a situation you do not know based solely on totally biased sources. What you think does not matter to me, but I have to restore the truth.” This is a Trump-like claim, an assertion without foundation.

            What is it exactly that I do not know that would change matters? What is biased about my sources? What “truth” are you going to “restore” that will overturn things? When have you ever “restored the truth”?

            In fact, it is the settlers who depend on vast numbers of people outside Israel-Palestine NOT knowing what is going on. In fact, it is the truth telling, in English and Hebrew, based on on-the-ground Israeli knowledge, that you resent about this Magazine. What exactly IS it that Noam Sheizaf, Michael Omer-Man, Edo Konrad, Hagai Matar, Mairav Zonszein and others do not know? What exactly is it that your highest quality mainstream newspaper, Haaretz, does not know? What exactly is it that informed Americans like Peter Beinart do not know? Be specific.

            The irony is lost on you? You, ideological fanatic, right wing extremist, lecture me about being simplistic and “fasho.” Me, who does nothing more than defend moderate liberal democratic principles. (Remember, you’re the guys who keep telling us how much like the good ol’ USA you are—no daylight! Where’s the beef?) You are trying to paint me as the extremist I am not. Telling me I am being “Marxist”-like, an utterly empty ad hominem, a cliche.

            You do this in the service of: Moving The Goalposts. That is, you do two things here. You try to normalize Kahanism as something we should all just politely agree to disagree on, like we are discussing tax policy, and you try to pathologize liberal democracy. Through the prism of an extremist settler viewpoint. We will not collude in this normalization agenda of yours.

            Reply to Comment
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