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In Hebron, Tlaib and Omar would have seen Israel's apartheid city

Had Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar been allowed to visit Hebron, they would have seen Israel’s official policy of discrimination and segregation for the city’s 215,000 Palestinian residents.

By Avner Gvaryahu

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man during a raid on the West Bank city of Hebron, September 20, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man during a raid on the West Bank city of Hebron, September 20, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron lies a beautiful leafy garden. In it stands a large stone with the names of the donors – Chicago Friends of Hebron. Even if U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib had not been barred from visiting the occupied territories earlier this month, Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization comprised of former IDF soldiers working to expose the realities of military occupation, would not have been able to take them there. Since Omar and Tlaib are both Muslim, they not only would have been unwelcome — Israeli Border Police soldiers stationed around the park would have stopped them from entering.

Discrimination and segregation are unpalatable wherever they exist, but in Hebron’s city center, they have been the official policy for the 215,000 Palestinian residents – especially since the Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, in which a Jewish nationalist fanatic shot dead 29 Palestinians while praying at the holy site.

The Likud party and its coalition partners seek to create a permanent reality based on unequal legal systems for Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. This is undeniably what is known historically as apartheid.

In Hebron, the arguments over semantics all fall silent when faced with the deserted Shuhada Street, once the beating heart of one of the largest cities in the West Bank. Palestinian residents are banned from entering the area to make way for a handful of extremist settlers, accompanied by hundreds of soldiers whose sole mission is to protect the settlers and bolster their presence.

When confronted with the desolate streets and empty houses, the truth rings clear: the claims about “security necessities” and a “divinely-promised land” sound especially hollow against the backdrop of Hebron’s stark reality. In the past, this was done underneath the table, shrouded in a cloud of mystery and blurred by denial and excuses. Today, the Israeli government and its authorities take pride in these actions.

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The ever-ending cycle of violence and its heartbreaking results could be the catalyst for change. Sadly, that is not the case.

This is evident in a recent letter penned by 21 right-wing Knesset members to their congressional allies in the U.S., thanking them for their “continued support,” while at the same time warning them against making the mistake of using the term “two-state solution.”

“A Palestinian state in the heart of the tiny Israel,” would from their point of view be “far more dangerous to Israel than BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement].” The letter reveals the government’s real objective: to perpetuate its control by force over the lives of millions of people, ad infinitum.

No less worrying is the right-wing coalition’s ever-intensifying collaboration with the most racist forces in Israel and the world. Only recently, a senior editor of the Yisrael Hayom daily, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, published an article recommending Israel normalize relations with the German neo-Nazi affiliated AfD party.

The occupation, the scandalous moral crime taking place in Israel’s backyard, is being carried out by young Jewish Israeli men and women like myself. Hence the struggle to end the occupation is not — and must not — be borne by Palestinians alone. As an Israeli, I fundamentally believe that the struggle for change must be fought by me and my fellow Israelis, as well as countless others around the world who believe in freedom and equality for all.

Israeli forces walk down a street during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, December 9, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli forces walk down a street during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, December 9, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

This is why we did not hesitate to accept Reps. Tlaib and Omar’s request to go on a tour of the place where we served as soldiers, which we now return to as activists. Our mission, to win over hearts and minds in our country and globally, requires us to tell it like it is, to expose these hard truths to whomever is willing to listen. People are not only entitled to know the truth – it is their moral duty to inform themselves. The 1,200 IDF veterans who broke their silence did so in order to expose the travesty taking place under our noses, in the name of our security, by our elected officials.

Against the hyper-nationalist camp in Israel, which has lost touch with reality and promotes indefinite occupation, we can and must present an alternative. Those who believe in universal values, who are able to call out racism for what it is and see the injustice in discrimination, are naturally and simultaneously opposed to both anti-Semitism and the occupation. By embracing the values of tikkun olam — repairing the world, a principle that lies at the heart of both Judaism and the progressive worldview — we can stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners around the world to fight individual and collective battles for a better future.

It is our honor and obligation to invite every elected official, whether Democratic or Republican, to come and see the occupied territories for themselves. Those who prevented the two Congresswomen from visiting the occupied territories seek to cover up the truth and blind us all with their lies. They will not succeed — we will continue to expose the truth they are desperately trying to hide.

Avner Gvaryahu is the executive director of Breaking the Silence.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      This is Breaking the Silence’s booklet, “Occupying Hebron”:

      https://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/inside/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/OccupyingHebron-Eng.pdf

      Over the years, due to the Israeli government’s actions, the settlement movement, and the IDF’s heavy presence, the city center of Hebron – one of the largest Palestinian cities in the West Bank – has turned into a ghost town, almost completely devoid of Palestinians. From the invasion of the Park Hotel by Rabbi Levinger and his students in April of 1968; the takeover of Beit Hadassah in April of 1979; the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in February of 1994; and to date, the story of the settlement in Hebron faithfully represents the story of the occupation at large. In the past, settlers’ daily violence and disregard for the rule of law, the deprivation of Palestinians’ most basic rights, and the ongoing actions of soldiers maintaining this oppressive system were considered stains worth trying to conceal. However, in recent years it seems as though we have shed our pretense and sense of shame. Instead of striving to change the reality, the Israeli government has been working to strengthen and deepen the Israeli settlement in the heart of the Palestinian city.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Itshak Gordine

      The only problem is that Hebron is a Jewish holy city and that most of it is under Arab occupation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Here’s the problem with the “Jewish holy city” nonsense: in the September issue of Harpers there’s an article “Common Ground – the politics of archaeology in Jerusalem”:

        https://harpers.org/archive/2019/09/common-ground-archeology-israel-palestine/

        What makes the French of today the same as the French of the seventeenth century or the Gauls of antiquity? Genetic makeup? Shared language, practices, and traditions? Or the accident of living within shifting French borders? The very notion of primacy—­the claim that “we were here first”—­depends on being able to define who “we” are. At the time when David’s sons and grandsons were ruling in Jerusalem, for example, the Judaeans were polytheistic; Judaism as we understand it today did not coalesce until the third or second century b.c…. “In antiquity the Eastern Mediterranean was a place of constant mixture, not bounded groups of ‘Europeans’ and ‘Levantines,’ ” Wengrow tweeted. “That is just what we made of it.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordine

          No, it is the Mahpellah: The tomb of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Rebecca and Lea, our fathers and our mothers. Hebron is located in the territory of Judah, most of whose Jews are descendants. Hebron is in Judea, the territory of Judah. Those who are far from Judaism can not understand these subtleties

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Subtleties? The truth is that you are anything but subtle. You are coarse and blunt, and it is not the case that Bruce or others are far from Judaism it is that you are far too closely wrapped up inside an airtight know-nothing cult of one extremist, hyper-nationalist sect of Judaism. There is no single “correct” or “true” Judaism. Enough with the simple-minded, racist nationalism. Listen to what Avner Gvarhayu is saying.

            Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordine

            In your unhealthy dreams, I am sure you would like the holy city of Hebron to become “Judenrein” as it was after the anti-Jewish massacres of 1929 until its liberation in 1967

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy: Do not pull the “Judenrein” gambit on me. It won’t work. I don’t want anybody or any land “rein.” You are the devoted enthusiast of ethnic cleansing and Lehava purity for the Jewish Volk. You are the one who said “The only problem is that Hebron is a Jewish holy city and that most of it is under Arab occupation.” You are the flip side of the Hamas. You are the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit-Lehava defender. Not me and not any writer at +972.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Strange: you are for everything that is bad for the Jewish people, assimilation, abandonment of historical, national and religious heritage. According to you the Jews should not live in their holy city of Hebron, should not live in their capital Jerusalem. Your dream would be for Israel to become an Arab state. Yes, you have in your heart a visceral hatred of the Jewish people and their traditions. And I maintain: you would like the city of Hebron to be rid of its Jewish inhabitants.
            And to hide this hatred, you launch slanderous accusations against anyone who does not agree with you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Talkback

            Jews living in a place on the one hand and Jews occupying or illegaly annexing a place on the other are two different things.

            And whether “Israel” is an only “Jewish” or an only “Arab” state is just both sides of the same Apartheid coin.

            What makes you or your Hamas equivalent think that this land belongs only to one people except blatant racism?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ‘Talkback’ nicely identifies Halevy’s black and white, either or, all or none, zero sum game. Which Halevy then uses to prattle about “hatred” and to slander. Without the slightest insight into his own actual hatred and his peculiar narcissism. Because for Halevy, if it’s Jewish, it’s ok, understandable, excusable, exceptional, is to be given a special pass no one else gets. Really the rigidity and all or none thinking and dogged lack of insight is striking. It’s a cult.

            Reply to Comment
    3. smoft

      A Palestinian state will never exist because it cannot exist- the Palestinians want to kill the Jews and take their promised land. The Palestinians are the villains not the Israelis!!!! The Israelis have every right to defend themselves and to live in their promised Jewish state. Am Yisrael Chai- the Jews are going to stay- the Palestinians can go find a life in their other 20 some Arabic countries.
      Your site is stupid and ignorant for not mentioning this!!

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @Smoft: I don’t mean to be rude, but this indignant, remonstrative tone of yours, spiced with peppy cheerleading notes, is almost satire, and is written at the level of a creationist trying to crash a meeting of the Society for Evolutionary Biology. The biologists will be amused but mostly annoyed at the irrelevance and the nonsense, and realize that even responding to the person is to give them a seriousness and credence they do not merit.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      Luckily, those 2 communist senators will not be visiting. Let them stay in Michigan and Minnesota and embitter the lives of their residents.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Firentis

      Hebron is one of the four holy cities of Judaism. The purpose of the security measures in place it to protect the Jewish presence in Hebron. Without the IDF the Jews there would be massacred or expelled as happened in 1929. People like Avner would prefer Hebron to be ethnically cleansed of Jews. This is the simple truth. Choose a side. This isn’t hard.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        This is written at the level of Bush and Cheney’s “you’re either with us or against us” before they committed the biggest boneheaded mistake in the history of US foreign policy and invaded Iraq. With disastrous consequences. It is based on a similar mixture of fear-mongering, ideological blindedness, misconstruing, fabricated evidence, guile and deceit.

        Reply to Comment
      • Talkback

        I think that everyone understands perfectly that the occupation soldiers are not there to protect the occupied, but to help Jewish settler colonialism to disenfranchise and expell them.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          The IDF soldiers are there to defend the Israelis.
          Before the IDF were in Judea & Samaria, there were 2 attempts to butcher us- 1948 and 1967.

          That was along time ago. But in 2005, IDF left Gaza and those bastards are now trying to murder us. They will never be satisified until WE THROW THEM ALL OUT !

          Reply to Comment
          • Talkback

            Exactly. A complete perversion of the Geneva Convention to protect illegal colonists instead of protecting the occupied against illegal colonization of the occupier.

            And sorry, but nobody buys your fake paranoia. It is your who won’t be satisfied until you expell any Nonjew. And you are just making up excuses to justify your genocidal policy.
            The Genocide of the Palestinian People: An International Law and Human Rights Perspective
            https://ccrjustice.org/genocide-palestinian-people-international-law-and-human-rights-perspective

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Yes – the Jordamian colonists who invaded our country in the 7th Century and tried to kill us in 1948 and in 1967 are deemed illegal settlers according to the Geneva Convention. Time for these swine to be repatriated.
            Good point, talkback

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “the Jordanian colonists who invaded our country in the 7th Century”

            The self-evident nonsense of this is amusing. Go ahead, anyone, repeat this phrase to yourself and see how its disparate stew of elements is amusingly incoherent, conceptually and temporally. Basically just mindless blather.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Sorry Ben:
            The 7th Century Invaders need to be sent home !
            There, fixed it for you

            Reply to Comment
      • Amir

        another tacky council, she only represents herself, not the 1.5 billion Muslims. At lease she got your attention

        Reply to Comment
    6. itshak Gordine

      MP Idit Siman (Yamina) appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to sign an order to make the Hevron wholesale market district Jewish. His appeal was signed by other members of various right-wing parties.

      Last Friday, the government’s legal adviser Avihai Mandelblit issued a legal opinion that the neighborhood was Jewish property. At the time of the Hevron massacres in 1929 this district had been emptied of its Jews and grabbed the Arabs.

      Idit Silman believes that after 90 years, it would be decent for the Israeli government to do justice and decide what is needed by returning the neighborhood to its rightful owners.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Itshak Gordine

      Official commemoration today of the massacre of Jews in the holy city of Hebron by the Arab population in 1929. There were no more Jews in Hebron until the liberation of the city by Israel in 1967. Respect and emotion.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        For those of you might like an introduction to the con job being pulled here by I. G. Halevy and his Hebron settler honchos, I reproduce part 4 of this educational piece about the Hebron Wholesale Market, but you should definitely read all seven parts, plus the Background part after that.

        “4. The Wholesale Market is a symbol – The wholesale market complex was the vibrant heart of the Old City of Hebron. It was tragically closed by the IDF’s order in 1994 following the Baruch Goldstein Massacre of Muslim worshipers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. At the Hebron Protocol, signed by then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Arafat in 1997, Israel committed to re-open the wholesale market in Hebron as part of the “Normalization of Life in the Old City.” However this commitment was never implemented and the shops are still closed to this day.”

        https://peacenow.org.il/en/why-a-new-settlement-should-not-be-established-in-the-wholesale-market-in-hebron

        Reply to Comment
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