Meretz USA News Update, 4/13/07

Meretz USA News Update, 4/13/07

Focus on: Hebron’s “House of Dispute”

The Jewish Telegraph Agency’s Dina Kraft wrote this week that a “more aggressive and proactive mood in the settler camp” is developing — “especially among the younger generation.” It’s an assertiveness that has manifested itself in recent actions such as a march to Homesh, one of four West Bank settlements from which Israel withdrew in the summer of 2005, as well as the disputed purchase of a house in Hebron. The Homesh “re-settlers” have since been evacuated, but those in Hebron continue to set up camp — creating a tense situation in an area known for its hostilities between Jewish settlers and Palestinian inhabitants.

Hebron is known and revered in all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) as home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the burial place of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the bible: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah. The city is overwhelmingly inhabited by Palestinians, but, after Israel took control of the West Bank in 1967, the government set up the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba — providing a place for settlers outside, but close to, the city. However, in 1979, several women and children took up residence in an abandoned building in Hebron. This residence called Beit Hadassah was subsequently joined by three other settlements, Tel Rumeida, Beit Ramano, and Beit Chason.

Enjoying extensive army protection, these settlements have significantly disrupted the lives of local Palestinians. An increased military presence surrounding the buildings – along with frequent violence and harassment by the settlers – has caused many Palestinians to abandon their homes. As Yehuda Litani writes, those 150,000 that remain face drastic restrictions on movement and live in fear of the 600 or so settlers. One Palestinian resident of Tel Rumaida, who recently had his car torched for the fourth time in recent months, is no exception.

Now settlers have taken over a new building. Already housing more than thirty families and a school, and no smaller in size than the four already inhabited, a Haaretz editorial rightly points out that the move constitutes the beginning of a new settlement. Even more dangerously, the building occupies a strategic location between Kiryat Arba and the four older settlements: with all the army protection it will necessitate, the new settlement, if it stays, will connect the two points, creating a barrier between the northern and southern parts of the city.

The settlers occupied the building illegally. Although they allegedly purchased it from a Palestinian, they did not receive the Defense Minister’s consent — a prerequisite in this case. Amir Peretz has since ordered their evacuation, but this does not mean that the settlers will now leave. In fact, they now have fifteen days to appeal to the Civil Administration, the branch of the IDF in charge of civilian affairs in the Territories. And even if this petition is overturned, they will be able to turn to the higher courts for additional recourse.

It is for these reasons that Nehemia Shtrasler writes that eviction is becoming increasingly unlikely: even throughout the legal battles, “they will bring equipment, additional families, volunteers, sympathizers and yeshiva students from all over the country, as well as ministers and MKs who will visit and express support.”

Historically, this sequence of events: 1) the takeover a house without government authorization; 2) in the name of security, the creation of a military presence around the house — resulting in restrictions on Palestinians in the surrounding area; and 3) the establishment of a permanent presence with ex pos facto authorization “ is the settlers” modus operandi. This is what happened in 1979 at Beit Hadassah, when women and children settled in quietly at night, surprising soldiers and causing them to set up a restricted area around the building.

Everyone agrees that, had Defense Minister Peretz acted immediately, he could have removed the settlers — indeed, he did so just recently in Homesh. But each day the settlers resist removal, the more deeply entrenched they become. Yossi Sarid writes that for the settlers, “temporary” means “for eternity.” As we’ve seen in the past, time works in the favor of settlers.

In other news

* Amid rumors that he may resign, MK Amzi Bishara, chairman of the Arab party Balad, has been the focus of much speculation this week. At the latest, he has announced that he may not resign, after stating earlier in the day that he planned to do so. Read Meron Rapoport’s analysis of the topic by clicking here.

* Hamas militants have now given a list of prisoners to be released in an exchange for Cpl. Gilad Shalit. This list includes several suicide bombing masterminds and other notorious figures.

By | 2007-04-16T12:59:00-04:00 April 16th, 2007|Blog|0 Comments

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