By Shimon Z. Klein

After the Six Day War in 1967, Hebron had also fallen into the hands of the Israeli forces. It has also been a centre of religious passions between Arabs and Jews for the last 100 years or so. According to Jewish tradition, Hebron is also the second most important city after Jerusalem.

From 1922 through 1928 the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Palestine was relatively peaceful. However, in late 1928 a new phase of violence began with minor disputes between Jews and Arabs about the right of Jews to pray at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. These arguments led to an outbreak of Arab violence in August 1929 when Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, fomented Arab hatred by accusing the Jews of endangering the mosques and other sites holy to Islam. Observers heard Husseini issue the call: Itback al-Yahud “Slaughter the Jews!”
An ancient Jewish Community did live in Hebron for centuries. Their relationship with the Arab Communities was peaceful and many had friends amongst the Arab Communities. The Arab violence in Hebron was one of the worst atrocities in the modern history of Israel.
“On the afternoon of Friday, August 23, 1929 Jerusalem Arabs came to Hebron with false reports of Jews murdering Arabs during the rioting there, even saying thousands of Arabs had been killed. Despite the fact that Jews and Arabs in Hebron had been on good terms, a mass of frenzied Arab rioters formed and proceeded to the Hebron Yeshiva where a lone student was murdered. The next day, the Jewish Sabbath, the killing continued as an Arab mob of hundreds surrounded homes where Jews sought refuge, broke in and murdered scores of Jews in a bloody rampage.
The dead Jews that day included Eliezer Dan Slonim, a man highly esteemed by the Arabs. He was the director of the local English-Palestine bank whose many clients were Arabs, and was the sole Jewish member of the Hebron Municipal Council. He had many friends among the Arab elders, who had promised to protect him. Twenty-two people died in Slonim’s house that day including his wife and two young children.
By the end of the riot, during which the British police did nothing to protect the Jews or stop the violence, sixty-seven Jews were dead and hundreds wounded. The survivors were isolated in a police station for three days while the Arabs rampaged through their houses, stealing and destroying Jewish property, unmolested by the British authorities. At the end of the three days the Jews were sent to Jerusalem, exiled from their homes for the crime of being a victim of the Arab riot. Hebron’s ancient Jewish quarter was empty and destroyed. For the next 39 years no Jew lived in Hebron, not until after it was liberated by the Israeli military during the Six Day War in 1967.
The British Colonial Secretary, Lord Passfield, announced the formation of a Commission of Inquiry, which began its investigation of the riots in September 1929. (See Shaw Commission of Inquiry) A British expert was engaged to study the matter (the Hope-Simpson Report), and a new policy whitepaper was issued by Lord Passfield (the 1930 White Paper)” (From Palestinian Facts)
However, today the situation is very different. Hebron is now a Palestinian city with only about 500 right wing Jewish religious fanatics living amongst 160 000 Palestinians. Many of these people are living in Hebron illegally. They have taken over buildings that belong to the Palestinians and created havoc. They claim to have bought property but the facts prove otherwise. Even Shimon Peres, (now President) the vice prime minister at the time, stated that these settlers have created “an unbearable situation”. 
Another problem is that these settlers cannot lay claim to Hebron. Those who could lay claim are those who suffered from the riots of 1929 and who had families that lost property. Many of the settlers there are United States citizens, many of whom are imbued with a right wing, racist anti-Arab ideology and have no claim to ownership of property in Hebron. It is the hardcore neo Kahanists (followers of the late racist, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who himself was a US citizen) who are responsible for the unrest in Hebron today. They take over property that does not belong to them. The excuse, according to them is that Hebron belongs to the Jews by right because of Ephron, the Hittite, from whom Abraham purchased the land for burial of his wife, Sarah.
The settlers in Hebron have been abusing the Palestinians and their behaviour has been shocking. Incidents of verbal and physical abuse of these Palestinians are an almost everyday occurrence. The Israeli Authorities have failed to protect the Palestinians from settler violence. There have been reports of a “quiet transfer” of Palestinians out of the city. The Israeli Army is in Hebron for protecting these hard core fanatics.
According to a report by B’tzelem, “Over the years, settlers in the city have routinely abused the city’s Palestinian residents, sometimes using extreme violence. Throughout the second intifada, settlers have committed physical assaults, including beatings, at times with clubs, stone throwing, and hurling of refuse, sand, water, chlorine, and empty bottles. Settlers have destroyed shops and doors, committed thefts, and chopped down fruit trees. Settlers have also been involved in gunfire, attempts to run people over, poisoning of a water well, breaking into homes, spilling of hot liquid on the face of a Palestinian, and the killing of a young Palestinian girl”.

There is no doubt that there is a certain lack of balance when dealing with the problems of Hebron between Jews and Palestinians. The right of religious Jewish fanatics to take over Palestinians homes and making false claims that these homes belong to the Jewish People is immoral, dangerous and does not serve Israel’s interests in making peace with the Palestinians. Here we have an example of unofficial Israeli colonization of the Palestinian people despite Israel’s claims to the contrary.
Those 500 fanatics in the heart of Hebron have no right to be there and the sooner the Israeli Authorities remove them the better for the future of Israel and Palestine.

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