The Hebron hullabaloo (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 04/08/12)
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In a surprise swift swoop on Wednesday, Border Police easily evicted
Jewish residents from a small apartment house near Hebron’s Cave of
Thus without much fanfare ended yet another attempt to expand the
Jewish toehold in the city.
Whether one agrees with the removal of the families or not, a very
unsavory component of the saga has been embedded in our public
discourse: Israel’s own defense minister has told the world that the
very presence of Jews in arbitrarily decreed locations within the
cradle of Jewish nationhood that is Judea and Samaria can be
deemed “a threat to public order.”
That’s precisely how the Arabs have described the entire Zionist
endeavor since the 19th century onward and precisely the reason for
which the British Mandate forbade land purchases by Jews in its
draconian 1939 White Paper. Herein lies the danger inherent in
Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s stance.
He imparts a fundamentally damaging impression both to public opinion
at home and abroad just when Israel is critically challenged by a
relentless and escalating campaign of demonization.
Israel’s eager slanderers now need only quote Barak to undermine the
very legitimacy of the state of Israel as well as of
those “settlement blocs” to which Barak presumably acquiesces.
For Israel’s detractors, no difference exists between Tel Aviv,
Jerusalem, Ariel or Hebron – to say nothing of between “approved
Jewish” homes in Hebron and the disputed Beit Hamachpela, which,
evicted Jewish residents maintain, was bought and paid for in full.
The realization that to our enemies we’re all the same must never
fade from our collective consciousness. Hence extra sensitivity, care
and forbearance wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Beit Hamachpela is situated in a section of Hebron which is anyway
under Israeli military control and which includes other Jewish
enclaves. It was thus hardly likely to have constituted an
outstanding menace to public order.
Then there’s the technicality on which Barak based his decision to
expel the Jewish residents, i.e. that they hadn’t obtained military
authorization to move in, irrespective of whether they’re the legal
owners of the building.
The power to arbitrarily ban Jewish residence confers in Barak’s
hands clout the voters didn’t grant him.
He was incontrovertibly routed in the last elections and has lost
even more support since his split from Labor. Nevertheless, despite
heading a minuscule political fragment, Barak has maneuvered himself
in the current coalition setup to a position whereby he dictates
policy to a majority that doesn’t share his political inclinations.
That potentially distorts democracy and can crucially further erode
public confidence in the system.
We’re faced with a state of affairs in which Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu accedes to Barak’s positions in order to not to be tagged
as excessively rightist. Barak in turn tilts leftward in order not to
be denounced as Netanyahu’s enabler. The upshot is that both seek to
curry left-wing favor, allowing Barak – with the attorney- general’s
sanction – to be simultaneously a side to the argument and its the
Lost in the hullabaloo is Hebron’s special status, which David Ben-
Gurion described as “Jerusalem’s sister,” second only to the capital
in sanctity and historic significance to the Jewish people. Laborites
such as Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon approved the Jewish return to
Hebron in 1968.
Hebron is the nation’s first capital and home to an ancient Jewish
community that was brutally uprooted in the murderous 1929 Arab
pogrom. If Jews have no right to reside in Hebron, they can hardly
claim any other stretch of this land.
The stock retort to the Beit Hamachpela evacuees is that if they
dislike Barak’s ruling, they’re free to petition the High Court of
Justice. In theory this makes sense, but the reality is that settlers
doubt they can get a fair shake from the Supreme Court. They feel
pushed into a corner where they must resort to faits accomplis.
Radicalization isn’t far behind.
With each additional high-handed edict from officialdom, settlers
grow more alienated, increasing the likelihood of conflicts, however
undesirable and avoidable.
Levelheadedness in high places can prevail and yield less polarizing
results. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/08/12)
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