Scenes from a Village: The Ugly Truth about the Israeli Occupation
02/07/2012 - 19:02

When Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967, virtually no Jews lived there.  Most had fled their homes after Jews had been massacred by a group of marauding Arabs in 1929.  But now that Israelis are in control of certain cities--notably Hebron, home of the tomb of Abraham--things have gone terribly awry. A new and essential report in the New York Review of Books shows what a disaster the Israeli occupation has become.

The reporter is Jonathan Freedland, a columnist for The Guardian and The Jewish Chronicle in London, and his piece makes for sober reading.  Freedland gets a tour of the Hebron by an activist with Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization that publicizes the wrong-doings of the Israeli occupation for Jews to read for themselves.

Hebron now has a vigorous population of Jewish settlers that have, under the Israeli military’s protection, turned the city into something resembling Birmingham, circa 1950.  Segregation, in other words, runs rampant. The city’s Jewish quarter has a road for Jews only—tzir sterli, or “sterile road”—that leads to the sacred Jewish site of Abraham’s burial place.  Jewish settlers continually defile Arab homes with signs like “Death to the Arabs” and “Arabs to the gas chambers.”  One Arab woman has put a cage over her balcony, whose roof sags with stones.  She put the cage there because Jewish thugs continue to pelt rocks at her apartment.

When Freedland talks about all this with a Jewish spokesman in the neighborhood, a New Jersey-native named David Wilder, he gets responses like this:

‘People say there’s apartheid here,’ says David Wilder, their New Jersey–born spokesman. ‘I agree, there is—but it’s not against them, it’s against us.’ ...He argues that, in effect, Jews have access to only 3 percent of the city—where the Israeli security presence is sufficiently intense—while Arabs have access to all the rest. Sure, he concedes, there’s one street, maybe a kilometer, a kilometer and a half, that the Arabs can’t walk on. Does he mean a-Shuhada Street [the street unofficially known as ‘sterile street’]? ‘I don’t know what they call it. We call it David Ha’Melech [King David] Street.’

Freedland’s rebuttal is swift and forceful:

Wilder’s message—that if the Palestinians stopped threatening the settlers with violence, the restrictions could be eased—runs counter to experience. When, for example, the US-born Baruch Goldstein killed twenty-nine Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, Israel imposed new restrictions—not on the settlers but on Hebron’s Arabs. The vegetable and meat markets were closed, and the ban on Palestinian cars on a-Shuhada Street introduced.

These are not the facts about life in the Jewish state that Jews, especially Jews in America, like to hear.  We tend to think that it’s only radical leftists who harp on these problems, and whose ultimate goal is the destruction of the entire Jewish state.  But what journalists like Freedland and groups like Breaking the Silence do is show their fellow Jews that they themselves care about Israel, and want it to survive, even flourish.  But with the ugly occupation not ending any time soon, that goal of a truly successful Jewish state, one which all Jews can be proud of, is a long way off.

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As someone who lives in Israel and spends a lot of time in Hebron, I can say that yes, this is one of the most terrible places to be, and that's because we Jews have made it that way. Yes, there have been terrible murders on both sides, but rather than try to find better solutions, Israel has imposed worse and worse restrictions on the Palestinians, leading to greater fear and desperation. I don't feel safe when I'm surrounded by people who are fearful and desperate - do you? Also, the settlers in Hebron don't just attack the Paestinians - they attack the Israeli Jewish soldiers who are there to protect them! Please, American Jews, open your eyes and look at what is really happening, because denying that there is a problem just makes it worse.

Sorry guys, but the above-written is not factual.
First, I find it interesting that twice, the state of New Jersey is mentioned, as if to insinuate that I really don't belong here. That fact that I'm in Israel since 1974, and in the Hebron region since 1981 isn't mentioned.
But more importantly, the statement 'Freedland’s rebuttal is swift and forceful" is nonsense. King David Street, called by the Arabs 'Shuhada' - martyr's street - was closed to Arab traffic, pedestrian and auto, as well as the stores on that road, as a result of the "Oslo War" aka 2nd intifada, as a result of Arab terror on that road, - stabbings, shootings, a suicide bomber, an acid attack, etc.
The Arabs and left appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court twice. The court is not known as a bastion of right-wing support and policy, but upheld the decision of the military and defense authorities to keep them closed for security reasons.
However, Freedland's inaccuracies are not to be unexpected. Why did he choose to take a tour with Breaking the Silence, an organization that assisted in production of the infamous 'Goldstone Report?' Why did he just 'speak with me' and not tour with me?
The answers to those questions are readily understood. The author had an agenda, which Jewish Hebron was not to be a part of, at least, not in any positive sense.
The real question is why 'the Jewish Week' would print such material, in such a complimentary fashion towards Freedland and his anti-Israeli bias? I invite them to hear the 'real side of the story,' the 'right side of the story' i.e., the truth. David Wilder, Hebron -

So the Jewish Week really needs a columnist who parrots the anti-Jewish rants of the British loony left newspaper The Guardian?

Where the Arabs control the turf, Jews are in mortal danger, not just harassed. If you are going to bring up the isolated case of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, in a Jewish newspaper, provide the context, his care for Jews and Arabs, the climate of hate and threats from Moslem "worshipers" in Hebron prior to his very regrettable response. Is it really too much to expect of the Moslems, to allow Jews to live in a small part of Hebron, historically Jewish? Apparently it is, for all those who hate the Jews and Israel, including any self-hating Jewish journalists.

Hebron? Did you do any research at all? Look up Shalhevet Pass, the 10 month old baby who was assassinated. Yes, assassinated. What else would you call it when she was shot twice in the head by a sniper?
Hebron? the site of the 1929 massacre by the Arabs of the Yeshiva students, and any other Jew who was unlucky enough to be caught by the Arabs. These were not "zionist settlers" this was 1929, these were old fashioned Yeshiva students. The massacre succeeded in driving all the Jews out of Hebron, making it Judenrein for the first time in 3000 years.
Hebron? Where many Jews have deeds to the property that was owned by their parents and grandparents, that the government of Israel refuses to acknowledge, that they are not allowed to occupy.
Hebron is the first property that was owned by our ancestor Abraham and not only is he buried there, but so were Isaac and Jacob. For hundreds of years Jews were only permitted to go up 7 steps, not into the tomb itself.
Hebron was King David's first capital, before Jerusalem. It will never be Judenrein again. Goldstein was an aberration. The Arab hatred of Jews dates back to Mohammed. Arabs have rights in Hebron, but not the right to kill Jews
David Willig

First, why do you say "Judenrein" when there are no Germans in Hebron?
Second, Goldstein was not any aberration; there have also been murders of Arab schoolchildren in their classrooms by Jews.
I agree with you that Jews have a strong connection to Hebron that is thousands of years already; so why is it so hard to think that maybe we should give our best thoughts to how to make it a place that is safe and holy for everyone who lives there?

Anybody that writes for the Guardian has an agenda. And it's not pro-Israel or neutral. Why not go to Phil Weiss, Richard Silverstein, or the rest of the posse.

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