The New York Times visits South Mount Hebron

Posted: July 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Settlements, this is personal | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments »

If all opinion makers visited the hills South of Hebron – like NYT’s Nicholas Kristof just did – the occupation would end in a few months.

Hebron city, with a community of extreme settlers in its heart, is bad enough, but South Mount Hebron is even worse. The Palestinians there are as poor as you can find in the West Bank, many of them leaving in caves, and the settlers – many of them from the so-called ‘illigal outposts’ – are as violent as they come. In recent years, the army started escorting the Palestinian kids on their long march to school, because the settlers threw stones at them. You can see it on this video:

10 years ago I did a one month reserve service in South Mount Hebron. Even then, before the second Intifada, the army handed these so called “illegal” settlements all the protection and help they needed in their effort to push the Palestinians out of the area. Soldiers escorted Jewish farmers when they herd their sheep on the tiny Palestinian fields; when fights or riots broke the Jews always went unpunished, while Palestinians were harassed, arrested and sometimes deported to Hebron city. Since then, the settlements grew and the situation of the Palestinians deteriorated.

I served in most areas in the West Bank and Gaza, and the settlers I talked to in South Hebron were by far the most racists I’ve ever met. Some of them were from the US and South Africa; many held an image of a biblical fight between Jewish and Palestinians shepherds, while others saw this as the new Wild West. One head of a family suggested I leave my gun at the base and treat the Palestinians with a whip. “You’ll gain more respect this way,” he said. Most Israelis will resent such statements, and the hills’ settlers have a very bad public image, yet what matter in South Mount Hebron is that the entire system is on the settlers side.

When we finished our term in the area, I told my CO that I would not serve in the occupied territory anymore (as readers of the blog know, I broke this promise last year).

As for the Time’s Nicolas Kristof, his visit to South Hebron lead him to a conclusion that is not often heard on American MSM (my Italic):

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is widely acknowledged to be unsustainable and costly to the country’s image. But one more blunt truth must be acknowledged: the occupation is morally repugnant.

On one side of a barbed-wire fence here in the southern Hebron hills is the Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir, where Palestinians live in ramshackle tents and huts. They aren’t allowed to connect to the electrical grid, and Israel won’t permit them to build homes, barns for their animals or even toilets. When the villagers build permanent structures, the Israeli authorities come and demolish them, according to villagers and Israeli human rights organizations.

On the other side of the barbed wire is the Jewish settlement of Karmel, a lovely green oasis that looks like an American suburb. It has lush gardens, kids riding bikes and air-conditioned homes. It also has a gleaming, electrified poultry barn that it runs as a business.

Elad Orian, an Israeli human rights activist, nodded toward the poultry barn and noted: “Those chickens get more electricity and water than all the Palestinians around here.”

It’s fair to acknowledge that there are double standards in the Middle East, with particular scrutiny on Israeli abuses. After all, the biggest theft of Arab land in the Middle East has nothing to do with Palestinians: It is Morocco’s robbery of the resource-rich Western Sahara from the people who live there.

None of that changes the ugly truth that our ally, Israel, is using American military support to maintain an occupation that is both oppressive and unjust.

You can read regular reports on the situation in South Hebron on Jeseph Dana’s blog.