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Shulamit Aloni: An Invitation To Hebron

[Shulamit Aloni's latest column is up to her usual standard. This time she deals with little known historical issues. Sol Salbe]


A few questions arising from an invitation to a "State" memorial service that the Jewish settlement in Hebron is conducting for the victims of the 1929 Arab riots.
By Shulamit Aloni
[Translated by Sol Salbe from Ynet - the website associated with Yediot Acharonot (14 August 2004)]

Once again we are confronted by a vile, sophisticated provocation. This time it's in the guise of a state-sponsored occasion that makes use of the state's coat of arms and the misery of the Jewish people as the perennial victim.

As far as I know, Hebron falls outside the jurisdiction of the state of Israel. It is still classified as occupied territory. This is the case despite the existence of the Jewish settlement that has established itself there. The first settlers were individuals who infiltrated by stealth. The efforts of the Beit Hadassah women entrenched the settlement. Later still the settlement received the stamp of approval of ministers like Ariel Sharon, Yuval Ne'eman and Moshe Arens. The rest of the story is common knowledge. The settlement may be authorised, but no one who is not a member or a friend of Gush Emunim can reach it without a permit of the GOC Central Command. (The separation of people into the categories of authorised and unauthorised is outlined in the GOC's written order.)

Nevertheless, I, like others entitled to invitations to state occasions, have received an invitation replete with the state's coat of arms A colourful memorial candle indicates its importance. In large black print on black background it states:

"We are honoured to invite you to a state memorial service to the 67 victims of the 1929 massacre on the occasion of 75th anniversary of their murder. The service will be held in the presence of the Knesset Speaker, Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin and with participation of rabbis, other notables and family members. Dr Avshalom Koor will preside over the proceedings. The service will be held on Thursday 10 Elul 5764 at 5.00pm at the old Jewish cemetery in Hebron. For details and transport arrangements, contact the Jewish settlement in Hebron."

An invitation carrying the coat of arms to a "state" occasion raises the question of legality. Did a ministerial committee really take the decision to authorise this state "celebration" somewhere outside the state's jurisdiction? Was it the GOC who approved the event even though it is beyond his powers to organise a state occasion? Did the ministers, the GOC and the Knesset Speaker decide to have an additional memorial day to commemorate our misery and to cement the Jews' status as perennial victims?

The local residents have been victims of the settlers' abuse and violence since the beginning of the occupation. Was it all done to escalate the tension and increase the hatred between these two groups? Is it the idea to place a whole city under curfew so that the "enlightened" occupier can reiterate its historical rights and demonstrate its might?

There are many who are unaware that the 1929 riots were sparked, like the Al Aqsa Intifada, by the actions of a gang of right-wing extremists that called itself Brit Habirionim, named after the Roman era Birionim (Religious extremists who terrorised both the Roman occupiers and moderate Jews) [In ancient Hebrew it means the Alliance of the Strong. Aloni is making use of modern parlance - the Thugs Alliance - translator]. The Birionim broke into the Western Wall area in the days leading to Yom Kippur and blew the shofar [ram's horn]. Word then got around that the Jews want to get to the Temple Mount and destroy the Al Aqsa mosque. That's the way the riots and massacres started.

It was a horrifying act of murder with many more wounded among the Jews of Hebron, who up to that point felt secure in their environment. Some were saved by their neighbours, others escaped. That was the end of the Jewish community in Hebron till the Levingers and the Beit Hadassah women arrived by courtesy of the IDF's guns.

Seventy-five years have passed since that pogrom. Many events have taken place. Some were carried out by the fanatical right-wing Birionim and their descendants. On 9 April 1948 there was that terrible massacre in Deir Yassin. A whole population was liquidated: men, women and children and all their animals. The village was wiped off the map. A mental health complex was built in its place.

The ruins of Deir Yassin are inside the jurisdiction of the state of Israel. I have not heard of a state service or a reflection and discussion day for that traumatic event. Maybe there's room for some introspection here This is something that can be done without placing a whole city under curfew or making the local residents suffer even more.

Don't get me wrong -- I am not suggesting that we should follow down this track. What I'm saying is that it is about time we stopped letting thuggery and fundamentalism rule our lives. It's about time that provocations that increase hatred were stopped. Such provocations raise tensions and foster terrorism by the persecuted and oppressed, but they also foster terrorism by the army, a terrorism which embodies the spirit of arrogant thugs who are doing everything to inflame hatred and foster ethnic cleansing. These people undermine that little bit of humanity that still exists among us.

As for the state service in Hebron - the attorney-general ought to examine its legality.

[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is generously sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]

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