Al-Ahram, a weekly from Egypt, showed up on my google reader’s list of top recommendations this week. It is described as the “Arab world’s leading English-language publication.” Thanks, but no thanks.
Curious, I looked up last weeks’ confrontation in Hebron that was going on at the same time as the terrorist attack in India. A quick skim was disappointing. There was a picture of some people with guns and Jewish attire labeled “Israeli settlers teach their children to kill Palestinians”, but no Palestinians being aimed at. A promised photo of a grave marker with a star of David was not posted. The world “Nazi” was sprinkled liberally throughout, and paragraph after paragraph claimed to know the thoughts, motivations, hearts and minds of a group of people who are not generally known for sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with Palestinians. The central incident the piece revolved around was vandalism in the middle of the night, resulting in breaking of car windows.
“The last time I went to submit a police complaint in Kiryat Araba one policeman took me to the next room and told me ‘I want to advise you, there is no point in submitting all these complaints. We simply can’t do anything to help you. The settlers control the state and the army can do little to protect you from them.'” Asked what he would do next to protect his family, Daana said, “I have no choice but to remain steadfast. A harmful neighbour will either die or move away,” said Daana quoting an old Arabic proverb.
Going to a Jewish source brings out a few more facts about the incident without the adjectives and heavy-handed world-view speculations of the Egyptian source.
Statements from the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and the dovish groups Ameinu and J Street criticized the settler reaction, which included setting fire to olive trees, stoning vehicles and pedestrians, and defacing Muslim graves with the Star of David. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert termed the violence a “pogrom.”
A strong condemnation of the settlers.
But leave it to the Christian Science Monitor to put the incident in context of the upcoming Israeli February elections, the government /settler split, and the cultural background of the city.
The violence here last week that started with the Israeli army evacuating ultranationalist settlers from a disputed house was captured on film and broadcast around the world. One thing it made clear for many was the extent to which extreme right-wing Jewish settlers have gone beyond the control of the Israeli government and army….
Hebron is a city that is complicated at its core. Jews and Muslims regularly pray here at the tomb of their common forefather Abraham. Jews call it the Cave of the Patriarchs and Muslims call it the Ibrahimi Mosque. To suppress the chances for violence, there are separate entrances to the holy site. The city itself was divided into Israeli and Palestinian-controlled sectors in 1996, leaving just about everyone miserable with the results….
Some say the move to evacuate the settlers was a preelection ploy. Israel faces parliamentary elections in February, out of which will come a new prime minister and a new government.
The big question now is whether growing settler violence will lead to a more radical or moderate direction for the Israeli right.
On Monday, members of the right-wing Likud Party were going to the polls in primaries to choose a new leader. The toss-up is between Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish politician who served as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, and Moshe Feiglin, a harder-line, religious figure who is closer to the settlement movement….
“We appreciate that the army threw them out. I don’t see that any Arab army has been able to do that,” says Mussab Jabari, who lives across the street from the evacuated building. He has covered his windows with cardboard slats to protect against the rocks thrown at the house. “Last week, we saw the good side of the Israeli soldiers,” he says. “There’s a change in their attitude toward the settlers.”
Maybe that will give the Arabs a new proverb, something like “A harmful neighbor will either die, move away, or be removed by the government.