HEBRON LIKE YOU NEVER IMAGINED IT
Source: YNet News, 27 November 2008, www.ynet.co.il., in Hebrew, Translated and distributed by CGNews with permission from YNet News for publication.
A new way needs to be carved out that will allow Israel to express its nationalism in Hebron without conceding land or creating an apartheid state.
In many ways, the dilemma posed by Hebron embodies the ongoing struggle of Zionism since its inception over the biblical territories of Israel. Hebron, however, presents this dilemma in starker, sharper, and more violent streaks.
The basic argument presented by the settlers in Hebron is entirely justified. More so than Tel Aviv, Raanana, Sderot or Kiryat Shemona, in fact any other city in Israel aside from Jerusalem, the Jewish ties to the city of Hebron are greater and less questionable.. The continuous Jewish presence over the ages, the The Tomb of the Patriarchs, the 1929 Arab assault on the city’s Jews and the city’s sanctity ˆ all of these render the thought that Jews may no longer live, visit or pray in Hebron unbearable. In the midst of a discourse centred on historical, religious, ethnic and national rights ˆ there is no settlement more legitimate than the Jewish settlement in Hebron.
In the current situation the Jewish presence in Hebron is made possible only by means of violent occupation and harsh discrimination (that may be termed apartheid). The situation in Hebron today is such that basic values of equity, civil and human rights, and the recognition of another nation’s historical and national rights are all being denied ˆ an unacceptable and irrational position for anyone with basic moral sensitivities.
The grave mistake of Hebron’s Jewish settlers and their supporters is that they are not seeking to resolve this dilemma. Many of them do not even recognise its existence. They only recognise one point of reference for any discussion over Hebron and that is from the ethnic, historical, religious and national rights of one, and only one, side. For this reason they feel justified forging documents (as has been intimated not only in the most recent controversial acquisition of a house in Hebron but also in other cases such as the Shapiro House), committing daily violent acts against Palestinians and assaulting Israeli officials.
To them Palestinians are not entitled to property rights in the Land of Israel and this is the reason a court decision, which would seem just and reasonable any other place in Israel or worldwide, was seen as vicious and scandalous and warranting violent opposition.
Those familiar with the political discourses prevalent among many of the settlers and their affiliated circles such as the Bnei Akiva youth organisation know that they envision an apartheid state in its true form. According to their plans, the Palestinians in Israel (or Hebron for that matter) will be granted residency rights and not citizenship ˆ similar to the legal status of the blacks in Apartheid South Africa or Jews in Germany under the Nurenberg laws. This option seems unacceptable to me as well.
So where can we compromise in order to try and foster a solution to the problem? Maybe the concept of sovereignty, which lies very much at the heart of the conflict, should be redefined. We know that this concept has been undergoing radical changes in recent years, for example in Europe following the European Union. Maybe we too can bend the concept of sovereignty in our region to suit our needs.
We have become accustomed to viewing only full sovereignty, which is by definition exclusionary, as the realisation of the national rights of the Jewish people and its aspiration for a national home. But perhaps Hebron requires a different kind of national aspiration, one that will not equate national territorial rights with violent and exclusive sovereignty.
A bi-national mode of thinking may be more appropriate for Hebron, one that will recognise both the Jewish and Palestinian claims over the city. Likewise a settlement should recognise some sort of joint sovereignty both on the municipal and national levels. Moreover, perhaps this is the best settlement not only for Hebron but for all of Israel.
Any settlement along these lines will require us to entirely revamp the way we view our relationship with the Palestinians and it will of course need to be outlined through negotiations with them so that it will address their national, historical, religious, and economic needs as well.
Ironically, it seems likely that giving up exclusive and exclusionary sovereignty as a way of realising national rights will be easier than any alternative that will present us with a choice between an apartheid state or conceding valuable parts of Israel and displacing hundreds of Jews from their homes.
*Amos Goldberg is a fellow at the Scholion Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and a member of the Children of Abraham peace organization.