Hebron: The Crime Continues

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This week Palestinians commemorate the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre. The murder of 29 Palestinian worshippers by the settler Baruch Goldstein in this sanctuary in February, 1994 was only the most tragic link in a chain of settler-violence against Palestinians in Hebron. An additional twenty Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces who continued to shoot at those who were trying to flee the mosque, at those who were evacuating the injured, and at those who had gathered at the hospital in order to find out about their loved ones and donate blood.

During that weekend, seven Palestinians were killed and more than 200 injured as Israeli soldiers continued to fire at Palestinian civilians who were protesting daily throughout the Palestinian territories. In drastic measures which had not been taken for some time, twenty-one Palestinians were killed by live ammunition from the Israeli occupation forces in the first six days following the massacre.

However, this was not enough for the occupation authorities. They went even further by imposing collective punishment upon the Palestinian residents of the Westbank and Gaza Strip: curfew on the majority of cities, towns and villages, and a total closure of the occupied territories preventing entry into Israel and Jerusalem. The city of Hebron continued to be under 24-hour curfew imposed immediately after the massacre.

The settlers in Hebron and Kiriat Arba, aided by the Israeli occupation forces, have terrorized the city’s Palestinian population for the last 30 years. Hebron’s absurd reality is that the presence of 450 Israeli settlers dictates the lives of 120,000 Palestinians, and the illegality of the settlements under international law. Reports and pictures showing settlers beating Palestinians, destroying their property, upsetting vegetable carts in the market, and shooting and rioting have been published in most media. They even permitted reporters to photograph them doing target practice and military exercises inside the old city of Hebron. The Israeli occupation authorities gave them permission to do this, providing them with protection every Friday as the settlers made raids of terror throughout the streets of the city, under the guise of visiting Jewish sites.

For years, the entire occupied Palestinian territories have been subject to incessant, brutal actions carried out by settlers against Palestinians, all with the sanction of the government and the Israeli occupation forces who approved their establishing armed militias who have imposed a reign of terror on the Palestinians. Since the Oslo accord in 1993, the number of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza has doubled to 200,000, not including approximately 200,000 settlers now living in East Jerusalem. The building during Barak’s government has actually escalated, with 14,000 settlers added and tenders issued for building 4,000 units last year alone, compared with 3,000 units a year built under Netanyahu. Compared to 1999, in the year 2000 there has been a 96% increase in settlement building.

Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been increasing since the start of the current intifada in September 2000. These settlers have generally acted with impunity, as the Israeli military and court system historically have been reluctant to arrest, try, and punish settlers for violence they commit against Palestinian civilians. As a result, settlers are virtually free to carry out intimidation, assaults against people and property, and even murder against the Palestinian population.

The existence of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories violates both international law and particular international agreements Israel is signed on. According to Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention it is prohibited to transfer civilians of an occupying power to the territory occupied.

The Hebron massacre is not another milestone, like Deir Yassin, Ailaboun, Qibya, Kufr Qassem and other massacres of Palestinians, because the number of deaths is so frightening, but rather because it occurred during the process in which parties were negotiating. Now, it seems that history repeats itself. Once again an entire generation sits and watches events as they unfold. The peace process was never neutral. The presence of settlers negates the Palestinian presence on their land, and their subjugation over them is part of occupation and colonialism. Palestinians are occupied under their occupation. There can be no mutual offers of condolences because the crime continues as long as occupation continues.

The author is a Dutch-Palestinian political scientist, human rights activist and is affiliated to the the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda) and ElectronicIntifada.net

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