Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Five alternatives to designating separate states


This opinion tackling the two-state solution is the “con” argument published in conjunction with Alan Elsner’s “pro” argument, “The Two-State Solution Won’t Die.

Israel never seems to have a good answer to accusations of occupation and illegitimacy of the settlement enterprise. Whenever the claim that Israel stole Palestinian lands is heard, Israel inevitably answers, “We invented the cellphone” and “We have gay rights.” Obvious obfuscation. And when pushed to explain why the much-promised two-state solution is perennially stuck, always the answer is to blame Arab obstructionism.

This inability to give a straight answer is a result of 30 years of bad policy that has pressed Israel to create a Palestinian state on the historic Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria, which the world calls the West Bank. This policy has managed to legitimize the proposition that the West Bank is Arab land and that Israel is an intractable occupier there.

But for us settlers, the truth is different: The two-state solution was misconceived and will never come to pass, because Judea and Samaria belong to Israel. We have a 3,700-year presence in this land, our foundational history is here, and we have reacquired control here in defensive wars. The world recognized our indigeneity in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the San Remo accords of 1920.

Additionally, as a result of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, when Hamas seized control and turned the strip into a forward base for jihad, starting three wars in seven years, most Israelis, however pragmatic, no longer believe in a policy of forfeiting land in the hopes of getting peace in return. No Israeli wants an Islamic State of Palestine looking down at them from the hilltops.

But as Israel is beginning to walk back the two-state solution, it is not easy to admit we were wrong, and many people’s careers are on the line. This is why Israel still mouths the two-state party line yet takes no steps toward making a Palestinian state a reality.

Now, the time has come for a discussion of new options in which Israel would hold on to the West Bank and eventually assert sovereignty there. Yes, Israel will have to grapple with questions of the Arab population’s rights, and the issues of the country’s security and Jewish character, but we believe those questions can be worked out through the democratic process.

At least five credible plans are on the table.

The first option, proposed by former Knesset members Aryeh Eldad and Benny Alon, is called “Jordan is Palestine,” a fair name given that Jordan’s population is estimated to be about 80 percent Palestinian. Under their plan, Israel would assert Israeli law in Judea and Samaria while Arabs living there would have Israeli residency and Jordanian citizenship.

A second alternative, suggested by Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister, proposes annexation of only Area C — the territory in the West Bank as defined by the Oslo Accords where a majority of 400,000 settlers live — while offering Israeli citizenship to the relatively few Arabs there. But Arabs living in Areas A and B, the main Palestinian population centers, would have self-rule.

A third option, which dovetails with Bennett’s, is promoted by Israeli scholar Mordechai Kedar. His premise is that the most stable Arab entity in the Middle East is the Gulf emirates, which are based on a consolidated traditional group or tribe. The Palestinian Arabs are not a cohesive nation, he argues, but are composed of separate city-based clans. So, he proposes Palestinian autonomy for seven noncontiguous emirates in major Arab cities, as well as Gaza (which he considers an emirate already). Israel would annex the rest of the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to Arab villagers outside of those cities.

The fourth proposal is by journalist Caroline Glick, author of the 2014 book “The Israeli Solution.” She claims that contrary to prevalent opinion, Jews are not in danger of losing a demographic majority in an Israel with Judea and Samaria. Alternative demographic research shows that due to falling Palestinian birth rates and emigration, combined with the opposite trend among Jews, a stable Jewish majority of above 60 percent exists between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (excluding Gaza), and is projected to grow to 70 percent by 2059. On this basis, Glick concludes that the Jewish state is secure and that Israel should assert Israeli law in the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to its entire Arab population without fear of being outvoted.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely similarly would annex and give the Palestinians residency rights — with a pathway to citizenship for those who pledge allegiance to the Jewish state. Others prefer an arrangement more like that of Puerto Rico, a United States territory whose 3.5 million residents cannot vote in federal elections. Some Palestinians, like the Jabari clan in Hebron, want Israeli residency and are actively vying to undermine the Palestinian Authority, which they view as illegitimate and corrupt.

None of these options is a panacea and every formula has some potentially repugnant element or tricky trade-off. But given that the two-state solution is an empirical failure and Israelis are voting away from it … there is a historic opportunity to have an open discussion of real alternatives.

Finally, there is a fifth alternative by former Knesset member and head of the new Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin, and Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. They do not see a resolution of conflicting national aspirations in one land and instead propose an exchange of populations with Arab countries, which expelled about 800,000 Jews around the time of Israeli independence. In contrast, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would be offered generous compensation to emigrate voluntarily.

None of these options is a panacea and every formula has some potentially repugnant element or tricky trade-off. But given that the two-state solution is an empirical failure and Israelis are voting away from it, and given that the new Donald Trump administration in the U.S. is not locked into the land-for-peace paradigm, there is a historic opportunity to have an open discussion of real alternatives, unhampered by the bankrupt notions of the past.

YISHAI FLEISHER is the international spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, home of Machpelah, the biblical tombs of Judaism’s founding fathers and mothers.

Israeli soldier guilty of manslaughter in shooting Palestinian attacker


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

An Israeli military court convicted Sgt. Elor Azaria, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier of manslaughter after he shot dead a seriously wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron ten months ago. The shooting was filmed by the dovish Btselem organization, and ignited a furious debate in Israel. Azaria will be sentenced at a future hearing in several weeks.

Azaria did not show any emotion as the verdict was delivered, although he walked into the courtroom smiling, and hugged his mother.  After the verdict was delivered, one of Azaria's relatives was kicked out of the courtroom for screaming at the judge.

“Tomorrow there is no IDF,” she yelled, referring to the army. “The IDF is over.”

Another relative screamed “disgusting leftists” at the court and stormed out.

After the judges left the room, Azaria's mother screamed, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Azaria tried to comfort her and calm her as she screamed and cried.

In her opinion, Central Command Chief Justice Maya Heller said that Azaria had changed his story several times and that his version of events, that he believed the terrorist posed a threat to him, was “not credible.” She also said that it was Azaria's shooting that killed the terrorist, Abed al Fatah a-Sharif, who was lying wounded on the ground after he tried to stab a soldier.

“He opened fire in violation of orders, the terrorist did not pose any threat,” the judges wrote.

Before reading the verdict, Judge Heller read out claims of both the prosecution and the defense. She said that Azaria offered different version of what happened last March, first saying that the terrorist moved while he was lying on the ground, and Azaria thought his life was in danger. Later he said that the terrorist was already dead before Azaria opened fire.

During the trial, another soldier, named only as TM, testified that Azaria asked him, “How is it that my friend was stabbed and the terrorist is alive?” She said that statement had “significant weight in the decision.”

About 400 protestors gathered outside the military court to support Azaria. Waving Israeli flags, they accused the army and the government of unfairly targeting the soldier. They chanted “Death to the Terrorists” and “Free Elor.” Several protestors were arrested when they tried to block the street in front of the military court.

“I'm here for Elor – he should be freed,” Yardena Arbel told The Media Line. “Every terrorist should die. He (the terrorist) came to kill. Elor is the son of all of us. He entered all of our hearts.”

In Israel, there is universal conscription and most men and women serve in the army, with the exception of most Arab citizens of Israel, who can volunteer, and most ultra-Orthodox men. Soldiers are popular in Israeli society, and widely supported.

The case of Azaria deeply split the Israeli public. Some, like the demonstrators and others, believe that Azaria was unfairly targeted.

“They preferred the version of Btselem over the version of an IDF fighter,” Sharon Gal, the Azaria family's media advisor said. “They didn't give any weight to the evidence. It was like the court was detached from the fact that this was the area of an attack. I felt that the court picked up the knife from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers.”

Some in Israel felt that the verdict was a victory for the rule of law in Israel, and a reminder that there are strict rules about when a soldier can open fire.

“Today's conviction is a positive step toward reining in excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians,” said Sari Bashi, Israel advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. As Human Rights Watch has documented, however, the problem is not just one rogue soldier but also senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill.”

The shooting in Hebron came amid a wave of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks that have killed 42 soldiers and civilians in the past 15 months, and wounded dozens of others. 

Ayman Odeh, member of the Israeli parliament’s Joint List political bloc — representing parties led by Arab citizens of Israel in the Knesset — told the Ma’an News Agency  that the “main difference in this case was the presence of cameras which documented the crime thanks to Btselem.” 

Palestinians said that while the court did rule that B’Tselem’s videos were authentic and admissible, many other crimes against Palestinians are never investigated. The dovish Israeli Yesh Din organization issued a report that of the 186 investigations the Israeli army opened in 2015 investigating offenses against Palestinians, just four yielded indictments. Human Rights Watch criticized Israel's “shoot to kill” policy.

Many Israelis seemed torn about Azaria's verdict.

“I am afraid that after the verdict, soldiers will be afraid to shoot Palestinian terrorists and they will just run away,” Roni Yitzhayek, a Tel Aviv taxi driver told The Media Line. “I think he should be convicted, but sentenced only to time served.”

Yitzhayek's daughter is currently serving in the army as a combat soldier at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. He said that after watching the Azaria trial, he told his daughter that if a Palestinian ever tries to attack her, she should shoot at her legs, not try to kill her.

Last week, he said, that is exactly what happened. A female terrorist tried to attack soldiers at the checkpoint with a knife. His daughter opened fire, wounding the women in the legs.

Israeli troops kill 3rd assailant on a day with several attacks


Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man who stabbed a soldier in Hebron — one of several attacks reported on Friday.

The assailant had slashed the soldier in the face, The Times of Israel reported, citing the Magen David Adom emergency medical service.

Earlier, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who was trying to run over Israeli soldiers with a vehicle near Hebron, according to the Israeli army. A Palestinian woman in the car was critically wounded.

In eastern Jerusalem, Israeli troops shot and killed a man reported to be a Jordanian citizen who allegedly was trying to carry out a stabbing attack outside the Damascus Gate.

Also Friday, perpetrators threw rocks and glass bottles with paint at a bus between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement Maale Adumim, lightly injuring the driver, according to The Times of Israel. Police were searching the area to find the attackers.

On Thursday, a 30-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Ahmad Abed al-Fattah al-Sarrahin, died of gunshot wounds he sustained during a clash earlier in the day with Israeli forces that raided his village of Beit Ula in the southern West Bank district of Hebron.

Palestinian gunman in attack that killed father of 10 dies in shootout with Israeli troops


The Palestinian gunman who killed a rabbi and father of 10 in a West Bank ambush nearly a month ago was killed in a shootout with Israeli security forces near Hebron.

Soldiers and police surrounded the house of Muhammad al-Fakih, 29, who is said to have been the member of the Hamas terror cell who pulled the trigger in the attack on the family as they traveled in their car on Route 60, a main thoroughfare in the southern West Bank.

Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark, head of the Otniel Yeshiva, was killed in the July 1 attack. His wife was shot in the head and seriously wounded, and two of their teenage children were injured.

Three other men have been arrested in connection with the attack. One of the arrested has been identified as a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

Al-Fakih reportedly fired on the Israeli troops who surrounded his house. The troops returned fire, including reportedly hitting the building with an anti-tank missile. The building was then mostly knocked down by an Israeli army bulldozer. Weapons including a Kalashnikov rifle and a homemade grenade were discovered in the house, Ynet reported.

Al-Fakih reportedly served time in an Israeli jail for ties to the Islamic Jihad terror group, but switched his allegiance to Hamas while in prison.

Peter Beinart joins US Jews for civil rights-style protest in West Bank


Dozens of American Jews spent Friday in the West Bank practicing nonviolent resistance against Israel’s presence here.

On hand to help were some bold-faced names in the American Jewish community’s Israel debate, including Peter Beinart, a leading liberal U.S. Jewish thinker, and Amna Farooqi, the Muslim president of J Street U.

The activists used tactics familiar from the U.S. civil rights movement to provoke Israeli authorities in Hebron — the most volatile city in the West Bank and the site of frequent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. When many of the activists staged a sit-in and refused a military order to leave a Palestinian property, Israeli police detained six of them with dual Israeli citizenship.

Though anti-occupation demonstrations in the West Bank are nothing new, such a large group taking action under the banner of American Judaism is.

The some 45 Americans and other Diaspora Jews came to the West Bank earlier in the week with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, a new movement that organizes Diaspora Jews to challenge Israeli rule in the West Bank. The 10-day trip is dedicated to community service and political action on behalf of the Palestinians.

The activists expressed confidence they were part of a historic shift.

“I feel like I’m seeing the emergence of a new leadership. It’s really remarkable,” Beinart told JTA. “People will try to write these guys off as lefties that don’t have any connection to the Jewish community. But it’s amazing when you talk to them, these kids actually come from the bosom of the Jewish community. A lot of them are affiliated. A lot of them are doing this without the knowledge of their families, with a lot of pain in their families.”

On the schedule Friday was an action in partnership with Palestinian and Israeli activists to turn what they said was a forsaken Palestinian metal factory in the Israeli-military-controlled areas of Hebron into the city’s first Palestinian movie theater. They expected to be disrupted by police and possibly arrested.

During the bus ride from their hotel in Bethlehem to the factory, the activists sang “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” (“The World is Built with Loving Kindness”) in English and Hebrew. Most were American Reform or Conservative Jewish millennials from major American cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York. But older generations, Orthodox Judaism, and Europe and Australia were represented as well.

The activists have deep Jewish ties. Many belong to left-wing Israel advocacy groups such as J Street and the New Israel Fund, and others to groups that more deeply divide the pro-Israel community, including Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and IfNotNow, which holds its own sit-ins at U.S. Jewish groups.

Ethan Buckner — a 26-year-old organizer for an environmental group in Berkeley, California, and a singer-songwriter with a eyebrow piercing — said he had avoided confronting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for most of his life. But he said Israel’s “murder” of Palestinian civilians during the 2014 Gaza War pushed him to get involved with IfNotNow protests.

Israeli authorities removing activists from the Center for Jewish Nonviolence from property in the West Bank city of Hebron, July 16, 2016. 

Buckner said his father, a Conservative cantor in Minnesota, had previously tolerated but not endorsed his anti-occupation activism. Sharing with his dad his firsthand experiences of “how the occupation is a nightmare” for Palestinians and also Israelis seemed to have an effect, he said.

“Those stories and photos really moved him in a way that I haven’t seen him moved before to really start to also take responsibility. I think there’s a growing sense of understanding of how American Jews share responsibility for what is happening,” he told JTA.

At the Palestinian property — a dirt lot with several low-slung cement structures — the Center for Jewish Nonviolence activists were joined by their Palestinian and Israeli partners. The dozen or so Palestinians were part of a local movement called Youth Against Settlements. The handful of Israelis were from All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective, a Tel Aviv-based group that engages Diaspora Jews. More activists from the Israeli group had tried to join, but their bus was turned back by police at the Gush Etzion Junction en route from Tel Aviv.

One of the Palestinians, Jawad Abu Aisha, said the property was declared a closed military zone at the start of the second intifada in 2001, and even since that order was lifted in 2008, he was kept from reclaiming the factory by military and settler harassment. The activists said this was a common experience for Palestinians with property in the Israel-controlled section of Hebron.

Hebron is home to some 200,000 Palestinians and fewer than 1,000 Israeli settlers, who live under heavy military protection. The city, religiously significant to both Jews and Muslims, has long been a hothouse of Jewish-Palestinian violence. Many of the Palestinian terrorists involved in the recent wave of terror against Israelis have come from Hebron. In March, an Israeli soldier shot to death a felled Palestinian attacker.

Working with foreigners is central to Youth Against the Settlements’ strategy for supporting fellow Palestinians living in Hebron — and so much the better if those foreigners happen to be American Jews, according to a leading activist in the movement, Mutasem Hashlamoun.

“Palestinian media is always at our protests, but there is much more international media here for this group,” Hashlamoun told JTA, gesturing toward the many journalist documenting the activists. “For Palestinians, too, who only see the settlers and the soldiers and think Jews are just against them in everything, having Jews chanting against the occupation helps change their mindset.”

After sneaking onto the property, the activists got to work clearing scrap metal, weeds and debris and — once it was clear they had been spotted — singing Jewish and protest songs. Amid the work, bags of popcorn labeled “Cinema Hebron” were passed around, and a handmade sign that read “Cinema Hebron: Coming Soon” was triumphantly erected.

Meanwhile, a growing number of soldiers, police officers and settlers gathered on the street. They recorded the activists, and the activists recorded them. One of the settlers, a longtime Hebron resident named Tzipi Schlissel, told JTA the Palestinians were using the activists as a weapon against the Jews. She said the property they were cleaning up had been used by terrorists in the past.

“[The activists] think they’re doing a good thing, but they’re really helping the terrorists,” said Schlissel, whose father, a prominent settler rabbi named Shlomo Ben Raanan, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in 1998. “I’ll tell you, in the Holocaust, Jewish people helped Hitler, too.”

After a few hours of work, a dozen soldiers and police officers entered the property to declare it a closed military zone. Thirty or so activists sat on the ground, locked arms and sang “Lo Yisa Goy,” a Hebrew song about peace. The authorities quickly pulled up the activists one by one and shepherded them up the street.

Israeli citizens were singled out and detained. Five were dual American citizens, the other was Canadian. They were charged with presence in a closed military zone and illegal gathering and questioned. Two were also charged with organizing an illegal gathering.

Ilana Sumka, the CEO of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, said the authorities’ apparent reluctance to detain American Jews validated her movement’s approach.

“I take that as evidence that there’s tremendous power in our strategy. Right? Because the Israeli military didn’t want to have a skirmish with American Jews, I think because they understand the American Jewish community is essential to Israel’s future,” she said. “We’re already planning our next nonviolent campaign, which will take place around the milestone of 50th anniversary of the occupation next summer.”

Israel gained control of the West Bank following the Six-Day War in 1967.

An officer at the Kiryat Arba police station referred JTA to the Israel Police for comment. The police did not respond to questions about the reason for the arrests or the targeting of Israeli citizens.

In response to a JTA inquiry, the Israel Defense Forces said: “On Friday, June 15, dozens of people gathered on a property in Tel Romeda. The gathering evolved into a disturbance of the peace, including clashes with IDF forces. In order to prevent escalation into violence, the Military Commander ordered the closure of the area. Accordingly, non residents were required to leave the premises.”

After being evicted from the property, most of the activists set off for the police station where the detained Israelis were being held, in the neighboring religious Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. Singing and holding hands, they marched across town — down the empty and heavily militarized Al-Shuhada Street and past the Tomb of the Patriarchs. At various points friendly soldiers and a Druze police officer helped guide them.

Once at the station, the activists demanded the release of the Israelis and were refused. That led to more sitting, singing and chanting in the hot afternoon sun.

Soldiers and settlers – swaggering teenage boys in knit kippahs and giggling young girls – were bewildered by the Jews protesting outside their homes in Hebrew. One settler boy held out his phone so his friend on the other end could hear their singing. Some of the girls took photographs and video, but protested when cameras turned toward them.

Activists were asked to translate their bright blue shirts, which read: “Occupation is not our Judaism.”

At one point, a soldier pulled out of the prison gate in a white jeep and sang along with the activists over the car’s loudspeaker, briefly raising hopes that he was a supporter. But he ended his performance by chanting “oc-cu-pa-tion,” pumping his fist to the tune. Other soldiers laughed.

Around 2 p.m., the activists left the Israelis in the hands of legal counsel and, declaring a victory of sorts, headed to a late lunch. The Israelis were released just ahead of Shabbat and banned from Hebron for two weeks. The Center for Jewish Nonviolence activists are set to fly home Wednesday. Cinema Hebron will have to wait.

Soldier who killed wounded terrorist in Hebron ‘dangerous,’ prosecutor says


Prosecutors from Israel’s Military Advocate General appealed the release from prison of an Israeli soldier facing trial for killing a wounded Palestinian terrorist in Hebron.

During deliberations Friday at a military tribunal in Tel Aviv over the appeal, head prosecutor Colonel Sharon Pinchas Zagagi dismissed the soldier’s claim that he shot Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif out of fear that the Palestinian was wearing an explosive vest, Army Radio reported.  Zagagi said the soldier posed a danger to others, but the judge said he would be released from jail and confined to a military base.

The soldier, whose name was not released for publication and who is referred to in Israeli media as Sergeant A., shot the Palestinian “deliberately and without operational justification,” Zagagi said.

On March 24, Sergeant A. was filmed shooting al-Sharif in the head while al-Sharif was supine on the pavement of a Hebron road. Al-Sharif was shot with another Palestinian after stabbing soldiers in the city. Soldiers killed al-Sharif’s accomplice but only wounded al-Sharif, who was alive when Sergeant A. killed him.

Prosecutors said Sergeant A. would be tried for murder but revised the indictment to manslaughter. Sergeant A. was to be released Thursday from prison to a military base, where a military judge said he would serve unconfined but unarmed until a verdict is delivered in his case. But his release was delayed pending a review of the prosecutors’ appeal against it.

The indictment’s revision follows the release of a second video that showed paramedics at the scene shouting about the possibility that al-Sharif was wearing an explosive vest — the reason given by A. for the shooting. But Zagagi argued that A. shot the terrorist in front of two officers. “He did not warn them, he did not shout. He shot the terrorist calmly and out of his own initiative, behaving not like someone in any emergency,” she said. “It clearly demonstrates the danger posed” by the soldier to others, she argued.

Soldier in West Bank shooting to face charges of manslaughter, not murder


The soldier caught on video shooting a supine Palestinian terrorist in the head will face charges of manslaughter, not murder, a military court decided.

The military tribunal met on Thursday and made the determination, according to reports.

The decision comes two days after the prosecutor told the tribunal it was working to determine the exact charges, and asked that the soldier continue to be held in military prison.

The soldier has still only been identified by his initials, as his identity remains under a gag order. He was held on murder charges on March 25 for shooting a Palestinian wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron one day earlier.

Knesset members from the Arab Joint List MKs condemned the downgrading of charges against the soldier, saying the decision “proves once again that such incidents must be investigated by an international war crimes tribunal.”

“This is a soldier who committed a criminal act of murder, as is clearly seen in the video, and the decision was influenced by the comments of the prime minister, who asked that the family of the soldier be considered,” Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi wrote in a joint statement, adding that the IDF should “investigate and punish the soldiers and officers and medical staff who stood by and did not lift a finger either before or after the murder.”

The soldier’s arrest has set off a national debate in Israel that has enveloped the country’s leaders. On March 24, the day of the incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the soldier’s conduct “does not represent the values of the IDF.”

The soldier’s parents and politicians to Netanyahu’s right, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, defended the soldier and criticized Netanyahu for insufficiently defending Israel’s troops during a wave of terror attacks.

On Monday, Netanyahu wrote on Facebook that the soldier’s father’s words “touched my heart” and wrote that he trusted the military investigation would be “fair to the solider.”

The prosecutor in military court said the soldier shot the Palestinian stabber in the head though he was down on the ground and no longer a threat.

The soldier arrived at the scene several minutes after the terror attack and acted independently, the Israel Defense Forces found in an initial investigation. The soldier’s attorney has said that he was concerned that the assailant was wearing a bomb and was planning to blow it up.

The military says the downed terrorist had been checked for explosives, though the Magen David Adom emergency medical service disputes this.

Military investigators say the soldier is cooperating and replies to their questions, but has refused to take a lie detector test, Haaretz reported.

Meanwhile, the left-wing human rights group B’Tselem said that its Hebron volunteer that caught the soldier shooting the downed Palestinian stabber on camera has been called in for questioning by police, the Times of Israel reported.

Right-wing activists filed a civil complaint against the volunteer, identified as Emad abu-Shamsiyah.

The complaint alleges that he conspired with the two Palestinian stabbers in last week’s incident in Hebron.

Israeli soldier who shot Palestinian assailant could see charges downgraded from murder


A soldier caught on video shooting a prone Palestinian terrorist in the head could be charged with manslaughter rather than murder, the military prosecutor said at a hearing.

“We are trying to decide what he could be charged with, including manslaughter,” the prosecutor said at Tuesday’s hearing in Kastina, near Ashdod, where it had been moved from the Jaffa military court.

Hundreds of the soldier’s supporters demonstrated outside the court.

The hearing was held in order for the military prosecutor to request that the soldier be held in detention for an additional nine days, until the office can complete its investigation and file an indictment. The judge approved the request at the end of the hearing.

The soldier, whose name is subject to a gag order, was held on murder charges on Friday for shooting a Palestinian wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor said the soldier shot the Palestinian stabber in the head though he was down on the ground and no longer a threat.

The soldier arrived at the scene several minutes after the terror attack and acted independently, the Israel Defense Forces found in an initial investigation.

An autopsy of the Palestinian assailant to show whether or not the shot was fatal could make a difference in the charges or prevent both murder and manslaughter charges from being levied in favor of negligent homicide or violating the rules of engagement.

On Monday evening, the Magen David Adom emergency medical service released the findings of its own investigation into how it handled the incident, which found that treatment for the downed Palestinian assailant was delayed because he was not declared as safe to be approached.

“The risk of an explosive device or other dangerous element had not been removed, due to the fact that the terrorist was supine on the ground with a jacket (on a hot day) and that no security officer in the field had dispelled the concern,” the organization said in a statement.

This is in direct contradiction to the IDF’s claim that the assailant had been checked and cleared of being in possession of explosives.

Why 3 videos of a West Bank shooting are roiling Israel


It began as an all-too-common story: A Palestinian assailant in the contested West Bank city of Hebron stabs and wounds an Israeli soldier. Israeli forces shoot him dead.

Hours after the incident Thursday, a political and moral firestorm engulfed Israel. A video showed a soldier executing the already incapacitated attacker. One day later, after condemnation from the highest reaches of Israel’s government, a second video appeared to show that the attacker might have still posed a threat. In response, the IDF released results of an investigation indicating the soldier was at fault. Then, a third video was released showing the soldier shaking hands with a far-right activist after the incident

The dueling views of the clash are the latest installments in a running debate over how far Israeli soldiers should go in responding to the ongoing wave of Palestinian knife attacks. The incident has raised questions about the Israel Defense Forces’ rules of engagement, how the army should treat soldiers who break protocol and — within Israeli society — the limits of criticism of the IDF.

Here’s what happened, how it’s played out and what it says about Israel’s response to the terror wave.

A video showed an IDF soldier killing an already incapacitated attacker

On Thursday morning, two Palestinian men armed with knives attacked an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron, lightly wounding him. Nearby soldiers shot the two men dead.

But a video taken by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem shows that one of the attackers was killed only after the attack, while he was lying on the ground. In the video, an Israeli soldier approaches the scene, cocks his gun, aims and shoots the man as an ambulance passes by. After the shot, blood flows from his head onto the pavement.

The IDF arrested the soldier in the incident’s wake, and senior Israeli officials criticized the soldier’s response. On Friday, the army charged the soldier with murder.

“What happened today in Hebron does not represent the values of the IDF,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. “The IDF expects its soldiers to behave level-headedly and in accordance with the rules of engagement.”

Right-wing Israelis are defending the soldier, and say the attacker may have still posed a threat

Backlash soon followed the criticism. Four-fifths of posts about the shooting on Israeli social media support the soldier, according to Buzzilla, a social media analytics startup. And a video of the attack released one day later seemed to corroborate the claim that the attacker could still be dangerous. In it, paramedics urge people to stay away from the attacker, as he could be preparing to detonate explosives.

 

צפו: תיעוד חדש מהתקרית, תומך בגרסת החייל כי היה חשש להמצאות מטען על גוף המחבלקרדיט: הצלה יו”ש

Posted by ‎רוטר.נט – סקופים וחדשות‎ on Friday, March 25, 2016

Politicians to Netanyahu’s right have criticized him for rushing to condemn the incident and for insufficiently supporting Israel’s troops. On Saturday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Facebook that officials should withhold criticism until the IDF finishes its investigation. Bennett and Netanyahu argued over the incident at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, according to Israeli reports.

“Are we out of our minds?” Bennett wrote. “We’re at war. A war against cruel terror. It’s possible the soldier erred. It’s possible he didn’t. It’s possible he felt that the terrorist had an explosive and could detonate it at any time, and by shooting him he would save lives and prevent a subsequent attack.”

In response to the criticism, the IDF released the results of its investigation thus far, which indicate that the soldier arrived at the scene only several minutes after the terror attack and acted independently. His officers had checked the attacker and rejected the possibility that he had a bomb.

On Sunday, a third video surfaced showing the soldier shaking hands with far-right Kahanist activist Baruch Marzel after the attack.

“On the professional front, we have found that the [other] soldiers acted appropriately, and we praise their actions and their quick foiling of the terrorists,” IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz wrote on FacebookSunday. “On the values front, after an initial investigation by the commanders, we have found that this is a severe incident.”

The video comes amid criticism of Israel’s response to a wave of stabbing attacks

Netanyahu is hardly the first to criticize Israeli soldiers’ response to the terror wave. Since its outset last year, perceived oversteps in the IDF’s response to the stabbing attacks has drawn criticism from leaders both within and outside of Israel.

Since September, more than 200 Palestinian stabbing attacks have left 34 Israelis dead and hundreds wounded, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Israeli forces have killed more than 200 Palestinians, most of them attackers, according to news reports. Centrist and right-wing Israeli politicians, such as Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, have encouraged soldiers to kill attackers on the spot. 

The State Department, as well as Sweden’s Foreign Ministry, have criticized Israel for a disproportionate response to the attacks. Even IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot told high-schoolers last month that he “doesn’t want a soldier emptying a magazine on a girl carrying scissors,” while Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon saidthe next day that “We need to know how to win and still remain human.” Eizenkot, in turn, was criticized for not defending his soldiers. 

The problem is not with the IDF’s rules of engagement, but rather with how they’re enforced, former Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben Meir told JTA. He said “99.9 percent” of IDF actions are appropriate, but that the army needs to make a concerted effort to educate soldiers about conduct in fighting terror and to enforce norms.

 

“When there’s continual terror, it creates pressure and tension, so what we need to learn from this situation, the most important thing, is to keep the rules of engagement,” said Ben Meir, who heads the National Security and Public Opinion Project at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “If everyone does whatever they think, everything will fall apart.”

New video of Hebron shooting suggests Israelis thought Palestinian had explosive vest


In a newly public video that documents the scene of Thursday’s controversial shooting of a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, an Israeli can be heard warning that the Palestinian may be wearing an explosive vest.

Army Radio published the video on its website and Twitter feed on Friday. In it, paramedics are seen carrying the soldier wounded by the Palestinian terrorists when someone out of the camera frame, which the army purposely blurred, says, “He apparently has an explosive on him, pay attention! Nobody touches him until bomb disposal arrives.”

Four seconds later, one of the paramedics carrying the soldier — a man who 20 seconds earlier had said, “That terrorist is still alive, the dog. Don’t let him get up!” — cries in a panic, “He’s alive! Somebody do something!”

The video then abruptly ends.

A separate video published Thursday by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem shows an Israeli soldier shot the supine Palestinian in the head while he lay unattended on the pavement.

The incident in Hebron took place shortly after the Palestinian terrorist and a fellow assailant stabbed an Israeli soldier in the area. The other assailant was immediately killed, while the wounded terrorist was felled. In the B’Tselem video, the wounded Palestinian can be seen lying on the pavement and slightly moving his head, which had blood around it. A minute or so into the video, a soldier shoots the prone Palestinian in the head.

The incident triggered an immediate inquiry by the Israeli military police, and the soldier was arrested and questioned in what is being considered a murder investigation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon were among those who condemned the soldier’s actions. Netanyahu said the incident “doesn’t represent the values of the Israel Defense Forces.”

On Friday, the United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said he strongly condemned the apparent “extrajudicial execution” of the Palestinian.

Under questioning, the soldier said he fired at the terrorist because he feared he would set off an explosive device. He said his unit has been briefed three weeks ago on a Hamas team planning to fire on troops and set off explosives. His lawyer said the video proves he acted in accordance with the rules of engagement for preventing immediate threats.

The Ma’an news agency identified the Palestinian terrorists killed in the incident as Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, both 21-year-olds from Hebron.

 

Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, told Army Radio, “Had the terrorist been wearing an explosive vest, the soldier would have been considered a national hero.”

Amid criticism from right, Netanyahu defends decision to remove Hebron settlers


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his defense minister’s decision to force settlers from two newly occupied homes in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron.

After numerous right-wing politicians fiercely criticized Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Friday, Netanyahu reiterated his support for settlements and admiration of settlers, but said, “We are all bound to respect the law,” the Times of Israel reported, citing Channel 10.

Israeli troops on Friday morning removed several dozen settlers from the adjacent Hebron buildings, which the settlers had entered the previous day, saying they had bought them from Palestinians. Ya’alon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the settlers had not received IDF authorization to enter the buildings and were there illegally.

“The State of Israel is a nation of laws, and I have no intention of compromising when the law is broken,” he said in a statement, adding that in this particular case “the law was brazenly broken.”

In a statement, the Jewish Home party called the decision to evacuate the Hebron homes “irresponsible, bullheaded and inflammatory.”

In addition, the Times of Israel reported, three Knesset members from the Likud and Jewish Home parties threatened to boycott coalition votes unless Ya’alon reversed his decision.

The Hebron evacuation came on the heels of Israel confirming its controversial plan to seize land near Jericho, also in the West Bank, despite opposition to the move by the United Nations and the United States.

Arrested Hamas terror cell planned to kidnap and murder Israelis


A Hamas terror cell in the “advanced stages” of plans to kidnap and murder Israelis was arrested, the Shin Bet security service said.

The cell of six people from Jerusalem and Hebron was uncovered and arrested last month, the Shin Bet announced Thursday.

The Hamas operatives had planned to use the bodies of their kidnapped Israeli victims as bargaining chips in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, according to the Shin Bet, which called it a similar plan to the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in June 2014.

The cell arrested last month had already identified a hideout for the kidnapped Israelis’ bodies, the Shin Bet said. Members had met in Hebron, in the West Bank, over the last year to plan the attacks. Originally it planned to carry out a bombing, then changed to a shooting attack before settling on the kidnappings, according to the Shin Bet.

“This affair emphasizes Hamas’ intent to carry out serious terrorist attacks even at the present time in which it is in distress, in order to incite the latest terror wave into a full-blown violent intifada,” the Shin Bet said in a statement. “This affair also demonstrates the reliance of Hamas cells from the territories on residents of Israel who live in Jerusalem, who enjoy free movement and have a good command of Hebrew.”

Palestinian killed in suspected ramming attack on soldiers near Hebron


Israeli security forces killed a Palestinian man they said tried to run over soldiers with his vehicle near Hebron.

No Israelis were hurt in the attack Friday, during which Israeli troops shot and killed the driver, Army Radio reported. A large knife was found on his body.

On Thursday, Israeli troops arrested in the West Bank a man they said confessed to trying to kill four soldiers earlier that day. That ramming attack resulted in serious injury to one Israel Defense Forces soldier and minor injuries to three others.

The Israeli Security Agency, or Shin Bet, arrested the suspect with IDF and police officers in a West Bank village on Thursday night. The man, who is said to be affiliated with Hamas, confessed to the actions attributed to him, Army Radio reported, and said he was affiliated with Hamas.

Also on Friday, an unidentified assailant opened fire on IDF soldiers near Jenin in the northern West Bank. The soldiers, who were not hit, fired back at the shooter, who was reportedly wounded but managed to escape in a getaway car driven by another person. Large army and police forces are searching for the car and suspected shooter.

Israel’s agriculture minister, Uri Ariel, said Friday during a radio interview that Palestinians should not be allowed to drive in and around Gush Etzion Junction, in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, which saw many similar attacks in recent weeks. “It shouldn’t be seen as a punishment, but as a temporary security measure,” he said.

In November, Shin Bet recorded 326 terrorist attacks that resulted in the death of 10 victims and several Palestinian perpetrators. The previous month, a total of 620 terrorist attacks on Israelis ended with the death of 11 victims. Dozens of Palestinians also were killed in clashes with security services or while perpetrating attacks.

The bloodshed was the continuation of a massive surge in attacks that occurred in September.

On Friday, Jerusalem prosecutors indicted a 16-year-old Palestinian girl for attempted murder. Last month, she stabbed with a pair of scissors a Palestinian man she mistook for a Jew at a local market, before attempting also to stab a 94-year-old Jew. She carried out the attack with another female relative, who was shot dead during the attack.

2 Israelis wounded in Hebron stabbing


Two Israelis have been wounded in a stabbing in Hebron.

The victims are in their 20s, according to reports. One was injured moderately in his upper body and one lightly in his leg. They were taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The alleged assailant, a Palestinian, was killed.

On Monday, an Israeli man in his 40s was severely wounded in a stabbing in Hebron.

The West Bank city, home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and an enclave of hundreds of Jews, has been a flashpoint of the recent wave of Palestinian violence.

In wake of stabbing, Palestinians and Jews clash in Hebron


Hours after a Palestinian stabbed a Jewish man in the already tense West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians and Jews clashed violently there.

In the aftermath of the stabbing Monday that left the Jewish victim critically wounded, dozens of Jewish residents marched in protest to Hebron’s old city, where they threw rocks at Palestinians, the Times of Israel reported.

The clashes, in which the Palestinians sent rocks back in retaliation, occurred outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are believed to be interred. The site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, houses a synagogue and mosque.

Israeli security forces forced the Jewish protesters to retreat to Hebron’s Jewish neighborhood and restrained Palestinian demonstrators. There were no reported injuries or damage.

In the attack, a 21-year-old Palestinian man stabbed a Jewish man in his 40s near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, leaving several wounds to his upper body. The victim was moved to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he arrived in severe condition, according to the Times of Israel.

Israeli forces shot and killed the assailant, Ihab Fathi Miswadi.

Hebron, which is home to several hundred Jewish settlers and approximately 170,000 Palestinians, has been the site of several Palestinian terror attacks in recent days and has been the scene of some of the largest atrocities in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1994, Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire at Muslims worshipping at the Tomb of the Patriarchs mosque, killing 29 and wounding more than 125. In 1929, more than 60 Jews were murdered by Palestinians during a pogrom in Hebron.

Israeli soldier seriously wounded in Hebron-area stabbing attack


An Israeli soldier was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack near Hebron in the West Bank.

The Palestinian assailant, who according to reports pulled up to a traffic junction and exited from his car brandishing a knife, was shot by Israeli forces and seriously wounded following the Wednesday afternoon attack, according to the Israel Defense Forces. He was arrested, but later reportedly died of his wounds.

The soldier, a man reported to be in his 20s, was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem with stab wounds to his upper body.

The attacker was identified by Ynet as Mohammad Shobaki, 19, from the Fawwar refugee camp located near the junction where the attack took place.

On Tuesday, four Israeli men were injured in a car-ramming attack at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank.

Israeli Border Police stop suspected Jerusalem car attack and Hebron stabbing


Israeli Border Police prevented two terrorist attacks Friday, one in east Jerusalem and the other near the West Bank town of Hebron.

A motorist at a Jerusalem checkpoint tried to run over a policeman, but the officer’s colleagues opened fire on the driver, the Times of Israel reported, citing the Hebrew-language Walla website. The would-be terrorist fled the scene, and the policeman was treated for minor leg injuries.

In Hebron, police arrested a Palestinian teen whom they suspected planned to carry out a stabbing attack. Before border police detained him next to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the teen, who was carrying a knife, had approached them and not stopped when they commanded him to.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a site holy to both Jews and Muslims.

The teen lives in Dura, a town near Hebron and the hometown of the terrorist who murdered two Israelis in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv Thursday.

Tel Aviv terrorist’s mother is ‘proud’ that son stabbed Jews to death


The mother of a Palestinian terrorist who stabbed two Israelis to death called her son a “source of pride for Hebron and Palestine.”

Raid Halil bin Mahmoud, 36, who also moderately injured a third man during a prayer service in a Tel Aviv building, attributed his actions to the “pain” he felt for the situation of the Palestinians. He was overpowered by civilians and then arrested by Shin Bet officials.

Mahmoud’s mother made her comments Thursday on Hamas television, the Times of Israel reported.

Mahmoud, a father of five from the West Bank town of Dura, near Hebron, was given a permit to find work in Israel just four days ago after a background check that found he did not have a concerning criminal record.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a strong response following Mahmoud’s attack and the subsequent shooting attack hours later near the West Bank town of Alon Shvut that killed three, including an 18-year-old American yeshiva student, Ezra Schwartz of Sharon, Massachusetts.

“There is no immunity for terrorists,” Netanyahu said. “We will hold them to account, we will exact a price from their families, we will destroy their homes, and we will cancel their citizenship.”

He said that Israel is a victim of the same “radical Islam” that carried out the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

“Whoever condemned the attacks in Paris need to condemn the attacks in Israel. It’s the same terror,” he said. “Whoever does not do this is a hypocrite and blind.”

Hebron and the potential for Israeli-Arab coexistence


I am currently in Israel with my wife, and a friend of ours who lives here called to ask if we would like to join the thousands of pilgrims who visit Hebron for Shabbat Chayei Sarah. It is not strictly an “anniversary” weekend, but seeing as this parsha (Torah portion) describes how Abraham purchased the Hebron burial plot for his wife, Sarah, the Chayei Sarah weekend has become a semi-official annual date for Jews to celebrate our 3,500-year history in the city.

[ZAKI: The city of the patriarchs has become the cradle of occupation]

Although we are not going to take up our friend’s invitation, I do feel it is appropriate for me to share some thoughts about Hebron, particularly because the Jewish community of Hebron is often falsely portrayed as an incendiary enclave of die-hard Arab-hating Jews living in stolen Arab buildings and guarded by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who outnumber them 5-to-1.

To say that this is a distortion is an understatement. In 1998, international negotiators toiled for months to come up with a solution that would enable Jews and Arabs to cohabit in Hebron. The discussions resulted in an agreement called the Wye River Memorandum, which was ratified by the United Nations and remains in force. This agreement means that the Jews of Hebron don’t live in an “illegal settlement” and are not “occupiers.” They are the legal residents of a Jewish neighborhood in Hebron, recognized as such by the U.N., and — officially, at least — the Palestinian Authority. It is, in fact, the only place where such arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians have been finalized.

So, why are the Jews in Hebron portrayed as a provocation? The answer is simple. Because despite signing the agreement, Palestinian leaders have never accepted the reality it created, knowing if they do that, they will be forced to accept similar final-status compromises all over the country, resulting in Jews being allowed to remain in Palestinian areas, an outcome they deem unacceptable. Arab hostility to the Jews in Hebron is therefore constantly incited by political and religious leaders, in the hope that the world will ultimately force Israel to remove all Jews from among the Palestinians, and even from Hebron.

More level-headed Arabs at the grass roots have very different ideas. Some months ago, I read about Sheikh Farid Al-Jabari. He is the patriarch of one of the largest Arab clans in Hebron and is very friendly with the head of the Hebron Jewish community, Noam Arnon. Sheikh Al-Jabari passionately believes that Jews and Arabs will eventually live in harmony, not just in Hebron, but all over the land of Israel. He is not interested in a “peace process” or in political or religious movements that champion the Arab cause. He thinks they are an utter waste of time. Instead, he is interested in creating facts on the ground that enable Jews to live with Arabs, and he will talk to anyone who will help make this happen.

Which brings me to the heavy IDF presence in Hebron. First, the facts. The number of soldiers in Hebron is nowhere near the exaggerated numbers reported in the media. For most of the year, there are around 600 IDF soldiers stationed there, to protect the 700 Jewish residents of Hebron and the 7,500 residents of nearby Kiryat Arba. If I have my math right, local residents outnumber soldiers by more than 13-to-1, which is not soldiers outnumbering residents by 5-to-1. And let me say this: I completely agree with those who say that the military presence in Hebron is awful. They are absolutely right. There should be no need for soldiers in Hebron, or anywhere on the streets in Israel — which would, of course, be possible if there was no danger of Arab attacks against Jews. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we could beat our swords into ploughshares?

Unfortunately, Jews who live in Hebron are in constant danger, and not just from stabbings. On many occasions in the past, Arabs have used high-caliber rifles to shoot into the Jewish neighborhood, resulting in injuries and fatalities. There have been bombings as well. Where are the human rights organizations when Jews are getting attacked and killed? Why do they protest when Arabs suffer and say nothing about the Arabs who cause suffering to the legal Jewish residents of Hebron? Surely, Jews should also be allowed to conduct their lives free of any military presence, or the inconveniences of restriction of movement? Shouldn’t the U.N., instead of criticizing Israel for its military presence in Hebron, be working with people such as Sheikh Al-Jabari and Noam Arnon to find ways of reducing local tensions by increasing harmony between Arab and Jewish residents? After all, isn’t that what they are about?

In any event, the image of Hebron Jews as fanatics is a complete misrepresentation. A few years ago, I went on the Shabbat Chayei Sarah Hebron pilgrimage and stayed in the local yeshiva, Yeshiva Shavei Hevron. This fantastic institute of Torah study has a student body of 250 and is a model of respectful and respectable religious Zionism. It is housed in the Romano Building, an Ottoman-era structure that was built for the Jewish community in 1876 by the Turkish philanthropist Avraham Haim Romano — in other words, not a stolen Arab building. The yeshiva is committed to a moderate worldview that demands complete adherence to the laws of the state. It is a shining example of the kind of sensible approach that defies the “fanatic” label in every possible way.

Particularly now, as the repellant “knife intifada” continues to unfold, we should highlight the situation in Hebron. Those people who claim to be seeking solutions should be reminded of this ancient city, and be informed that the solutions they claim to be seeking are already enshrined in an agreement recognized by the international community — an agreement that has been consistently ignored by the Palestinian leadership. Whatever happens, Jews must never leave Hebron again.

Hebron – the city of the patriarchs – has become the cradle of occupation


On Shabbat of Nov. 7, in synagogues across the Jewish world, the parsha (portion) of “Chayei Sarah” (“Life of Sarah”) was read from the Torah. It tells the story of the first real estate purchase by Jewish patriarchs in the Holy Land — Abraham’s acquisition of the Cave of the Patriarchs as a tomb for his wife and family. In many ways, Hebron is the cradle of Jewish civilization. Nonetheless, today, 48 years after Israel started its military occupation of the West Bank, Hebron is where the settlement enterprise manifests itself in a very ugly fashion. 

More than anywhere else in the West Bank, Hebron is where the reality of a discriminatory system divides the privileged tiny minority of a few hundred Israeli settlers from tens of thousands of Palestinian residents. The settlers enjoy all the rights that Israeli democracy grants its citizens, while the Palestinians live under a harsh military law that imposes heavy restrictions on their basic rights.

[DUNNER: Hebron and the potential for Israeli-Arab coexistence]

Historically, Hebron was one of the first places where the Jewish and Palestinian national movements collided. The massacre of 67 Jewish residents of Hebron in 1929 led to the evacuation of the Jewish community from the city. It was the first of many bloody clashes. 

In 1967, Israel captured Hebron during the Six-Day War. Nearly 50 years later, it remains occupied by Israeli forces. The Jewish settlement in Hebron was one of the first steps in the settlement enterprise, an enterprise that clearly violates international humanitarian law. While most Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank were built outside Palestinian towns and villages, Hebron was a unique case in which an ideologically motivated group of Israeli Jews settled in the midst of a large Palestinian city, around the Tomb of the Patriarchs. 

To protect this group, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) allocated many troops and resources and placed restrictions on Palestinian residents. 

In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a physician living in the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba, massacred 29 Muslim worshipers who were praying in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Goldstein was killed in the attack, making him one of the first suicide attackers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His grave is outside the city, featuring a large tombstone and a garden, and is a place of pilgrimage for many of the city’s settlers and their supporters. 

Ironically, it was the large Palestinian population of the city who paid the price for Goldstein’s act of terrorism. After the attack, the IDF closed the Palestinian market adjacent to the settler compounds and imposed severe restrictions on movement of Palestinian vehicles and people. These restrictions remain in place today, 21 years later. Palestinians living in that area are banned from roads used by settlers and instead are forced to walk on separate streets. Palestinians must prove their residency in the city to enter the area, and are not allowed to have guests. Many of the Palestinian homes close to where settlers live have had to cover their windows with netting to protect against projectiles thrown by settlers and other harassment, making the residents essentially prisoners in their own homes. 

Palestinians have also used violence against settlers and Israeli military forces. One of the most notorious cases was the death of a 10-month-old Israeli baby, Shalhevet Pass, who was shot by a Palestinian sniper in 2001. 

With the new wave of violence that the region is experiencing these days, Hebron is once more a flashpoint where the most severe clashes occur, leading to Israeli and Palestinian casualties. 

Hebron has become an amplified microcosm of the occupation. Israel has allocated enormous resources to protect a group of 750 settlers living in the midst of tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled part of the city. Clashes are inevitable, and they usually result in ever-growing restrictions on the movement of Palestinian residents. 

The city has become a bleak case study in segregation on the basis of ethnic background. Like the rest of the settlement enterprise, the settlement in Hebron should be ended, not just for the sake of Hebron’s Palestinian residents, but also for the sake of Israel.


Uri Zaki is Israel advocacy and public outreach consultant for Human Rights Watch. He wrote from Tel Aviv.

West Bank violence: Elderly Palestinian woman killed, Israeli seriously injured


A Palestinian 72-year-old woman died of wounds she sustained in what Israeli police said was an attempt to kill soldiers.

Israeli troops stationed outside Hebron shot and seriously injured the woman, whose husband died in clashes with Israeli troops in the 1980s. They said the woman, Tharwat al-Sharawi, had tried to run over them. The soldiers were unharmed.

Later Friday, three Israelis were wounded, one of them severely, in two separate shooting attacks in the Hebron area. In the first incident, a 16-year-old youth was sustained moderate injuries to his torso, according to Ynet. The other casualty from that incident, an 18-year-old man, sustained minor wounds. Army forces are searching for the assailants, who fled the scene.

Shortly after that shooting, a third Israeli was seriously injured in another shooting attack at Anoun Junction just north of Hebron, Ynet reported. The assailants fled the scene.

The son of the 72-year-old woman who was shot earlier in the day, Ayoub, told Ynet his mother did not intend to kill anyone and that she was shot unprovoked. He was not present at the scene of the incident.

In Gaza, a 23-year-old Palestinian man died after Israeli troops shot him during riots near the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, Palestinian sources said. According to the Israel Defense Forces Spokespersons Unit, the man breached the no-go zone around the fence amid riots that included the hurling of burning tires and firebombs at troops guarding the fence.

Separately, an Israeli man was severely wounded in a stabbing attack outside a supermarket in the West Bank.

Security forces cordoned off the area Friday at around noon and began searching for the attacker, who escaped the scene, Army Radio reported.

Initial reports said the stabbing victim at the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone, located five miles north of Jerusalem, was being treated by paramedics at the scene, who tried to stop his bleeding before his evacuation to a hospital.

Also on Friday, a firebomb was hurled at an Israeli vehicle south of Hebron, near the West Bank settlement of Omarim, Israel Radio reported. No one was hurt in the incident.

Israeli troops searching the site of the attack found a cache of firebombs and some stones.

Israeli Border Police officer, 20, seriously injured in car-ramming attack


An Israeli Border Police officer was critically injured in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank near Hebron.

The driver, who swerved his vehicle into the path of a group of Israelis waiting Wednesday afternoon at the Halhul traffic junction on Route 60, a main West Bank thoroughfare, was shot and killed at the scene. He was identified as a Palestinian man, 22, from the Tulkarem area of the West Bank.

Magen David Adom described the 20-year-old as in severe condition. He was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, where he was listed in serious condition with multiple injuries.

A second man also was hit in the attack but did not require treatment.

On Tuesday, the Gilboa crossing near Jenin in the West Bank and Afula in northern Israel was closed after a man threatened security forces with a knife and a pipe bomb. Several attempted stabbing attacks have taken place at the crossing.

Palestinian officials in Hebron want more cooperation with Israeli Army


This article first appeared on The Media Line.

A Palestinian driver rammed his car into an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint near the West Bank town of Hebron on Wednesday, seriously wounding him, before soldiers shot and killed the driver. It was the latest incident in a string of attacks that have made the West Bank city of Hebron the focus of the violent wave of Palestinian violence that has left 11 Israelis and some 70 Palestinians dead over the past month. Israeli officials say that 26 of the assailants from the past few weeks are from Hebron. 

In an effort to curb violence in Hebron, the Palestinian Authority leadership is considering asking the Israeli army to reestablish the Joint Security Committee, the cooperative effort between the Palestinian National Security Forces and the Israeli army which had been in force in the city between 1995 and early 2001 in order to keep Hebron calm. It was disbanded with the beginning of the Second Intifada, or uprising, that left hundreds dead.

Palestinians in Hebron say the army does not do enough to protect them from attacks by extremist Israelis. On October 17, 18-year-old Fadel Al-Qawasmeh was shot and killed by a Jewish resident in Hebron. The Israeli army claimed that Al-Qawasmeh had a knife and threatened to stab the civilian, a claim that Amnesty International has denied, but the army insists that if the Jewish resident had acted improperly, he would have been arrested.

Hebron is unique in the West Bank in that about 500 Israeli Jews live in several enclaves among 270,000 Palestinians. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers are stationed in Hebron to protect the Israelis living there, and Palestinians are not allowed to use streets near the Jewish enclaves.

Palestinians say that the Israeli Jews living in Hebron are armed and are often responsible for the violence.

“Palestinians in Hebron are angry because of the increased violence by the Israeli radical Jewish settlers,” Hebron Governor Kamel Hamid told The Media Line using the term applied to Jewish Israelis living in communities located on land Israel conquered in the 1967 war. “They are armed and they have killed little boys, claiming they were a threat. I can understand the shooting at legs, but not executions.”

Palestinian security officials say that Hebron has become increasingly dangerous.

“The city of Hebron has become the focal point for clashes between the Palestinians on one hand and the occupation army and the settlers on the other hand,” Mohammad Naeem, a senior security official in the Palestinian Authority told The Media Line. “Direct contact with extremist armed Jews who live in enclaves set up in the heart of the city is the most important reasons why young Palestinians in Hebron carry out aggression. They are being threatened by an armed neighbor.”

Naeem said that the Palestinian Authority cannot be blamed for the violence, as Israel is in control of the parts of the city where the Jewish residents live. Hebron is divided into H-1, which is under Palestinian control, and H-2 is under Israeli control. He said the army must do more to control the Israeli “settlers” – whom Palestinians argue are responsible for much of the tension.

At least some in the Israeli army agree that the Jewish residents in Hebron are making it harder to calm the situation down.

“Right-wing violence in the West Bank is one of the causes of Palestinian terror,” a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told a court last month.

“Some of the motivation of the Palestinians to carry out terror attacks is due to the violence of right-wing elements in the West Bank,” the director of the IDF operations directorate, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, said in testimony at a trial about incitement on the Hakol Hayehudi (The Jewish Voice) website.

Israeli military officials say they are doing everything they can to calm the situation down. They have sent hundreds of extra soldiers to Hebron, with a total of four divisions currently in the West Bank.

“We are seeing individual attackers who are being inspired by attackers who came before them,” a senior official in the army’s Central Command, which includes Hebron, told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. “If they have problems at home, it’s easy to take a knife from the kitchen and attack a soldier or a Jewish civilian.”

The army’s main concern, the official said, is to help calm the situation as quickly as possible. Soldiers stationed in Hebron receive special briefings and training, and “the goal is to strengthen feelings of security,” for both the Jewish residents and the local population, she said.

The official also said that coverage of several of the recent incidents in Hebron has not been correct.  Amnesty International has recently published a report saying that several of the Palestinians killed in Hebron did not pose an immediate threat and charged Israel with “extrajudicial killing.”

The army official sharply disagreed, saying the army is careful to follow the protocol for ending attacks and to open fire only when the soldiers’ lives are in danger.

“It is not a sterile environment here, but each incident has a weapon,” she said. “Often the soldiers want to get the knives out of the way, so they kick them and then they are not found close to the body.”

She also charged that the Palestinians are encouraging more attacks by glorifying them. Israel this week closed the “Hurriya” radio station in Hebron, saying it was inciting Palestinians to more violent attacks. Palestinians posted photos on Facebook showing damage to the radio station they said was done by the soldiers.

Israel silences Palestinian radio station over ‘incitement’


Israel’s military shut down a Palestinian radio station in the West Bank over its calls to attack Israelis.

The Hebron-based Al Hurria was raided late Monday night, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“Forces confiscated broadcasting equipment in order to prevent the incitement which has caused a flare of violence in the region over recent weeks,” the IDF said in a statement issued early Tuesday morning,

There have been 29 attacks in Hebron on soldiers and civilians in the past month, including 22 stabbings, four car-rammings and three shootings, according to the IDF.

The radio station was founded in 2002 in Gaza by the ruling Fatah movement, and then transferred to Hebron after Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. It was been shut down previously in 2002 and 2008.

“Al Hurria radio station’s agenda encourages stabbing attacks, violent riots and reports false and malicious claims of security forces executing and kidnapping Palestinians in order to provoke violence,” the IDF said. “The station glorifies attacks against Israelis and congratulates the families of attackers who died while executing attacks.”

Soldier wounded in West Bank stabbing; Two assailants killed


An Israeli soldier was stabbed and his Palestinian assailants were shot and killed in the West Bank.

The victim, 19, was taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital and was in moderate condition with stab wounds to his upper body, according to reports Tuesday evening. The Israel Defense Forces said that other Israeli soldiers shot the two assailants during the attack at the Gush Etzion junction, according to reports.

Earlier Tuesday, two Palestinian teens were arrested in Jerusalem’s Old City after a police officer discovered they were carrying an axe and a knife. The teens, 16 and 17, of eastern Jerusalem, were observing passers-by and looked suspicious, Israel Police said, and they were taken in for questioning.

Also Tuesday, two Palestinian women were discovered to be carrying large knives near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the site of several attacks on Jewish-Israelis.

Also in Hebron, at least 10 Palestinian protesters were shot during a rally calling for the return of the bodies of Palestinians shot by Israeli troops in recent weeks and held by Israel. Israeli forces fired live and rubber-coated bullets, and also used tear gas and stun grenades, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

Israeli driver killed in West Bank accident after car pelted by rocks


A Jewish-Israeli man who exited his car near Hebron after Palestinians throwing rocks damaged the vehicle was hit by a truck and killed.

The man, who was reported to be in his 50s and a resident of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, was driving past the Palestinian village of Al Fawar, near Hebron, on Tuesday afternoon when his vehicle was hit by the rocks. He stopped his vehicle to assess the damage and was struck by a passing truck that continued driving. The Israeli died at the scene.

The Palestinian driver later turned himself in to Palestinian Authority police, telling them he hit the man by accident, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Dozens of Palestinians gathered at the scene of the accident and threw rocks and burned tires, hampering rescue efforts, according to reports.

Earlier on Tuesday, an Israel Defense Forces officer was lightly injured after being stabbed by a Palestinian man in the southern Hebron Hills. The assailant, from the nearby village of Beit Awwa, was shot and killed during the attack.

Two Palestinians killed in West Bank stabbing of Israeli soldier


An Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in a stabbing attack in the West Bank near Hebron.

The two Palestinian assailants in the Tuesday evening attack in Kiryat Arba, a settlement near Hebron, were shot dead by Israeli troops, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said.

Armed with knives, the Palestinians allegedly stabbed the soldier while he was guarding a four-story apartment building known both as the House of Peace and the House of Contention, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Jewish-Israelis own and live in the building.

It was at least the fourth attack in the West Bank on Tuesday against Jewish targets. Hours earlier, also near Hebron, a Jewish-Israeli man was hit and killed by a truck after he exited his car to inspect damage from rocks thrown by Palestinian rioters.

In the afternoon, an Israeli soldier and civilian were injured in a car-ramming attack at the Gush Etzion junction. Before that, an IDF officer was lightly injured after being stabbed by a Palestinian man in the southern Hebron Hills. In both incidents, the assailant was shot dead by Israeli security forces.

Palestinian in ‘press’ jacket killed in stabbing attack on soldier, police say


Israeli security personnel shot and killed a Palestinian man in photojournalist garb who stabbed a soldier, police said.

The terrorist approached the soldier at Zayit Junction, near Hebron in the West Bank. The assailant was wearing a “press” flak jacket and carrying a camera, according to a Jerusalem Post report.

Paramedics said they transported a 20-year-old Israeli soldier with a stab wound in his upper body to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The attack came as Hamas called for a “day of rage” against Israel as two weeks of violence continued. Approximately 40 people, mostly Palestinians, have died in or as a result of the attacks.

Israel’s Foreign Press Association wrote in a statement that it “utterly deplores this violation of press privilege” and called “on local Palestinian media organizations to immediately verify all media credentials to ensure there are no violations.”

Notwithstanding the current tension in Jerusalem, the association’s statement continued, it “finds the violent behavior by security forces toward foreign journalists absolutely inexcusable and abhorrent.”

Israeli security forces are investigating allegations that troops have assaulted journalists.

Israeli man seriously hurt in West Bank stabbing


An Israeli man was stabbed in the back and seriously wounded near the West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli security services are searching for the suspected attacker, identified by Israel’s Channel 2 as a Palestinian resident of the city. He fled the scene following Wednesday afternoon’s stabbing at the entrance to Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement adjacent to Hebron. The victim, 25, is a resident of Kiryat Arba.

The attack occurred minutes after a stabbing in Tel Aviv that injured five and hours after a stabbing attack in Jerusalem that seriously injured a yeshiva student.

Palestinian who rescued American yeshiva boys: I’m no hero


A Palestinian man who sheltered five American Jews from fire bomb attacks in Hebron said he only did “what needed to be done.”

Faiz Abu Hamdiah, who on Thursday took the five yeshiva students into his home to prevent their lynching, recalled the incident Friday in an interview with Ynet.

“I’m not a hero,” he said. The five students, all tourists, made a wrong turn on their way to Hebron’s Cave of Patriarchs, which is under Israeli control, when their car came under attack on the street in Hebron’s Jabel Juhar neighborhood. Unidentified individuals hurled stones, rocks and fire bombs at their car, which was consumed by flames.

Recognizing a threat to their lives, Abu Hamdiah took them into his home, gave them water, assured them they were safe and called police to request their extraction. Troops arrived 40 minutes later in a hastily-organized extraction operation.

“As soon as we saw the mess starting up my family and I took them in, gave them a glass of water and tried to explain that nothing would happen to them, though they didn’t speak any Arabic,” he recalled.

Two of the tourists sustained minor injuries during the attacks.