The recent decision of the Israeli Supreme Court of March 11, authorizing the purchase of the al-Rajabi house in the H2 area in the city of Hebron by a group of settlers, has been described by some Palestinians as a clear political move, one which explicitly promotes dangerous settlement expansion in the heart of Hebron.
The Rajabi house is located just east of the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs and serves as a strategic connection point between the Jewish settlement blocks in Hebron. Hebron is a city that is a powder keg – a city at the core of an ongoing ideological and emotional conflict, characterized by recurrent bouts of violence. The city is home to Majdi al-Ja’abari, who built the building for Fayez al-Rajabi. Settlers occupied it in 2007 before it was evacuated at the end of 2008.
According to al-Ja’abari, if settlers return to this area of Hebron, the neighborhood will become a living hell to all of its inhabitants, due to attacks by settlers, who notoriously terrorized it in the past. Bassam al-Ja’abari, who earns his living as a shoemaker and also lives a few meters’ distance from the Rajabi house, describes how settlers attacked neighboring Palestinian homes with stones and staged demonstrations full of incitement against Arabs, and demands for their expulsion from the area.
al-Ja’abari further explains, how, even when he was building the neighboring house, he was forced to suspend the construction due to pressure from the settlers and their mounting presence in the region– which was furthermore compounded by the backing of the army and police. al-Ja’abari was then informed by The Civil Administration to halt the nearby construction in May 2012, in spite of his possession of a construction license from the municipality of Hebron.
The authorities eventually allowed al-Ja’abari to proceed with the construction, but only after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha; the decision was no small part due to the active intervention of many human rights organizations, local and international media, the Palestinian Coordination Office, and Bassam al-Ja’bri’s neighbor, who sighs with exasperation:
“It is the settlers who are the law in these parts, and not the Israeli army.”
As mentioned above, the seizure of the al-Rajabi Building is part of a settler campaign, to link the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the east side of Hebron to Jewish settlements in the heart of the city. The house will be transformed into a base for settler attacks on and provocations against Palestinians.
Consequently, Hebron’s historic center will be entirely under the control of the settlers and under Israeli occupation, splintering the Palestinian social fabric of the area into sandwich-like enclaves. Palestinian families – who traditionally live in large, cohesive familis – will become completely separated from one another, among the Jewish settlements.
This will also lead to the destruction of the local Palestinian economy, due to the ensuing closure of many shops and markets – an already-alarming trend that has been witnessed by many visitors in recent years. For many years, the Palestinian commercial center of the H2 neighborhood has been rendered a ghost town, with the ensuing closure of dozens of Palestinian businesses. With the imminent return of the settlers to this controversial piece of land, Israel has managed to convert the city of Hebron into a virtual museum of apartheid.
A very basic reading of this scenario does not bode anything but increased suffering for local residents of the neighborhood and continuing settlement expansion. Furthermore, it indicates that Israel has plans to escalate the situation on the ground, through killings, violence and the other aggressive Israeli policies that constitute Israel’s modus operandi in the region.
For the Palestinians, they have nothing else to lose – they will certainly confront the Israeli occupation and they will respond with the strongest measures possible. They will unite their factions in popular action and will develop a strategy for struggle in the face of the Occupation – this includes peaceful resistance as well as a campaign to expand the international boycott against the Government of Israel and its racist policies.
Local organizations will be formed to pursue and follow-up on all these actions via a unified national leadership, as in the time of the first intifada. Herewith, it is important to also note that the second intifada was also, a Palestinian grassroots response, which was unfortunately, sabotaged by violence due to the Palestinian leadership’s fragmentation, and Israel’s policy of escalation – whose goal is to increase bloodshed and prolong the lifespan of the Occupation.