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The divine rule of security in Hebron

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shuhada street
Shuttered Palestinian stores on settler-controlled Shuhada street in Hebron.
(Photo: Kelly Hayes-Raitt)

This post follows up Brandon Davis’s post of 10 days back on arrests of Americans in Hebron.

When Ghada stepped out of the police van at the station in Kiryat Arba and saw her two friends, Falastine and Laila, the three women started to laugh.

“They thought we were a security threat,” Ghada said a few days after the incident. “We just cracked up.”

Ghada, Falastine and Laila – whose names I have changed to protect them and their families – were detained ten days ago on the settler-controlled Shuhada Street in Al-Khalil/Hebron, ostensibly for “disturbing the peace,” or “disobeying a police order.”

Or, as one IDF soldier from New York told me honestly and proudly, for being Arab. “You’re allowed to be here,” the soldier said to me, a white U.S. citizen. “But the Arabs can’t.”

The law in a place like Israeli-controlled Hebron (called “H2,” about 20% of the entire city of Al-Khalil/Hebron) is a string of legal and military policies that lack coherence or justification. Hebron – and the West Bank more broadly – might be governed by a Divine Law, but it’s not the 613 Commandments in the Torah. This theocratic state is ruled by the God of “Security,” and invoking his name overrides any other ethical, moral or legal values systems.   

That Ghada, Falastine and Laila all have foreign citizenships is irrelevant for the Israeli police and IDF, administrators of Security in this Holy Land. For Ghada and Falastine, both also West Bank ID holders, their Palestinian ID cards, hawiyyat, override their privileges as foreigners.

They can only receive an entry stamp on their Palestinian hawiyya, not their British or U.S. passport. Like other West Bank Palestinians, they are not allowed to enter their country through Ben Gurion Airport, instead coming through Allenby Bridge on the border with Jordan. (My earlier article misstated that all the women are U.S. citizens – one is a British citizen, and she is 18, not 20, as I wrote).

As Falastine, the British-Palestinian, explained to me in an email:

If I had my British passport with me when we went to Al-Khalil [Hebron], it would have been worthless after running it through investigation and finding out that I possess a West Bank ID. British citizen or not, I own a WB ID so everything else cancels out.

Essentially: British and U.S. citizens who are also Palestinian residents do not enjoy the same privileges of their co-citizens. It’s not racist, goes the logic; it’s a Security concern.   

But even for foreign citizens without a Palestinian hawiyya, their foreign passport cannot undo a their “Arab-ness,” at least not in the eyes of Security.

Laila, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian descent without a hawiyya, received a tourist stamp in Ben Gurion Airport like any other U.S. citizen (at least the ones that are lucky enough to get through airport Security without being deported). She was still detained along with the two West Bankers.

Though the Hebron settlers are some of the most violent and extremist, the community has certainly endured their own tragedies: since the First Intifada, dozens of Jews in the area have been killed by Palestinian militants. Ethnic cleansing of “Judea and Samaria” may be a goal for these settlers, but so too are what even liberal Israelis call “Security concerns.” Security rules absolutely.

The IDF agrees. In 2000, they closed off Shuhada Street to Palestinians, even though the street was once the commercial hub of the city.

Five years later, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition against the baseless closing of Shuhada Street. The IDF responded with a letter stating that Shuhada’s closure was an “accident.” The street was opened for three days and then closed again, without legal permission, to prevent the possibility of any problems.

Then, in 2011, the Israeli High Court, also ruled in favor of closure, once again privileging Jewish Israeli Security concerns over Palestinian human rights.

Today, Shuhada Street remains a closed military zone, giving the IDF the authority to detain any “Security threats.” Justification for detention can be just about anything – two weeks ago, at the international and Israeli women’s march through Hebron, six were falsely accused of “assaulting a police officer.” Last week, the three young women were accused of “disturbing the peace in a Jewish neighborhood,” and “disobeying a police order.” Whatever that means.

According to Jonathan Pollack, a legal advisor to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee who helped the detained women last week, Shuhada Street is only closed off to Palestinian vehicles, not Palestinian pedestrians. As the accusations against the women were clearly baseless, the Israeli police let them go around midnight without charges.

Though these detentions reveal Security’s racist nature and unquestioned rule in this country, they are insignificant compared to what other Palestinians endure. Ghada, Falastine and Laila were in the police station for a few hours; far worse off are the over 300 Palestinians currently languishing in Israeli prisons under “administrative detention,” held indefinitely on secret information without charges.  
And let’s not forget that even Jewishness or whiteness can’t keep Security away: the IDF regularly arrests nonviolent Israeli and international activists alongside Palestinians. Security’s scope extends to anyone who the IDF believes presents a threat, including thousands who undeniably don’t.

Coincidentally, Pollack himself was arrested Friday, along with eight other international and Israeli activists, at a Nabi Saleh demonstration. According to a village resident, the usual charge for Nabi Saleh arrests is entering a closed military area.

Arrest of Jonathan Pollack by Oren Ziv Active Stills
Arrest of Jonathan Pollack, July 13, photo by Oren Ziv Active Stills

A photo of Pollack being arrested is above. The IDF would characterize his presence as a threat to Security; I think he might be more appropriately considered a threat to Apartheid and military rule.

About Brandon Davis

Brandon Davis is a member of the New York chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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5 Responses

  1. seafoid
    July 17, 2012, 1:35 pm

    Security is just an excuse . the real driver of the behaviour is exclusive Jewish “ownership”. Hebron is 95% Palestinian but it is now a Jewish City. WTF ? And the worst thing is that the settlers are trying to get closer to G-d. You couldn’t make it up.-

    And nobody, NOBODY in the Jewish religious hierarchy is calling out these frauds . No senior rabbi has ever issued a ruling or a press release to say that every mitzvah carried out by these people is invalid.

    Getting closer to God by keeping 150 thousand people like dogs. And that is Judaism 2012 , is it?

  2. Bumblebye
    July 17, 2012, 3:13 pm

    And the failure to get to grips with the draft issue has led Kadima to leave the coalition:

    But of course, that won’t help the legitimate Palestinian citizens of Hebron one iota.
    Israeli fascism rules their city.

  3. American
    July 17, 2012, 3:25 pm

    Israel to Grant Settlement Subsidy, Despite Pledge

    By AMY TEIBEL Associated Press

    JERUSALEM July 15, 2012 (AP)

    The Israeli government has quietly agreed to grant subsidies to build more than 500 new homes in the West Bank, backtracking from a promise earlier this year to deny these incentives to the settlements, The Associated Press has learned.

    The planned construction, at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to shore up support among settlers, has enraged the Palestinians and could cloud a visit starting Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she tries to re-energize moribund Mideast peace efforts.

    The housing units are benefiting from the government’s designation of the settlements as “national priority” areas — a status normally reserved for low-income cities and towns where the government wants to encourage development and lure people to live.

    In January, the Israeli Cabinet identified more than 550 communities, including 70 West Bank settlements, as national priority areas. The list drew immediate protests from the Palestinians, who view the West Bank as the core of a future state. The U.S. demanded an explanation of the settlements’ inclusion.

    Facing international pressure, Israeli leaders quietly held a second vote in a meeting conducted by telephone to exclude the settlements from the measure. Shortly after, Netanyahu told a news conference with visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the initial Cabinet decision was a mistake.

    Government spokesman Mark Regev at the time insisted the new vote meant that the subsidy program “does not apply to communities in the West Bank.” Still, the Cabinet left a loophole, saying settlements could receive benefits “contingent on a decision by political leaders.”

    According to Israel’s Housing Ministry, however, the country’s political leaders have already approved subsidies for one small project of 24 homes in the settlement of Efrat, just south of Jerusalem. And nearly 500 other homes in Efrat and two other settlements, Beitar Illit and Ariel, are now in the pipeline to receive the incentives, which include a discount of up to $27,000 for infrastructure development costs.

    Ministry spokesman Ariel Rosenberg said it is not clear how many of these homes will be built because the construction bids for the 500 homes have not closed. He also noted that subsidies are also available for projects in hundreds of other communities inside Israel proper.

    Asked about the apparent government flip-flop, Regev said, “There are no special incentives whatsoever to encourage people to live in the West Bank. The same conditions apply to 600 communities throughout the country.”

    But neither the Palestinians nor the international community see things that way.

    Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are at the heart of a 3-year-old deadlock in Mideast peace efforts. The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in 1967, for a future state. But with more than 500,000 Jewish settlers now living in these areas, the Palestinians say their dream of an independent state is fading as it grows tougher to partition the land between Israelis and Palestinians.

    The international community, including the United States, says the settlements are illegal or illegitimate.

    Promotion of settlement construction could complicate Clinton’s visit. Clinton was set to arrive late Sunday in hopes of breathing new life into Mideast peace efforts.

    Next Page

    I think we are looking at this outline of world choice/possibilities on Israel.
    I. World forfeits international laws as laws and human rights concept.
    A. Israel completely absorbs Palestine and dispossess Palestines.
    II. World rejects Israeli exceptionalism to all Laws.
    A. The world institutes policies to stop Israel.
    III. World Efforts to stop Israel’s Destruction of Palestine Succeed.
    A. Two States are created.
    IV. World Effort to stop Israel Fails.
    A. World voids Israel as Jewish majority state.
    B. World creates One state.
    V. One State become fully democratic.
    A. End of world action.
    VI. One State become Apartheid
    A. World destroys and rescinds the concept of any Jewish homeland.

  4. CitizenC
    July 17, 2012, 3:51 pm

    I’m somewhat surprised that the imminent ban on all internationals in the West Bank has not received more play. Without international witnesses, atrocities are easier. It was noted in a Mondo news summary recently. 972 called it part of a possible “transition moment”.

  5. piotr
    July 18, 2012, 8:50 am

    I would make a minor addition to the very good post.

    The idea that Israel is more democratic while it has Jewish majority and becomes an apartheid state when it looses that majority is wrong. Modern notion of democracy entails a certain minimum regard for human rights that was quite regularly ignored before WWII. It is not that Slovakia or Lithuania etc. are entitled to reserve very special treatment to all or selected minorities including limits and prohibitions on purchase and use of property, barring from certain occupations, barring mixed marriages and so on, however proper the parliamentary procedures would be to enact such restrictions. And I just mention the treatment of Israeli non-Jewish citizens.

    The “territories” are “East of Suez”, to use the expression of Rudyard Kipling. In dealing with the natives of the colonies, the democratic Great Britain could eschew laws or invent totally oppressive laws, like indefinite detention that could require creation of concentration camps when applied on a massive scale. Such oppressive laws are now lovingly preserved in Israel that strives to remain a relic of the Kipling era.

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