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‘Atlantic’ runs unblinking account of Palestinian persecution in Hebron

on 22 Comments

The Atlantic website has published an excellent account of visiting Hebron’s ethnically-cleansed Shuhada Street– shown in my video above– by Ayelet Waldman, a novelist and member of Peace Now. The piece does not use the word apartheid, but it conveys the horror of the situation. Haaretz has noted the intervention:

Ayelet Waldman, a well-known Israel-born, American Jewish novelist, published a scathing attack on Israel’s policy toward Palestinians in the prestigious U.S. magazine The Atlantic on Thursday.

Waldman writes:

Shuhada Street, lined with small shops whose owners typically lived upstairs, was once among the busiest market streets in this ancient city. But in 1994, in response to a horrific massacre that left 29 people dead and 125 injured, the Israel Defense Forces began clamping down on Shuhada Street. They welded shut the street-facing doors of all the homes and shops, and by the time of the Second Intifada in 2000, had turned the bustling thoroughfare into a ghost street on which no one was permitted to set foot. No one, that is, who is Palestinian. 

And Palestinians are being punished for, a Jewish terrorist’s act!

The victims of the massacre that impelled the Israeli government to shutter Shuhada were not Jews. They were Palestinians—unarmed Palestinians gunned down as they prayed at the nearby Cave of the Patriarchs by Baruch Goldstein…

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman

Waldman visits Goldstein’s tomb. Excellent reporting:

My visit to Hebron had begun at Goldstein’s tomb, in a small park in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba on the city’s outskirts. The grave has become a site of pilgrimage and ecstatic veneration for some religious Israelis and sympathetic foreigners despite the Israeli government’s prohibition on monuments to terrorists. The massive slab of marble is inscribed with the words, “He gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land.” On the day I visited, the gravestone was littered with small stones, placed there in homage in accordance with Jewish tradition.


I brushed away the commemorative stones. A mass-murderer deserves no such honor.

Honesty about the nature of the conflict:

The Israeli military presence in Hebron is intense—between 600 and 650 soldiers, military police, and commanders, or at least one for every settler—and its role is very clear: The security forces are there to protect the settlers, regardless of how brutal or inflammatory the latter’s actions may be, and regardless of the fact that, as Goldstein’s homicidal cowardice makes clear, it is the Palestinians who often need protection against settlers..

This is great, too. Waldman brings in the recent Nakba Day killings, and universal human rights Americans take for granted.

[On May 15] two Palestinian teenagers had been shot and killed by the Israeli army. Video of the killings had surfaced on the Internet, and in my hotel room in Jerusalem I had watched as another Arab boy my son’s age, carrying the kind of backpack my son carries, doing nothing more than crossing a street—crumpled and pitched forward, motionless.

Now, several days later, I watched these Shuhada Street boys risk death for the sake of a liberty so rudimentary and fundamental that my own children are not even aware of its existence, or its importance, or its simple human beauty: the right to walk down the street.

She feels responsible to bear witness:

I should have gotten out of the car and joined them. I should have taken out my cell phone and started filming.

Waldman ends hopefully, and two-states, by relating a conversation with the leaders of the Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence.

I’m not sure that I share their faith in the power of knowledge to create justice, but I want to. And that’s why, as Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing government broadcasts its contempt for the U.S. State Department’s commitment to working with the new Palestinian unity government, and announces the construction of 1,500 new settlement housing units in the West Bank, I, a Jewish American born in Israel, who believes in Israel’s right to exist within its own borders, am breaking my own silence.

I am not sure what silence Waldman is breaking; she has been associated with Peace Now, an anti-settlement organization, for years. Still, it’s great that she relates the nature of the occupation so starkly, in ways that justify the characterization “persecution” in my headline.

The conditions she observes have been the same for many years; I saw them first eight years ago, also with Breaking the Silence. What is going to change those conditions? When will the U.S. and the Jewish community, whom Waldman represents, actually pressure Israel to do anything about them? What does creating “justice”– in essence, fairness– mean in these circumstances, when the two-state paradigm has only fostered more dispossession? Other Americans — Jewish and not, born in Israel or not — may see the conditions she describes as a reason to repudiate the religious-nationalist-discriminatory ideology that created them, Zionism, or at least to endorse real pressure on Israel to change, in the form of boycott, divestment, sanctions. Still, a great leap by the Atlantic, and superb reporting by Waldman.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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22 Responses

  1. Woody Tanaka on June 13, 2014, 10:55 am

    While I think that it is better that this article exists than not exist, I have to wonder why the story of this oppression and gross human rights violations is not being told by a Palestinian, (perhaps one who wouldn’t be so quick to give the “I support Israeli’s right to exist” wink and nod at the end…) Surely, the Atlantic could have found any number of Palestinians capable of telling the story. Is the Holocaust told exclusively through the words of “good Germans” here in America and Jewish voices excluded?? Would anyone stand for it if the Rwandan Genocide were told solely from the perspective of the Hutus?? No. Because there is power in hearing the voices of victims. And so long as Jews and Israelis, no matter how well intentioned, act as intermediaries in this conflict, Americans will never get the full story.

    • jenin on June 13, 2014, 12:06 pm

      sad though it may be, I don’t think anyone cares when Palestinians tell their stories. Even worse, many people just assume they are just lying or have an agenda beyond achieving some measure of justice. It is an unfortunate truth that people will simply pay more attention to this story because it is told by a Jewish woman.

    • Ellen on June 13, 2014, 12:07 pm

      If told by a Palestinian, it is dismissed as Pallywood or simply not true. We are still at a sad point where most readers of the Atlantic do not want to hear the voices of the victim.

      • Woody Tanaka on June 13, 2014, 12:28 pm

        If that’s the case (and I am certain it is) then it’s a failure of the Atlantic that it is not doing story after story on that: why are the victim’s voices discounted and silenced in the US media, who is behind it, what is their purposes for doing so.

      • Kay24 on June 13, 2014, 5:23 pm

        You are absolutely right. Palestinians will never be believed, and from the top leaders to the simple Palestinian, they have all been unfairly denigrated. It is ironic, since Israelis have been found lying again and again, especially when they have been accused of crimes, like during the Turkish flotilla tragedy, and recently during the Nakba protests, when 2 kids were brutally murdered.

    • jenin on June 13, 2014, 12:11 pm

      as a somewhat sad example, I used to try to inform my friends about the situation by telling them about the suffering my Palestinian father and his family members have endured. However, I could tell they were rather dismissive, assumed I was exaggerating or that my personal connection to the issue was influencing my ability to inform objectively about the situation. Or that, since I was only telling things from my perspective, I was leaving out missing pieces that made the Israelis sound worse. I found that when I started sending them articles by Jewish people, they were much more receptive.

      • Kay24 on June 13, 2014, 5:28 pm

        Unfortunately Jenin, the zionists have been able to transmit the false message, through the MSM they have controlled, for years. They have been successful in portraying themselves as the victims, and the Palestinians as terrorists, so that their brutal occupation and land theft can go on. Most people are totally ignorant and uninformed, about the true story, and the support Israel finds among the American people would be far less, if the true story is known. I hope your family finds the peace and happiness they deserve, in our lifetime.

      • jenin on June 13, 2014, 6:52 pm

        Thank you. That is my hope as well. My dad is now 62 and it has long been my dream that he see some measure of justice for the Palestinians.

      • annie on June 13, 2014, 7:03 pm

        I found that when I started sending them articles by Jewish people, they were much more receptive.

        that’s sad. i recommend you read and send them:

        the world is changing. it will happen in your dad’s lifetime, there will be justice. give him a hug for me. also read (scroll) “And A Moment Back from Palestine” for your dad.

      • jenin on June 14, 2014, 2:35 pm

        Thanks Annie, I will send around those links.

    • American on June 13, 2014, 4:34 pm

      I dont care if its a Jew or Palestine who tells the truth.
      As long as its told.
      The only Jews I dont want telling the I/P story are the Zio ones that lie and slant the story and are in too much of our media & press.
      Complain about them instead.

      • James Canning on June 13, 2014, 7:41 pm

        Yes, get the story out. IDIOTIC illegal presence of Jews in that historic place. If Jews want to live there as Palestinians, with no Israeli police or soldiers, perhaps that would be a different matter.

      • Woody Tanaka on June 14, 2014, 10:40 am

        “I dont care if its a Jew or Palestine who tells the truth.”

        I do, because it makes a difference if there are no Palestinian voices. Especially here in America. And that’s a problem because if all of the voices on the Palestine issue are Jewish, then the public believes that this is simply a Jewish issue. Which is insane, because this issue is primarily about the Palestinians, the oppression they have suffered and suffer and the crimes committed against them. That is lost when it is only Jewish voices who are speaking — especially when all of them emphasize, as this author does here, that they support Israel’s so-called “right to exist” — because it then becomes a question not of how to liberate the Palestinians and protect their human, political and civil rights, but of how to ensure the Zionist project (with one side saying that the Palestinians’ concerns should be attended to as well, and the other not giving a damn about the Palestinians.) That’s the problem because the Palestinians’ human rights are the primary issue, not the political issues of Zionism. If it requires the destruction of Zionism to ensure the civil rights of all the poeple in the region, Jews and Palestinians alike, then Zionism must be destroyed.

        Without the emphasis on the Palestinians and their suffering, the argument becomes a farce; the equivalent of a bunch of white folks sitting around in 1964 in Alabama, with both side agreeing that, of course, the Jim Crow system must remain in place and white supremacy must be the law of the land, but disagreeing on whether or not to lighten the boot stomping on the head of the nation’s African Americans.

    • W.Jones on June 13, 2014, 8:43 pm

      Doesn’t J.Goldberg write for the Atlantic?
      He starts off his article on Chomsky rather negatively, but then goes on to quote Chomsky at length, whereby Chomsky sounds decent in his thinking:

      David Samuels conducts a fascinating interview for Tablet with Noam Chomsky, which serves to remind us that a) Chomsky is a very clever fanatic… c) being in opposition to Judaism is a form of Judaism; but d) people who believe, as Chomsky does, that they resemble the ancient Jewish prophets are terrible narcissists.

      I don’t know that C and D are necessarily true. A sounds pejorative.

    • sjabulhawa on June 14, 2014, 8:31 am

      This was my reaction, too. Palestinian suffering is legitimate only when a white Jewish person says so. While I applaud the writer’s detailed account of the injustice she witnessed, she falls FAR SHORT. What does she mean when she says she believes “in Israel’s right to exist within its own borders.” What borders? And what does she mean by “Israel”? an exclusive Jewish state? It is typical of the Jewish “left” to criticize the settlers in the WB, as if Israelis in Haifa are not settlers, too, and pretend that they’re something separate and aberrant from the rest of Israel. If she went to Akka, for example, she’d find similar ethnic cleansing tactics taking place in the old city, where people are being forced out of their homes on various zoning pretexts. But until a “mainstream” white Jewish writer “breaking the silence” articulates this, the concept remains radical and fringe.

    • LeaNder on June 14, 2014, 11:17 am

      While I think that it is better that this article exists than not exist, I have to wonder why the story of this oppression and gross human rights violations is not being told by a Palestinian

      Since they wouldn’t be published?
      Since they never tried?
      Since ….

      I have to admit that I did not really know what Waldman told us. And it is a very important detail really.

      If they had ordered a Palestinian to write something about it, or anyone else for that matter–considering the “historical landscape of wrongs” is widened to several hundred centuries of wrongs done–what aspect of the Zionist/Palestinian history would he have concentrated on?

      Wikipedia: Hebron

      Fact is “the wrongs ” against “the Jews” are always trumping the wrongs against Palestinians since they have centuries of wrongs on their side, supportively.

      Is the Holocaust told exclusively through the words of “good Germans” here in America and Jewish voices excluded??

      Actually, I wanted to go on to this, but I have already said enough.

  2. just on June 13, 2014, 11:37 am

    Astonishing that this appeared in The Atlantic.

    Kudos to Ms. Waldman for her honest article, and for her work as an activist.

  3. amigo on June 13, 2014, 1:10 pm

    “But in 1994, in response to a horrific massacre that left 29 people dead and 125 injured, the Israel Defense Forces began clamping down on Shuhada Street.”

    Now if I had not read on , I would have left thinking this was all due to Palestinian Terrorism .

    But, because I read on , I got to the truth!!!.

    “One might be tempted to view Shuhada Street as just another casualty in an endless cycle of violent retribution. A Palestinian kills dozens of Hebron’s Jews, so Israel punishes the Palestinians of Hebron by closing Shuhada Street. But that is not, in fact, what happened. The victims of the massacre that impelled the Israeli government to shutter Shuhada were not Jews. They were Palestinians—unarmed Palestinians gunned down as they prayed at the nearby Cave of the Patriarchs by Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Jewish zealot with Israeli military training and a Galil assault rifle, who stopped firing only when he was overcome and killed by survivors of his attack. You can add Shuhada Street, and the vibrant urban life it once sustained and embodied, to the list of Goldstein’s victims.”A Waldman.

    I wonder how many readers stopped at the point where the article seems to suggest the massacre was due to Palestinians.

  4. seafoid on June 13, 2014, 2:50 pm

    “He gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land.”

    One of the things that strikes me about Zionism its cult of purposeful martyrdom. They make a big deal about deaths in uniform. Without every single one they wouldn’t have x. There is no question that every death is a contribution.

    They should ask the Germans about that sort of thinking.
    I went to see the German war graves at el Alamein once. There was a plaque outlining the work of the German war graves commission. 3 million soldiers buried behind the Iron Curtain.

    Goldstein most likely died for nothing. His brain wasn’t donated to science.

  5. James Canning on June 13, 2014, 7:38 pm

    Bravo, the Atlantic. This sort of article, reporting etc is actually in the best interests of Israel, and clearly a great service to the American people.

  6. just on June 14, 2014, 7:05 am

    Good news:

    “According to the sources, the Palestinian leadership intends to join some 500 more international conventions and organizations.

    “Every day new international treaties emerge, such as the Arms Trade Treaty, and all Palestine needs to join them is a letter of accession signed by President (Mahmoud) Abbas to the UN Secretary General,” a diplomat told Ma’an.

    Palestine voted Tuesday, for the first time, as a member state in elections of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Special Needs, a sub-committee of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Special Needs.

    The State of Palestine will also participate by the end of June in an international conference on women’s rights. ”

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