On Thursday the headline in The New York Times read “Palestinian Uprising Shifts to West Bank City of Hebron” and reported:
This month’s Palestinian uprising that started with a wave of knife attacks in Jerusalem has shifted some 18 miles south to Hebron, another holy city with a stark history of violence and tension…
Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city with some 200,000 Palestinian residents, has long been a hot spot for tensions. Palestinians call it, and a surrounding belt of villages, “the fortress of Hamas,” because of its role as the militant Islamist group’s unofficial West Bank headquarters. It is a place where the Palestinian Authority is weak and residents are culturally conservative. It is also the only spot outside Jerusalem where several hundred Jewish settlers live side by side with Palestinians, in heavily guarded enclaves in an area of the Old City under Israeli military control…
By Eileen Fleming
In 2005, I made my first of two gut-wrenching eye-opening trips into hell in Hebron.
Everything that follows actually happened, but as I was writing my first historical fiction ten years ago, my experiences are told through Jack and Terese in this excerpt from the chapter 16 Days in Israel Palestine from KEEP HOPE ALIVE
Tuesday in Hebron with Jerry Levin
Jack and Terese met Jerry at the Bethlehem Hotel for their day trip to Hebron.
Jerry Levin, full-time volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) had been filing Internet reports which Jack and Terese had been reading.
In the 1980’s Jerry had been CNN’s Middle East bureau chief and a nonreligious Jew.
Jack was already mopping his brow from the heat by 7:30 a.m., but Jerry never sweated. Lightly built and sprouting bilateral hearing aids, he told them, “Every time I get ready to return to Palestine, everyone asks me, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ I reply, ‘Of what, the Palestinians? No way! But when it comes to the Israelis soldiers, you bet I am!’”
Hebron is home for 450 Israeli settlers and three thousand IDF. The eighteen- to twenty-one-year-olds patrol the streets with their weapons at the ready and turned the trio away at a checkpoint. Jerry informed them, “Most of the soldiers don’t like the CPTs. Whenever they won’t let us through, we just go another way, and always, eventually, get where we want to go.”
Terese was nauseated the entire day.
Jack kept getting hotter and complained, “This is nuts! This is insane! These narrow, winding stone streets have been here for centuries. Now, one side of the way is all Israeli, and the other is Palestinian. Their only connection to the other is this thick, yet deeply sagging netting above my head. I cannot believe the huge rocks, shovels, electronic equipment, furniture, and all manner of debris that have been flung on it! I wonder if I will be underneath it when it gives way.”
Jerry smiled and told him, “It gets cleaned out about every year or so. Come back in a few months, and this netting will be much closer to your head. The settlers just throw whatever they want onto the netting; they do what ever they want and get away with it. The CPT’s run interference by nonviolent resistance; we get the children and woman to where they need to be going and back again. Sometimes, the settlers curse and stone us all; it keeps it interesting.”
Jerry pointed out all the empty and formerly Palestinian homes that the settlers had painted graffiti and Stars of David on. Both Terese and Jack could not believe it when they saw, spray painted on a now empty, but formerly Palestinian home, “GAS THE ARABS.”
Terese moaned, “This is hell on earth.”
Jerry replied, “You haven’t seen anything until you get to Gaza.”
Jack mumbled, “I feel like I have entered into every movie set and photograph I have ever seen of the ghettos the Jews were forced into before their Holocaust.”
Terese wanted to visit inside the Abraham mosque, and an Arab guide was found who spoke a little English. She put on the brown prayer shawl, but couldn’t hide the fact she was an American. Immediately, an inquisitive young mother, adolescents, and small children, who kept laughing and staring at her, followed her. Terese thought it was the way she pronounced “Marhaba (hello) and Salaam (peace)” that made them laugh and want to follow along. Before the tour was through, the guide was able to ascertain that the family now lived in the mosque ever since the husband had died, but the cause of death remained unstated. Terese and the family took a picture together, while everyone said, “Salaam.”
After the long day in Hebron, and then back to Bethlehem, Jerry walked Jack and Terese through the checkpoint that leads to Jerusalem. Terese was mesmerized by the watchtower and barbed wire, until she stared into the eyes of the youth who checked her passport while cradling his weapon like a baby. She wondered, How would I endure if I had to live here? What would I be like? What would my kids be like if they had to serve in this military and spend all day checking paperwork? What would they be like if they were the ones handing over their paperwork?
Jack couldn’t shut up. “This is incredible! Walking through the checkpoints are facts on the ground that tour buses never experience. It is two different worlds kept from the other, tourists and Palestinians. This feeling of oppression is visceral but you will miss it if you only pass by in tour busses with Israeli license plates. This situation reminds me of what it was like in America before Martin Luther King. Something has got to give! This situation is untenable and so is Vanunu’s! You’re the only source of information I have read in America, except for a TV documentary I caught on the History Channel, entitled ‘Sexpionage.’ But, if it hadn’t been for your reports, I would never have known about his release last April and three arrests since.”
Jerry replied, “I haven’t spoken with Mordechai in a few months now. Give him a call, I can give you his cell phone number; he appreciates being treated to dinner or a beer.”
In the taxi back to Jerusalem, Jack remembered reading an interview on St. Patrick’s Day, which quoted Vanunu speaking to the media after he had been arrested specifically for speaking to the media.
I have no more secrets to tell and have not set foot in Dimona for more than eighteen years. I have been out of prison, although not free, for one year now. Despite the illegal restrictions on my speech, I have again and again spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons anywhere and by any nation.
I have given away no sensitive secrets, because I have none. I have not acted against the interests of Israel, nor do I wish to. I have been investigated by the police again and again, and re-arrested. They have found nothing.
I have done nothing but speak for peace and world safety from a nuclear disaster. I do not want to harm Israel, but rather, to warn of an enormous danger. I want to work for world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. I want the human race to survive.
From reading Jerry Levin’s Internet reports on Vanunu, Jack knew that he was still not allowed to leave the country, to speak to foreigners, to go to Palestinian territories, nor to approach a foreign embassy. Although released from Ashkelon on April 21, 2004, he had been arrested three more times. He had been charged with “attempting to leave the country,” for riding in a taxi to go the few miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve mass in 2004.
The Israeli government had imposed the draconian Emergency Defense Regulations of the British Mandate upon Vanunu.
Jack struggled, trying to understand how a democracy could get away with regulations that suspend the rights of individuals to speak freely and move about.
The Emergency Defense Regulations were implemented first by Britain against both Palestinians and Jews after World War II. Articles 109, 110, and 120 give power to the government to enter anyone’s home at any hour, day or night, and remove anything they want. On November 11, 2004, thirty armed officers stormed into Vanunu’s room at Saint Georges and confiscated his computer and letters. They have yet to be returned.
Jack recalled reading “When the Jewish community was suffering under the atrocious regulations, which were used by the British against both Palestinians and Jews after World War II, a leading Jewish lawyer, Yaccov Shapiro, who later became Israel’s minister of justice, described the Regulations as “unparalleled in any civilized country; there were no such laws in Nazi Germany.” [Ateek, Naim. Justice and Only Justice]
Nothing much has changed for Vanunu in the last ten years.
However this reporter has documented Vanunu’s ongoing struggle for freedom from Israel and USA collusion in Israel’s nuclear deceptions which The New York Times ignores.
However, on October 30, 2015, The New York Times did report this obvious fact:
A leading Hamas official in the Hebron area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested, said that Mr. Abbas’s security apparatus was already powerless in Hebron. But he said the Israeli occupation was driving the uprising.
When The New York Times begins to report the obvious facts regarding USA collusion in the Israeli occupation and nuclear deceptions:
Obviously both would END sooner than later and without as much bloodshed.