Still mulling over that B'tselem tour to Hebron.
Oren, the B'tselem guide, was very careful to talk about human rights, not politics. At one point he even refused to respond to a question about how the situation in Hebron might be resolved: that's politics, he said. As I wrote already, this wasn't very convincing since he seemed unfazed by the limitations on Israelis in the Palestinian part of Hebron. Yet upon reflection, the problem is deeper.
International law is an expression of the wish to have all nations operate within common limitations. Thus it deals with what countries are allowed to do and what not. Some will tell you they aren't allowed to transfer citizens into occupied territories, since in WWII the Nazis deported people in all sorts of directions so the international community recognized this as an evil to be prevented. You might ask how that is relevant to Israeli citizens moving of their free volition to places they recognize from their daily readings of the Bible or Talmud, or in the case of Hebron, to a town that had a Jewish community until as recently at 39 years earlier, and the response you'd get might not satisfy you. But that's not the bone I want to gnaw on right now.
International law may have something to say about settlers living in Hebron. It has nothing to say about the rights of individuals visiting there to worship, studying there, or even living there. As the champions of human rights will tell you incessantly, human rights are inherent. They don't stem from this political situation, those conditions, or that ethnic identity of victims. The right of a child to life is greater than the politics of who the child is, where she lives, or what the adults around her are doing. That's the whole point of human rights. It's why the ghastly Goldstone Report could overlook almost the entire context of its investigation and focus on the slivers of reality it was interested in: the human rights of the civilians of Gaza. It's why Oren of B'tselem could overlook the entire context of what he showed us in Hebron, and say that how the situation came to be isn't his business, he's interested in the rights of the (Palestinian) townsfolk.
OK. For the sake of the argument, let's take the human rights perspective. Back in 2000-2004 people were getting killed in Hebron. People on both sides, including civilians on both sides. In order to put a stop to that most extreme of all violations of human rights, the IDF put in place a regime that violates minor human rights, yet preserves major ones. It creates inconveniences and saves lives. Without those measures the lives of the settlers were endangered, and their inherent rights were being severely violated.
Whether the settlers are permitted to be there or not under international law is immaterial to the matter of their inherent human rights.
Somehow I don't think most human rights activists see it that way. What does that tell us about them?
Update: This post was re-worked, sort of, here.