Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stories from Hebron

Three weeks ago I visited Hebron with B'tselem. I first posted about the tour here, though that story was peripheral to the tour itself.

I've now completed two larger stories. The main one, which I've put here because of its size, tells what we were shown, and what I learned. Unsurprisingly, my conclusions are almost diametrically opposed to what B'tselem wished me to learn, but that's a risk they take when they encourage the general public to tour with them.

My thesis: Hebron has been an experiment in dividing a city between Israel and Palestine; it has been a horrible failure. Anyone who dreams of dividing Jerusalem must understand Hebron.

Finally, one of my fellow travelers, American graduate student Jo Ehrlich, posted her impressions at Mondoweiss. We have severe differences of opinion, Jo and I, and I've posted my reading of her piece here. I have no doubt she doesn't read this blog, but I'll try e-mailing her via the Mondoweiss people. She'll never change her mind, but maybe she'll appreciate that different people can understand the same reality in opposite ways - and also, that knowing facts is useful.

Update: there's further confirmation, including from Mahmoud Abbas himself, that the Israelis offered to pull the settlers out of Hebron and Kiryat Arba in September 2008.

Update 2: An addendum about human rights and how what we saw in Hebron wasn't about them at all.


Anonymous said...


None of the links in your main article appear to have survived, either when viewing at Google or when downloading and reading with Acrobat Reader. It would be nice to be able to follow them.

Perhaps there is a problem with the way you converted your document to PDF. Or perhaps you can export to HTML (if the document is not in HTML to begin with) and post that.

David E. Sigeti

Michael W. said...

Yaacov, if Jerusalem is not going to be partitioned, what political system do you think East Jerusalem Arabs would be satisfied with. The Jerusalem municipality has not and can not take care of the thousands of non-citizen Arab residents, yet Israel still maintains official jurisdiction over them. Why not let the PA act in a limited roll to take care of their infrastructure?

Yaacov said...

David -

I hope it's better now?

Avigdor said...

Thanks, Yaacov.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

These Hebron essays are excellent. If you feel like going into the lion's den with them and Mondo Weiss isn't receptive, post them at Daily Kos and stick around for the comment thread.

Avigdor said...

Oh, wow, that's a great idea! Yaacov, have you considered selectively cross-posting to dkos?

Happy and Proud said...

I too would like to thank you also for posting these, I learned so much, especially your comments on Jo Erlich's piece.

I realize that Mondoweiss is an anti-Israel/anti-semitic blog (at least I consider it to be anti-semitic), but I was still horrified to read the comments on Earlich's piece there. Lies and blood libel. Note that Ms. Erlich hasn't bothered to respond to such.

Another blog that really needs your essay (though I doubt they'd post it) is I used to write on their Open Salon section. The comments there were what caused me to become active in pro-Israel advocacy.

Yaacov said...

Well folks, I admit I visit Kos no more than once or twice a month, and wouldn't know how to corss-post anyway. Isn't the thing about blogs that you have to be either the owner or an authorised author to be able to post things? Unless you mean posting a comment there telling about what's here? I've never done that, either.

Anonymous said...


All links appear to be working now. Thanks very much.

David E. Sigeti

Yitzchak Goodman said...

and wouldn't know how to cross-post anyway. Isn't the thing about blogs that you have to be either the owner or an authorised author to be able to post things?

Crossposting just means posting the same thing in more than one place and adding a notice that you are doing that. All you have to do to post to Daily Kos is fill out the online thingy for an account.

Avigdor said...

What Yitzchak said.

You really should do it, Yaacov. The I-P threads get absolutely brutal and bloody on dkos (especially in wartime), and your calm tone would work wonders for those sitting on the sidelines.

Anonymous said...

I visited Hebron last week-my graduate school roommate is buried there. Hebron has always been the most anti-semitic major city between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
Jerusalem is divided-take the bus to the Kotel and see how one does not see any Hebrew near the walls of most of the Old City.
I really don't believe that anyone believes that the vast majority of the non Jewish population is happy about the existence of Israel and would do anything to see it disappear-but the question is how does one have the best chance to survive with those who would kill you in a second-to live with them or separate.

Hebron said...

Shalom Yaakov - Yashar Koach! Would be interested in speaking with you. My email is or call me at 052-429-5554. Chodesh tov and Hanukkah sameach. David Wilder

Gavin said...

Nice work, thanks Yaacov. You hit the nail on the head with the comment about conceit. Overbearing arrogance is the signature of the left. It's irritating, especially when a short conversation with any of them reveals a very limited intellect. What they lack in smarts is made up for with ego. How do you get through to people who are too stupid to realise they're ignorant?

I disagree with other commenters. Let them come to you. You don't need to join anyone else's fight, they'll just drag you down to their level & then beat you with experience. The left are always looking over their shoulder, let them keep looking... and you can be sure they are looking.

Btw did any of them on the bus realise they had a spy in their midst? A Zionist infiltrator on a busload of liberal lefties, that was a mean trick. That Jo probably checks under her bed every night now.


Yaacov said...

Well, Gavin, actually I hid nothing. Until we were on the bus back I mostly didn't say anything, but I don't look much like a Swedish lefty intellectual. Oren, the guide, knew,since we briefly chatted. Part of the insularity of these folks, however, is that it wouldn't ever occur to them that the enemy might join such a tour. They wouldn't ever dream of spending a day with settlers, atfer all. I imagine it's like a dinner party in London or San Francisco: Belief in Global Warming, Evil Capitalism and derision of Sarah Palin are as natural as the food that gets served.

Avigdor said...

I've always found something very strange... whenever pro-Palestinian Westerners talk about settlers, they appear very frightened of the settlers having guns. These people walk into Nablus and Balata and Jenin fearing nothing, but put a bearded Jew in front of them with a semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder, and it really affects them.

It's something they write about when they come back, "armed settlers". Of course they're armed; they're outnumbered 10 to 1, living in constant danger of being murdered. The thing is, why would you be concerned about this? I don't really have a problem with normal people having guns, because I implicitly trust they have no reason to use them against me. I think of settlers as normal people who carry weapons the way plumbers carry wrenches, as tools.

Anyone else notice this? The settler guns really disturb these internationalists.

Gavin said...

That is depressing Yaacov, we all know it's true. One of my guilty secrets is I'm in the liberal left camp myself, but these people are aliens to me. They don't think, they're ruled by their emotions and a pig-headed belief in their own omniscience.

To me a model of the true liberal left is someone like your Moshe Halbertal. He differs from the baying mob because he's genuinely intelligent. He thinks. I wonder if a large part of the problem is our western education system. We cram kids full of knowledge but we don't teach them how to use it. We equate knowledge with intellect when the two are only distantly related.

Cheers, Gavin

NormanF said...

Israel is nothing without Hebron. A Hebron without a Jewish presence mocks the idea of the Jewish return to history. And despite hostility of the world and the indifference of various Israeli governments the Jews have sunk roots and survived there. Even as a barely tolerated minority.