Another posting from our archives. Since 1995, the struggles of the families living in Tel Rumeida have featured prominently in our releases. Accordingly, to show our readers what the new settlement expansion on Tel Rumeida means–what it means to have more Israeli settlers on Tel Rumeida with more Israeli soldiers to guard them–we will be running releases from our archives on Facebook and our blog in the coming weeks.
“Residents of Hebron respond to Oslo 2 peace agreements”
by Wendy Lehman
HEBRON, WEST BANK — On September 28, world leaders met in Washington, D.C. for the signing of the Oslo 2 peace accords between Israel and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). During this interim period the Israeli settlers will be permitted to stay within the city under IDF (Israel Defense Force) protection. Neither Palestinians nor settlers living in Hebron seem content with the agreements.
Most, if not all, Palestinians call for the evacuation of the Hebron settlers who are known even by other West Bank settlers as radical. Most are armed with an Uzi and/or a sidearm and some have used or threatened to use their weapons against Palestinians. Because of the settler presence, following Oslo 2 approximately 40 percent of the old city — 5-6 percent of the entire city — will remain under direct Israeli control after the six-month withdrawal period. According to the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Information, “The Israeli government embarked on finding a solution, whereby all the [Palestinian] inhabitants of Hebron, estimated at 140,000 persons, will be governed by a handful of Jewish settlers, totaling 400 persons.”
The only significant difference made by the signing of Oslo 2, said Palestinian journalist Naji Dana, is that now “they are giving legitimacy for the [Israeli] occupation, for dividing the city.”
Palestinians believe the continuing harassment and physical attacks of settlers will get worse as the settlers feel more secure in their position here. After returning from the peace talks in Taba, Egypt, Israeli minister Yossi Beilin told Ma’ariv newspaper, “The situation of the settlements has never been better since the Oslo Accord was created.”
On September 30, two days after the signing, Hebron faced an upsurge in settler violence. Settlers damaged approximately 13 Palestinian cars and five homes. Palestinian residents reported assaults against them. Christian Peacemaker Team members Kathleen Kern and I were also attacked by a group of about 20 settler men. They first attacked Kern, throwing her to the ground.
After Kern took a photo of her attackers, one of them punched her in the left ear and jaw. When I came to help Kern, settlers pulled me to the ground and kicked me in the base of the skull and lower back. The settlers stole Kern’s camera before fleeing the scene.
This type of mistreatment is common for Palestinians, although it doesn’t get as much media attention. As Hillel Barak, an Israeli Jewish peaceworker from Jerusalem, said, “It [the settler presence in Hebron] is like members of the Klu Klux Klan coming to live in a Jewish neighborhood. It doesn’t exactly create a peaceful atmosphere.”
The settlers, for their part, have promised resistance if the Palestinian police are permitted, as stated in Oslo 2, to come to Hebron. On August 11, settler spokesperson Noam Arnon said that if the Palestinian police come to Hebron, “we [the settlers] are not going to accept it, we will not cooperate in any way.”
Many settlers have reported that Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin does not speak for them as he deals with a “terrorist organization” like the PLO.
On September 23, Israeli settler Azrael Moshe Ben Israel said, “We are at war. We are at war with these people [Palestinians].”
Palestinian contacts for CPT have reported that they would welcome Jews to Hebron, but the current settlers must leave. In light of recent settler threats and acts of violence, it seems apparent that the settlers should, at the very least, be disarmed. As Palestinian resident of the Tel Rumeida settlement area Fariel Abu Haikel said, “Once there was much friendship between Jews and Muslims here. It is again possible if they [Israelis] live without weapons.”
Wendy Lehman (24) joined Christian Peacemaker Teams in January, committing to a three-year term. She was in Bethlehem, under CPT, in February and March and has been with the Hebron team since it began in June. The four-person team is stationed in Hebron to serve as a violence- deterring presence.