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Three “Nos” to Beit HaShalom

Herbert Zweibon

After years of negotiations and careful legal process, the Jewish community of Hebron closed on the purchase of Beit HaShalom, a large four story building between Kiryat Arba and Hebron, and families began moving in at the end of March. Eight families, including many children (the youngest at this writing a few days old, the grandchild of longtime leader in the Hebron community David Wilder) are now in residence. The Israeli military commander of the Hebron region has been supportive, saying this was a highly strategic location, so much so that he is using its roof as a lookout post to monitor the surrounding area.

Unfortunately the story does not end here. When the identity of one of the Arabs involved in the transaction came to light, in danger of being tortured and murdered by fellow Arabs, he denounced the sale documents as forgeries. (He shrugged off film of himself counting the money he’d received for the building.) The Israeli Supreme Court ordered an investigation and the police found the papers in order, the purchase legal. Not satisfied the highly politicized Supreme Court ordered a second investigation, with the police ordered to present their findings within 45 days. But the police repeatedly asked for extensions (probably because they could find nothing wrong).

With winter approaching this has meant severe hardship for the families in the building, which is little more than a shell. Without a special permit from the Defense Ministry or the quasi-military Israeli Civil Administration which is under its jurisdiction, they are forbidden to make any changes during “the investigation.” The Hebron community leadership applied for a permit on humanitarian grounds to install windows, put in electric lines for heat and tar the badly leaking roof. The request reached Defense Minister Barak who said no to all three. This decision was appealed to the Civil Administration military panel—again the same response, no, no, no.

What is going on here? David Wilder points out that the Israeli courts have ruled that the government must allow illegal Bedouin settlements in the Negev proper infrastructure on humanitarian grounds. Why the rank discrimination against Jews?

The surface reasons are obvious enough. The Olmert government makes no secret that it wants to make the home of the patriarchs an all-Arab city. When in 1979 Jews moved into the abandoned Beit Hadassah building it was against the wish of the Israeli government and subsequent governments have also been hostile. If the Israeli government callously expelled 8,000 Jews from their communities in Gaza, despite the fact they had built their model communities at the urging of successive Labor and Likud governments, how can the relatively small number of Jews in Hebron expect sensitivity to their needs?

But there are more fundamental reasons. Yossi ben Aharon, who served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, recently described the transmutation of the terrible hostility toward the Irgun that during Israel’s War of Independence led to Jews firing on fellow Jews on the Altalena into today’s hatred of “settlers,” especially religious Jews in Judea, Samaria and (until their expulsion) Gaza. Once again it is a one-sided hatred, motivated this time by an irrational projection of blame for Arab (and Moslem) hostility on Jews living outside the 1949 Green (armistice) Line. It is this mindset of much of the secular public that has allowed the Olmert government to behave ruthlessly to the eight families of Beit HaShalom–and to pursue the morally and strategically insane policies leading it on a Roadmap to Nowhere.

Now the Jews of Beit HaShalom face expulsion. Ignoring that the case is before the Supreme Court (i.e. the rule of law), Olmert arbitrarily revoked the purchase and according to PA officials has “guaranteed” them that evicting the Jewish families from Beit HaShalom tops his agenda. •

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