Settlers Acid-Test Netanyahu

Hebrew Graffiti at the Hebron Market

Low right graffiti says, “Sharon’s Verdict as Rabin’s Verdict, Rope to Traitors” | Hebrew Graffiti at the Hebron Market


“They have no God!”

Yesterday, I commented on Israeli insults; today’s topic invites me to begin with a closely related Hebrew idiom. “Ein lo Elohim!” means “he has no God!” This is said towards someone who stops at nothing, he has no fear of God and will commit any atrocity. If God means nothing to such a person, much less would state laws, which are mere commandments of men. In the Israeli reality, this often depicts civil servants and settlers. The pictures above and to the right show scary graffiti drawn by Jewish settlers in Hebron at the local market. “Sharon’s Verdict as Rabin’s Verdict, Rope to Traitors” and “Rabbi Kahane was Right, Death to Traitors” accurately reflect their attitude. To a great extent, these few savages force their behavior on the Israeli government. Netanyahu knows he cannot escape their verdict. On December 8, 2012, they issued a warning against the Israeli government on settler Channel 7. An acid-test was decreed on Netanyahu. Paraphrasing them, let me say that “Settlers have no God!”

Hebrew Graffiti at the Hebron Market

Close up of Graffitti above, “Rabbi Kahane was Right, Death to Traitors”

al-Khalil a.k.a. Hebron

Not even Ehud Barak could offer Hebron to the Palestinians; in the year 2000 Camp David talks with Yasser Arafat, the Jewish settlement in Hebron was to have been left as the only Jewish enclave in Palestine. This importance is due to two different reasons, both historical in nature. Hebron is also known as the City of the Patriarchs for containing the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Judaism considers it the second-holiest after Jerusalem while Muslims consider it one of their four holy cities, due to its connection with Abraham. They call it al-Khalil, a name parallel to “Hebron,” both relate to “friend.” It is the largest city in the West Bank; home to approximately 250,000 Palestinians and less than 1,000 Jewish settlers. The latter are the heart and core of the Jewish settlement in the West Bank. They are not the oldest settlement, their history dates back only to 1979, when a group of settlers led by Miriam Levinger moved into the Dabouia, the former Hadassah Hospital in central Hebron. However, they claim to be reviving the old Jewish community in the city, which had been destroyed during the 1929 Hebron massacre, when between 64 and 67 Jews were killed, and another 60 were wounded. 435 Jews survived by virtue of the shelter and assistance offered them by their Palestinian neighbours, who hid them. Two years later, 35 families moved back into the Jewish quarter, but the British Government evicted them on the eve of the Palestinian Arab national revolt (April 23, 1936). Only Ya’akov ben Shalom Ezra stayed behind. He processed dairy products and blended in well. In November 1947, in anticipation of the UN partition vote, the Ezra family closed its shop and left the city. Thus, the settlement in Hebron is considered highly symbolic. The most extremist settlers live there.

Most settlers are related to right-wing parties, despite the first settlements dating back to the days when Labor was the ruling party. Those in Hebron are led by Baruch Marzel, who in 2004 founded the Jewish National Front. He failed in 2006 to pass the 2% threshold needed to receive representation in the Knesset. Years before that, Marzel was a senior activist for Rabbi Kahane’s Kach movement. Due to its Palestinian Transfer ideology, Kach was banned from the Israeli Knesset and was defined as a “terror organization” by the USA government. Marzel’s current party is not considered much better. It is represented in the Knesset by Michael Ben Ari on behalf of the National Union party, a union of four ultra-nationalist political parties, namely Moledet, Hatikva, Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, and Tkuma. In the current Knesset it has four members, out of the 120, one for each faction. Michael Ben Ari is leader of the Eretz Yisrael Shelanu faction, better known as Marzel’s Jewish National Front. In February 2012, Ben Ari was denied a visa to the USA due to his belonging to a terror organization. Yet, compared to the settlers there, he is quite innocuous, though he is especially loud. Scary people; they have no God.

Beit Ezra - House of Ezra

Beit Ezra – House of Ezra

The last relevant issue before reaching Netanyhau’s Acid-Test is the setup of the current Jewish settlement in Hebron. This is the only Jewish settlement placed within a Palestinian city, and thus a constant source of political friction and violence. The current status was defined by the Hebron Agreement between Netanyahu and Arafat in 1997; this document is part of the Oslo Agreements. Most settlers live in three main blocks, namely Qiryat Arba’, Ramat Mamre and the Jewish Quarter. Beyond them, there are scattered Jewish houses in the Palestinian neighborhoods. The first are marked as dark blue areas in the map below, the latter appear as green spots. By the end of 2012, five sites face legal procedures. The most notorious are “Beit HaMachpela,” a house located next to the Cave of the Patriarchs and “Beit Ezra,” the “House of Ezra.” The latter is a new construction located where the house of the abovementioned Ya’akov ben Shalom Ezra had been. Beit Ezra was chosen by the settlers to test Netanyahu.

Hebron Political Map

Hebron Jewish Settlements in Dark Blue | Hebron Political Map


Legal Battle

Following Palestine’s recognition by the UN as an Observer State on November 29, 2012, Netanyahu’s government announced the last step in the informal annexation of the West Bank (see Israel: West Bank “Disputed Territory” not “Occupied Territory”). This decision is an indirect adoption of the Levy Committee decision that the State must devise ways to legalize contested settlements and outposts in the West Bank; it recommends easing land acquisition and zoning protocols for Jews residing in the West Bank. This happened days before Israel’s State Attorney* gives its answer to the Supreme Court on the issue of Beit Ezra. Israel’s Supreme Court of Justice usually operates as the highest appellate court in the country, but it features also a special operational mode as a court of first instance, called in Hebrew bagatz (acronym for High Court for Justice, not to be confounded with the formal name of the court: The High Court). In this instance, everybody under the jurisdiction of the court can initiate a process against the State of Israel if he feels one of his rights has been legitimately oppressed by the State. “Peace Now” approached it requesting to remove the Jewish families living in Beit Ezra.

Not for the first time, the Israeli government is leading a legal battle against itself. Beit Ezra was occupied with the blessing of the Civil Administration and the Ministry of Defense, senior government ministers and had the obvious approval of the abovementioned Levy Report. It passed all the relevant legal tests. Yet, Channel 7 claims that the Attorney General of Israel** is about to recommend that the Supreme Court accept the request by Peace Now and order the evacuation of Beit Ezra. The settlers blame Mike Blass, a former Deputy Attorney General, for manipulating the Israeli Administration. “A situation in which a senior civil servant supports the transfer of an abandoned Jewish house to the Arabs against the wishes of the political echelons and against court decisions cannot be accepted,” stated an unnamed settler (probably the abovementioned Marzel) to the channel

“We hope that Netanyahu will put an end to the rule of clerks at the Attorney General, will publicly adopt the Levy Report, and more importantly, will back his own declarations regarding the rights of Jews to live in Hebron,” the same source added. Will Netanyahu comply? The writing on the settlers’ wall is clear: “Sharon’s Verdict as Rabin’s Verdict, Rope to Traitors,” “Rabbi Kahane was Right, Death to Traitors.” They mean it, they have no God!


Abraham’s Tomb

* Israel’s State Attorney (in Hebrew: Praklitut Hamedinah) is the legal representative of the State of Israel in its courts.
** Attorney General of Israel (HaYoetz HaMishpati LaMemshala, literally The Legal  Advisor to the Government) is the head of the executive branch legal system.