GETTING IT STRAIGHT

Last I wrote I addressed the impropriety of using the IDF for actions against citizens of Israel. Now I want to look directly at the serious error of pulling those who moved into the marketplace -- Mitzpe Shalhevet -- out of their homes at all. It's ideology and politics that fuels it -- although the impression is lent that it's about law (i.e., they're on the premises "illegally"). Long ago I learned about the ways in which problems can be cited to present an impression of illegality, when in fact, if there were good will towards the venture, those glitches could be fixed without a second thought.

No where is this more the case than with Mitzpe Shalhevet. Eighteen months ago, as the residents of the market were to be evicted the first time, an Israeli court recommended that the homes be leased to those residents with full legality but the attorney general, Mazuz, refused. Then at the moment of eviction, representatives of the IDF negotiated a deal, in writing, with the residents: If they left quietly, arrangements would be made to allow them to come back with full legality. Mazuz then said the IDF did not have jurisdiction to make such a deal and voided it. He could have chosen to honor it, especially as the residents left in good faith based on this agreement.

Those promoting this current action -- Olmert, Barak, Mazuz and others -- have, in my opinion, totally lost their way. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, who we are and why we are here. Looking back over their left shoulder at Peace Now, which is a prime instigator of what's going on, they ignore Jewish heritage and Jewish rights.

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A leftist, self-declared secularist, Yehuda Litani , has written a piece about Hebron in YNet. His statements are egregiously off the mark. My concern is not that he differs with me ideologically, but that he presents a skewed picture that represents the residents of Hevron as instigators and trouble makers who stand in the way of peace. People wishing to live in a place that is part of our Jewish heritage are represented as the enemy of Israel and the stumbling block to peace.

A few examples suffice.

"...more than 160,000 Palestinians live in divided Hebron ...alongside several hundred Jewish settlers who over the years have taken over markets, houses and shops based on the argument of "return of Jewish expropriated property.'"

Well, let's get a few things straight. This IS a case of Jewish expropriated land. For millennia Jews lived in Hevron, and were banished only after the massacre of Jews by Arabs in 1929. The British, for purposes of convenience and in betrayal of their mandate, forcibly moved out the Jewish survivors -- who had to leave property behind and were not compensated. Apparently Litani is neither pained nor angered by this historical injustice.

In 1967 we secured control of Hevron , and the movement started to re-establish Jewish settlement in the area that had been Jewish before 1929. As to "taking over" homes, etc., in instances where there had been Arab ownership dating from post-'29, buildings have been purchased for use by the Jewish community. This is the case with Beit Hashalom. In other instances, property had legally reverted to ownership by the Israeli government. This is the case with the buildings in the market -- the Arabs have no claim on them, and they stand on land that has been documented as privately Jewishly owned for centuries.

What is more, in 1997, we acted the "good guys" and as part of Oslo we turned over to the PA a full 80% of Hevron. All of what goes on with regard to rebuilding the Jewish neighborhood of Hevron takes place within the 20% that is under Israeli control.

And yet Litani, ignoring Jewish rights, sees the Jews as interlopers and troublemakers.

He says more :

"Following ongoing pressure by the settlers, the Tomb of the Patriarchs - a Muslim mosque in every sense - has been turned into a Jewish synagogue and into a sure source of tension...Abraham's burial place, the father of Yitzhak and Ishmael, has become – with the active help of the Jewish settlers and Palestinian terrorists – one of the most malignant sites in the Holy Land."

That he should see the Tomb of the Patriarchs -- the Cave of Machpelah, where our patriarchs are buried and which has been venerated as a holy site and place of prayer by Jews for millennia -- as "a Muslim mosque in every sense" is an outrage. It became a Muslim mosque because Jews were banished, not because we voluntarily gave it up. And here again he misrepresents. There are separate areas of the Machpelah for Jewish prayer and for Muslim prayer -- it is BOTH a mosque and a synagogue today. In fact, there are certain days when, by agreement, Jews are not allowed in because Muslims are celebrating a holiday. But this is not enough for Litani, who would prefer we relinquish our heritage completely.

Most telling is the phrase: "with the active help of the Jewish settlers and Palestinian terrorists..." So he acknowledges that terrorism is at work here -- that the move by Arabs is not legitimate. And yet he does not know how to respect those settlers who are brave enough to take a stand against this and to claim what is ours. He sees the stubborn insistence of the settlers in making this claim as source of tension -- better we should relinquish what is ours and make the Arabs happy. That's how we keep the "peace."

Sad, indeed. What's sadder still is that there are members of the government who espouse similar thinking. They have all lost their way, and it is a great danger to the nation. I fear that what is true for Hevron may be true for Jerusalem as well. The Temple Mount is the Jewish site of greatest sanctity, but Muslims claim today that it is theirs. In the spirit of "keeping the peace" Olmert and ilk might see fit to relinquish this as well.

There can be no peace for us unless we are clear on who we are, what our heritage is, what our rights are, and stand strong for these.