ZOA Opposes Olmert Government’s Eviction Of Jewish Hebron Residents
August 7, 2007

IDF destroys Jewish homes,
clothes torn off Jewish women

New York — The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), in a letter signed by ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt, Chairman of Executive Committee Dr. Alan Mazurek, and Treasurer Henry Schwartz, has expressed its deep concern and opposition to the forcible expulsion of two Jewish families from their homes in Hebron’s Shalhevet neighborhood this morning. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) promised permits a year and half ago to the eleven families who lived in the neighborhood, saying they would be allowed to return with legal status on the condition they left the premises peacefully. Nine of the families cooperated with the government officials, believing they would make good on their end of the deal. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz quickly voided the promise after they moved out, saying the army officials had no authority to make the agreement.

Today, three thousand Border Guards and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) personnel were deployed to remove the resisting Jewish families from their homes built on the site of the former Hebron marketplace, along with hundreds of their supporters. The Israeli forces used sledge hammers, chain saws and power cutters to break through the improvised defenses set up by the residents in anticipation of the evictions (International Herald Tribune, August 7).

Female activists reported that the personnel deployed to evict the residents deliberately tore the clothing off several women who resisted the forcible eviction. Thirteen activists were arrested during the expulsion, accused of attacking police and throwing stones. In addition, 15 police officers and 25 activists were hurt in the melee, most with light wounds. Three police officers were taken to hospital for treatment. Three young protestors were the last holdouts in a cement bunker which was eventually breached by an IDF Search and Rescue unit. The former marketplace on which the houses were built was in turn constructed on the ruins of the city’s old Jewish quarter, destroyed in the massacre of the Jewish community by Arabs in 1929.

During its post-eviction operations, the IDF demolished a synagogue built in memory of Shalhevet Pass, the ten-month-old girl who was shot and murdered by a Palestinian Authority (PA) sniper several years ago. The synagogue has been a focal point of daily prayer, as well as home to a yeshiva whose students serve as a counter-terror first-response team in Hebron. In a statement to the press, Hebron Jewish community representatives said, “3,000 soldiers and policemen attempted to remove two families and dozens of youths from Jewish property, which they are now demolishing. This struggle will continue, and we will yet return. We displayed great responsibility – more than that displayed by the Defense Minister — and we demand the fulfillment of the agreement [allowing residents to stay in the Shalhevet neighborhood] and the return of Jews to the Jewish community of Hebron.”

Activists at the scene charged that the destruction of the homes was an act of vengeance in retaliation against the determined struggle they waged against the expulsion of the two families who lived in the neighborhood. They also expressed bitterness that the army had secured a permit to destroy the buildings prior to the expulsion (Israel National News, August 7).

Referring to the old marketplace adjacent to Hebron’s Avraham Avinu neighborhood, where nine families and a yeshiva were located prior to an agreement reached with the IDF in 2005, Hebron spokesman David Wilder said, “We agreed to a negotiated deal a year and a half ago. We kept our side, they reneged — this will not happen again. The community was given a firm promise, in the form of an agreement with the commander of forces in Judea and Samaria, General Yair Golan, that following our voluntary exit from the homes, families would soon be allowed to ‘legally’ return. That was a year and a half ago. The agreement was voided by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, using the excuse that Golan was not authorized to make the agreement. This, despite the fact that the General was on and off the phone with his bosses in the Defense Ministry during the meeting with Hebron representatives in order to receive their OK to the compromise.”

Hebron officials said they were once again being promised that if they leave willingly a quiet return to the marketplace will be arranged in the future. A similar episode took place with the Beit Shapira house — which remains sealed and empty to this day. “We’ve been through that one too many times,” Wilder said. “The property is Jewish property. A military appeals court recommended that the buildings be leased to the Hebron Jewish community. This too was rejected. What more do they want?”

A letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, signed by seven Knesset faction heads, Yoel Hasson (Kadima), Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), Uri Ariel (National Union-NRP), Gideon Saar (Likud), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitanu), Ya’akov Margi (Shas) and Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners), said, “We are marking 78 years since the 1929 riots, you are faced with a fateful decision concerning one of the sites which represents, more than anything else, the murder and the thievery of the Hebron Jewish community of those days: the site of the ‘shuk’ in Hebron, where presently several families are living …We are dealing with Jewish-owned land, which was stolen as a result of the terrible slaughter. It is incumbent on the government to act to return the stolen property as would be expected in relationship to stolen Jewish property anywhere in the world. We the undersigned, chairmen of various parties in the Knesset, turn to you with this request to refrain from expelling these Jewish families living in the ‘shuk’ and to study alternative ways to resolve Jewish quarters at this site, legally… The residents of Hebron prevented violence and conflict similar to the occurrences in ‘Amona’ when they voluntarily moved out of these homes, based upon promises that they would be allowed to return, honoring and respecting promises of representatives of the state, IDF officers. This type of approach is to be encouraged and rewarded, not discouraged… For all the above reasons, we request that you order that the issue of Jewish residency in the shuk be studied seriously, and that in any case, you prevent, for the time being, any eviction of Jewish residents from the site” (Israel National News, August 7).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA is appalled at this heavy-handed forcible eviction from their homes of Hebron residents who had been promised permits for them — a promise which was subsequently broken. This violence against Jewish civilians is shameful. At a time when Israel is facing so many external threats to its citizenry from hostile states and terrorist groups they support, what sense of priorities is the Olmert government showing by removing Jews from their homes?

“While all this has been happening, there has been a wave of illegal Arab housing construction in Jerusalem, the Galilee and elsewhere in Israel. Why then is the government making a point of evicting Jews from their homes and rescinding permits that have been promised to them? What sort of priorities does the government have? These Jewish residents are patriotic Israelis and pioneers, not enemies of Israel or murderers of Israeli civilians. Yet the Olmert government is taking little or no action against real, deadly terrorists firing rockets incessantly into Israel from Gaza and smuggling offensive weaponry into Gaza. The IDF and Israeli intelligence services are dealing literally daily with dozens of terrorist threats and warnings of impending attack. In 2006 alone, the IDF and Israeli intelligence services prevented 260 terror attacks. Yet the Olmert government instead decides to turn Israeli military might against a few Jewish families in Hebron.

“Not only is this action wrong in itself, but evicting Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria sends a terrible message to the Palestinian terrorists — namely, that their continuing hostility, terrorism and aggressive designs are working. No-one believes that Israel would be finding ways to appease the PA like throwing out Jews from their homes if terrorism and violence were not continuing. Like the unilateral retreat from Gaza and northern Samaria in 2005, the Palestinian terror groups will surmise that their murderous strategy is working. The ZOA completely rejects this strategy and urges the Olmert government to cease this divisive, misconceived and unjustifiable policy that only encourages more terrorism and also sends the message that King David’s first capital and one of four holiest cities in Judaism is not really ours.”

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