Hebron - Living with the Deal

By Shahin, Mariam | The Middle East, March 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Hebron - Living with the Deal

Shahin, Mariam, The Middle East

Three years ago a deranged fanatic, Baruch Goldstein, shot into a crowd of worshippers at the Haram al Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron and murdered 29 Palestinians. Since then the name Hebron has been connected with violence, hatred and mistrust. Many analysts predicted that it would be there where the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis would fail. In January, however, the long-awaited agreement on Hebron was finally born.

Like most of the Palestinian-Israeli agreements, the Hebron deal is far from perfect and hardly equitable to both sides. But Yasser Arafat proclaimed the city free and Palestinian self-rule there has begun. Now Palestinians and the few hundred Jewish settlers who live in Hebron look with caution towards the future.

As the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all except the centre of Hebron took place, both Palestinians and Israelis continued to be sceptical of the agreement that was advertised as a peace pact. The conflict in Hebron, unlike much of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, is not based on nationalism but on religion. In Hebron, home to the tomb of biblical patriarch Abraham, said to be the father of both Arabs and Jews, it is religion and religious rights which override all other considerations.

And here as elsewhere in the world it is a question of might being right. In theory Muslims and Jews - Hebron does not have an indigenous Christian community - could live in peace together.

In ancient times the Hebrews subdued the original Hebronites, the Canaanites, by force and bloodshed and so it has been ever since. The force with the largest stick, the most guns rules Hebron. Although Muslim-Jewish coexistence has been much more peaceful historically than Christian-Jewish coexistence or Muslim-Christian coexistence, in Hebron there have been massacres on both sides since the beginning of the century.

The original Jews of Hebron left in the late 1920s after almost 70 were killed when Arab fury at Zionist designs to build a Jewish homeland in Arab Palestine erupted in 1929.

The descendants of the Hebron Jews today live in Haifa and other cities in Israel from which the Palestinian population was driven out in 1947-48. Representatives of the original Hebron Jewish community have made public announcements renouncing a "right of return" to Hebron. Instead, a group of mostly American-born Jews decided to "resettle" Hebron. In the beginning of the 1980s a group of New York/New Jersey Jews settled in Belt Hadassah and other buildings that belonged to the Jewish community before 1948.

Palestinians in Hebron do not deny the properties that once belonged to the Jewish community at the beginning of the century "belong to the Jews" today. The problem with the cohabitation of Hebron appears to be one of spirit. Since they "resettled" the city in the early 1980s the "settlers" as they are known, have sported small submachine guns, rifles and hand guns as part of their daily attire.

Worse still, the settlers are generally unfriendly and frequently even abusive of Palestinians in the city. Vehicle tyres are slashed, vegetable carts are overturned and spitting is a common way in which settlers show their distaste for their Arab neighbours.

In such an atmosphere it is difficult to build peace. And unlike many other Israelis, the Jews in Hebron have no desire to enter into a "dialogue" with their neighbours.

"These people don't belong here," said a Jewish Russian immigrant who came to Beit Hadassah 12 years ago from Moscow, of the 120,000 Palestinians in Hebron. "They are all new immigrants from Egypt and Jordan the Palestinian does not exist," he added, echoing the words of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the early 1970s.

The actual number of these rather narrow-minded and well-armed people total only around 420, but they have been influential enough to make Hebron one of the most talked-about cities of 1996.

The involvement of the US government in the negotiated agreement was considerable and only underlined the amount of US influence exerted on the Palestinian-Israeli agreements overall.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Hebron - Living with the Deal


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?