Jewish Settlers in Hebron Rejoice at Soaring Far-Right Polls in Israel | Israel
In 1968, a year after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War which marked the beginning of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, about sixty Messianic Jews posing as Swiss tourists went to a hotel in the holy city of Hebron in the West Bank, where they celebrated a Passover Seder.
Later, the group visited the Cave of the Patriarchs – known to Muslims as the al-Ibrahimi Mosque – where Abraham and his family are believed to be buried.
They never left. The journey is now widely seen as the birth of the modern settler movement, which sees the restoration of the historic land of Israel as a religious calling that will hasten the coming of the Messiah.
Hebron today is a vivid manifestation of what this vision means for the Palestinian people.
The approximately 30,000 Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled part of the city are not even allowed to walk on certain streets, while around 800 Israeli settlers, under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), have regularly invaded Palestinian homes and businesses.
On a cold, wet day last week, soldiers at checkpoints and a group of young Jewish boys wading through puddles were the only signs of life in what was once a thriving economic center.
The divided city has long attracted supporters of anti-Arab terrorist Rabbi Meir Kahane, banned from politics before he was assassinated in 1990.
Three decades later, Kahanism has not only survived: after Israel’s election this month, it has become the country’s third largest political force, and Kahanist politicians will have important portfolios in Israel’s new government. former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A total of 88% of the Jewish community here and 67% of the neighboring 3,000-strong settlement of Kiryat Arba voted for one of their own – Kiryat Arba resident, former Kahane follower and rising party star Religious Zionist, Itamar Ben-Gvir.
“I am not a religious person. I don’t cover my hair or anything, I have LGBT friends,” said Elinor, a 24-year-old single mother who works at the supermarket in Kiryat Arba. “Like everyone else, I voted for Netanyahu in the past and switched to Ben-Gvir this time because of the security situation.
“I think it’s become so popular because the rest of the country is starting to understand how dangerous it is and what we’re going through here.”
Netanyahu’s bloc of far-right and religious parties won a majority on November 1 and will in all likelihood return to power within weeks as the head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.
He was able to end the four-year political crisis sparked by his ongoing corruption trial by persuading three far-right fringe parties to merge into a single slate called the Religious Zionists ahead of the 2021 election, pushing them over the top. electoral threshold and in the Knesset.
This time, Ben-Gvir’s skyrocketing popularity has allowed the team to more than double the number of seats to 14. Six of them are settlers, living in the West Bank despite it being illegal under law international community and that Israel’s ever-growing settlements negate the possibility of a two-state solution.
His fiery speeches calling on Israeli police and soldiers to be granted immunity from prosecution for harming Palestinians, the reinstatement of the death penalty for terrorism offenses and the deportation of “disloyal” citizens resonated in the during an electoral cycle marked by a spiral of violence.
A total of 21 Israelis and 121 Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank have been killed so far in 2022 – a 16-year record.
A former member of the Kach terror group, convicted of incitement to racism, Ben-Gvir supports changing Israel’s legal code, which could help Netanyahu in his corruption trial.
His list wants an end to Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank, legislative reform to incorporate traditional religious law and a rollback of gay rights.
The coalition horse-trading is ongoing and Ben-Gvir wants to be public security minister, a role that would put him in charge of the police. Israeli security services would then be in the extraordinary position of being asked to share intelligence with an individual on their watch list.
Many political observers believed that as part of recent efforts to soften his image, Ben-Gvir would stay away from a memorial in Jerusalem Thursday night marking the anniversary of Rabbi Kahane’s death. Instead, he arrived to pay a glowing tribute.
“I think the main characteristic of Kahane was love. Love of Israel without compromise and without any other consideration,” he said.
In the past, Kahanist meetings had the aura of a clandestine gathering. Now, emboldened by their success, the media were invited and the public was even booed when Ben-Gvir said he “did not support the expulsion of all Arabs”.
For the 20% of Israel’s population who identify as Palestinian, as well as those who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the rise of the far right in the Knesset means an already difficult situation is over. about to get worse.
Issa Amro, a Palestinian human rights activist in Hebron, knows Ben-Gvir and his supporters well. Amro has been the target of settler violence for years.
Over the past fortnight, however, gangs have set fire to his land and attacked friends and family members who came to help with this year’s olive harvest. In video footage of several such incidents, the IDF stands by, letting the violence continue.
“I think they’re definitely more confident now. Their representatives are the government. They think they don’t have to hold back anymore,” he said during the Observervisit to Hebron last week.
After Amro complained, the Israeli army declared his home a closed military zone, barring anyone but him from entering the property in what he says was a transparent attempt to make him isolated and vulnerable.
Asked for comment, the IDF said: “On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, following a number of clashes in the region, it was decided to temporarily declare the region a closed military zone.
“The order was only valid for one day and was not extended. It is important to note that on the day the order was valid, it did not apply to residents of the home.
Amro said, “I want to live, but I’m not going anywhere, because I want the Palestinian voice to be heard.
“We are not slaves, we deserve to live with rights and dignity. If they can do this to me, someone well connected with lawyers and the international community, I don’t want to think about what they will do to other people living in Hebron… I think times dark are ahead.
One of Ben-Gvir’s favorite phrases, repeated at every public appearance, is: “We are the masters of this house. One question he and his fellow Religious Zionists have failed to answer is: are there masters without slaves?