They Say, We Say: The Jewish return to Hebron is nothing more than justice

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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What About Jerusalem and Hebron?

They Say:

Jews were in Hebron for 3000 years. Jews left the city only after they were forced out by Arab terror, in the form of the 1929 massacre, which left 69 Jews dead and many more wounded. After the massacre, the Arabs stole the properties Jews left behind. The Jewish return to Hebron after 1967 is nothing more than justice - the re-claiming of Jewish property and the re-establishment of the Jewish community.

We Say:

One would do well to be careful demanding a Jewish "right of return" to Hebron and other parts of the West Bank, given that Palestinians who fled from Israel also claim a "right of return" to the lands they left.

But even for those who support a Jewish presence in Hebron, the question then becomes: what kind of presence? Among the reasons the Hebron settlers are so reviled is that their behavior has often been violent and arrogant in the extreme, destroying property, hounding and harassing Palestinian residents, abusing IDF soldiers sent to protect them, and loudly demonstrating their presence in every way imaginable. As we remember the horrific violence used against the Jewish community of Hebron in 1929, we should not forget that Hebron was also the site of one of the worst acts of Jewish terrorism in memory, when in 1994 Baruch Goldstein, a settler from the settlement of Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hebron, murdered 29 Muslim worshippers while they were at prayer in the mosque in the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Protecting the security and way of life of some 600 Jewish settlers who have chosen to make their homes in the heart of Hebron - a city of 160,000 Palestinians - would be a heavy burden on the IDF even if the city were not a focal point of violence and hatred. In the current context, achieving this mission has come at the cost of the most basic rights of the Palestinians of the city. Palestinian residents of downtown Hebron have been placed under curfew for months at a time, they are prohibited from accessing parts of the city, their businesses have been shut down, and key traffic arteries have been closed to them entirely. Indeed, in the wake of the Goldstein massacre, the Palestinian population of the city center has nearly disappeared. Apart from the settlers, who enjoy unfettered movement throughout the city, the downtown and old city of Hebron are a ghost town of empty streets and shuttered shops, daubed with the settlers' anti-Palestinian graffiti.

A city with 160,000 residents cannot be held by force indefinitely. Even then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized this fact when he ceded control over most of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority in 1997.