In 1968, a year after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War that marked the beginning of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, about 60 messianic Jews posing as Swiss tourists travelled to a hotel in the holy West Bank city of Hebron, where they celebrated a Passover seder.
They never left.
First, the conflict in 1967 was a defensive Israeli war necessitated by the Arab states’ effort to annihilate the Jewish state. And, the territory in question (Judea and Samaria / The West Bank) had been illegally occuped by Jordan since 1949.
Further, she gets the story of the first Israelis to re-settle in Hebron wrong.
In April of 1968, a group of Jews registered at the Park Hotel in the city, and announced they were re- establishing Hebron’s Jewish community. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s government decided to temporarily move the group to near-by IDF compound, while a new community (Kiryat Arba) was built adjacent to Hebron. The first 105 housing units were ready by 1972. The Jewish community in Hebron itself was only re-established permanently in April 1979, when a group of Jews from Kiryat Arba moved into Beit Hadassah and the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
Moreover, Guardian readers could believe, by reading McKernan’s article, that 1968 was the first time Jews had lived in Hebron. In fact, Hebron is one of the holiest cities in Judaism, and is the site of the world’s oldest Jewish community. Jews lived there continually for centuries until the 1929 Hebron Massacre, in which Arabs murdered sixty-seven Jews – forcing the Jewish community to leave the holy city.
The trip is now widely viewed as the birth of the modern settler movement, which sees restoring the historical land of Israel as a religious calling which will hasten the coming of the Messiah.
Whilst some ideological Israelis who decide to live in Judea and Samaria do so as part of a restorative process to return Jews to what they consdier their natural, normative state of existence, a redemptive process that some settlers believe would hasten the Messiah, it’s completely untrue to suggest that most (yet alone all) do so for this reason.
Hebron today is a striking manifestation of what that vision means for the Palestinian population. The 30,000 or so Palestinians living in the part of the city under Israeli control are not even allowed to walk on certain streets, while roughly 800 Israeli settlers, under the protection of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), have steadily taken over Palestinian homes and businesses since the 1990s.
This is extremely misleading.
In January 1997, Israel ceded control of more than 80% of Hebron to the Palestinians. The city was divided into two sectors: area H-1, which comprised over 80% of the city and is controlled by the Palestinian Authority; and area H-2, where Israeli Jews live under Israel control. Palestinians, too, live in area H-2 (just under 20% of the city), except for a small area, giving them access to both sectors of Hebron, whereas Israeli Jews are confined to area H-2.
So, the truth is that Jews are denied access to 80% of the historic city.
One final note. In the article, McKernan writes that “20% of the Israeli population…identifies as Palestinian“. She’s of course referring to Arab citizens of Israel. However, they largley do NOT identity as “Palestinian”. As CAMERA has demonstrated repeatedly, a mere fraction of Arab-Israelis prefers to be called “Palestinians.” A 2020 survey by Tel Aviv University found that nearly a quarter define themselves as “Israeli,” and half self-identify as “Israeli Arab”, while only seven percent choose to call themselves “Palestinians.”
As we’ve shown time and time again, any resemblance Bethan McKernan’s reports on the region may have to reality is completey coincidental.