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As usual, policy is set by the settlers - Haaretz, Israel

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  • Zafar Khan
    As usual, policy is set by the settlers By Akiva Eldar
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2002
      As usual, policy is set by the settlers

      By Akiva Eldar

      "Tell me, please, what am I supposed to do now?" the
      local Palestinian
      leader from the Bethlehem area asked the western
      diplomat. They were
      watching as a huge bulldozer dugs its teeth into the
      land of Beit Sahur,
      paving another road to bypass the Palestinians for the
      glory of the
      Israeli occupation. The road is particularly meant for
      the residents of
      Nokdim, the settlement that is home to MK Avigdor
      Lieberman. "What would
      you do in my place?" asked the Palestinian, a moderate
      who is far from
      being a proponent of violence. "Would you watch from
      the side as the
      settlers take your land, or would you shoot at the

      Those aren't the questions that are bothering the
      Tanzim leadership or
      the commanders of the Al-Aqsa Brigades. They, like the
      vast majority of
      Palestinians in the territories (92 percent according
      to the most
      recent poll by Dr. Khalil Shikaki), are in complete
      agreement about the
      legitimacy of the violent struggle against the
      settlers and the army that
      protects them.

      The dilemma nowadays for non-religious Palestinians
      touches on the
      efficacy and morality of the suicide bombings inside
      the state of Israel,
      proper. There are growing signs that if Israel were to
      hint that it is
      ready, with the Palestinians, for a reprise of the
      Grapes of Wrath
      understandings, the unwritten agreement that in its
      day took the Galilee and
      the villages of south Lebanon out of the armed
      conflict, it would find
      the Tanzim and Al Aqsa Brigades willing partners.

      But the option of ceasing the intifada inside the
      occupied territories
      is considered by Palestinians to be about as realistic
      as the
      possibility the Sharon government will cease
      expropriating land for the purpose
      of building bypass roads. Even hinting about a general
      cease-fire, and
      talk about reforms without any tangible political
      return, is considered

      Sources in the uppermost echelons of the Palestinian
      Authority say
      that's one of the reasons that Yasser Arafat's
      financial adviser, Mohammed
      Rashid, is delaying his return from overseas. In
      Ramallah they didn't
      like hearing the reports about his discussions in
      Washington about
      reforms in the PA.

      Another reason, Ramallah sources claim, is that Rashid
      is believed to
      have besmirched Preventive Security chief Jibril
      Rajoub, saying he
      turned in Fatah men to IDF troops who besieged his
      headquarters. Minister
      Hassan Asfour paid with broken hands and legs for a
      similar charge.

      Anyone expecting Palestinians to quit killing
      settlers, should have a
      few words with Aziz Amaru, deputy minister for Waqf
      affairs in Hebron.
      Amaru has been spending the past several days running
      back and forth
      between the downtown wholesale market in the old city
      of Hebron and the
      local police station. All he wants is for the Israeli
      authorities to
      enforce the law against the settlers who have squatted
      in the shops of the
      wholesale market, which is property of the Muslim
      religious trust.

      After Baruch Goldstein's 1994 Purim day massacre of
      praying Muslims in
      the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Israel ordered the shops
      of the wholesale
      market shuttered; since then, the shops, next to the
      Avraham Avinu
      Jewish neighborhood, have been closed. A few months
      ago, Hebron settlers
      took over one of the buildings and turned four shops
      into apartments and a
      kindergarten. In the past few days they've taken over
      four more shops
      in an adjacent building.
      maru says the Waqf complied with the suggestion by
      the police that
      they weld the doors of the shops shut. Yesterday
      morning, settlers used
      force to chase off the welders and the police who were
      guarding them, and
      locked up the Waqf officials on the second floor of
      the building.

      Palestinian Hebronites are asking themselves if the
      police would have
      behaved with the same measure of restraint if it had
      been Palestinians
      marching into a Jewish-owned shop. The settlers'
      behavior, and the
      equanimity, in the best of cases, of the security
      forces toward Jewish
      lawbreakers in the territories, strengthens the hand
      of those Palestinians
      who support the armed struggle. Their analysis of the
      expropriations, closures of land and tree uprootings,
      is that war against the
      settlers is a battle for their homes.

      Even the muezzin is not allowed to call the people to
      prayers anymore
      in Hebron. The soldiers explained to the Waqf that the
      calls, made from the minarets of Hebron for hundreds
      of years, "disturb the

      It is becoming ever more reminiscent of the Algerian
      campaign against
      the French colonists. Even if someone upstairs decides
      to stop the
      suicide bombers on their way to Petah Tikva, there's
      no chance that any
      Palestinian leader will condemn a Hebronite who
      decides to shoot a settler
      who invades his home.

      A recent petition to the High Court of Justice can
      illuminate why the
      Palestinians hate the settlers so much. Jerusalem
      attorney Shlomo Lecker
      petitioned the court in the name of two residents of
      the village of
      Tu'ana, in south Mt. Hebron. He says that the case is
      typical of the
      routine of ruthless land grabbing, under full cover of
      the army and the
      government - and of the settlers' utter disregard for
      the law.

      The story begins in September 2001. A group of
      settlers began
      construction of a cement platform on a piece of land
      bordering farm land owned
      by Mohammed Mussa Jibrin and Ahmed Mohammed Mohammed.
      Yosef Adir, a top
      official in the South Mt. Hebron Regional Council,
      supervised the
      construction work.

      The landowners hurried to the Kiryat Arba police
      station to file a
      complaint against the settlers' incursion on their
      land. "After filing
      their complaint," writes Lecker in the petition, "one
      Major Zvika arrived
      on the scene. He is known to the petitioners as the
      officer in the civil
      administration responsible for the area. With him was
      a civil
      administration official named Amos. Zvika told the
      petitioners and their lawyer,
      Mussa Mahmara, that the construction work was being
      done without
      permission. Amos told them he had issued a cease and
      desist order, but it was
      impossible to enforce, `because the settlers won't
      obey the order.' He
      recommended they go to the High Court of Justice."

      Over the next two weeks, under the supervision of
      Adir, ostensibly a
      government official as a regional council official,
      the concrete platform
      was completed and a water tower was established.

      At the end of September, the landowners contacted
      Lecker, and asked him
      to come to the site. "Two kilometers away from the
      hilltop where the
      outpost is being built, in an isolated, hilly area,"
      writes Lecker, "I
      came across a military checkpoint. The checkpoint
      commander, who
      identified himself as Major Gilad, showed me an order
      closing the area, along
      with a map. On the map, a triangle was drawn around
      the area the
      outpost, which was named in the military order as
      `Avigail Point.' Major Gilad
      clarified that the regional commander, who signed the
      order, wanted it
      closed to prohibit entry/approach to the outpost

      After Lecker protested that settlers were driving by
      the checkpoint
      without being stopped by the soldiers, the officer
      pointed out a sentence
      in the military order specifying that the order did
      not cover
      "authorized" people. Three days later, those
      "authorized" settlers moved mobile
      homes to "Avigail Point."

      A statement by the state prosecutor to the High Court
      in response to
      the petition, confirms that the Civil Administration's
      inspectors did
      find that two more mobile homes, as well as a shed and
      an old bus, had
      been placed at the site. The state says that on
      February 24, two orders
      were issued, demanding an end to the construction.

      But Lecker produced a document proving that as far as
      the settlers are
      concerned, the West Bank is the Wild West, and for the
      Ministry, which is headed by a man who has said that
      he doesn't regard
      restraining the settlers as very important, the
      settler behavior in the
      territories can go on just the way it has.

      The document Lecker produced is a letter signed by
      Major Yossi Shapira,
      assistant military secretary to the defense minister.
      It says that a
      cease and desist order for the construction at the
      illegal outpost was
      issued, "and if the settlers do not evacuate the area
      on their own, the
      army will evacuate them tomorrow."

      Shapira's letter is dated October 21, 2001. Apparently
      it had some
      influence on a rare High Court's decision, issued
      three weeks ago, to order
      the army to enforce the orders the army already issued
      "Avigail Point" and to prevent any further
      construction there. Until, of
      course, the settlers get their authorizations.

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