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Haaretz: No to evacuation

By Gideon Levy

The Yahalom and Bar Kochba families must be returned without delay to their homes in the wholesale marketplace from which they were expelled. The Israel Defense Forces must immediately reconnect their electricity and water and ensure their safety, day and night, as it does for all the settlers in the city. In return the Yahaloms and Bar Kochbas will serve the soldiers coffee and cookies, and kugel for Shabbat, as they always do.

We must also apologize to the families for expelling them: They should not have been discriminated against in comparison with the city’s other settlers. There is no difference between their act of robbery and the other acts of robbery in the city. Bar Kochba and Yahalom stole property that was stolen long ago; the store owners on whose property they squatted have not seen their shops for years and will not get them back now, so there is no reason to complain about the squatters’ behavior. That’s what everyone does in Hebron.

It would also have been better had the self-righteous evacuation performance, which incorporated a very large force, 3,000 soldiers and policemen, never taken place – including the staged acts of refusal and violence that are a hallmark of the well-timed show. These absurd acts of evacuation don’t help anyone, they only cause damage. In Hebron there should be one rule: all or nothing. Either the government has the courage to uproot the entire abscess, or it should allow it to grow unabated.

There is no other place in the territories where the essence of the truth and the evil of the settlement enterprise is revealed, without camouflage, as in the City of the Patriarchs. Here the violence, dispossession and terror against a helpless population are a daily routine diabolically taught from birth. So the failure to uproot the Hebron settlers is the real crime, and we will pay for it.

The Hebron “evacuation” show serves the settlement policy of the government, which raves about the importance of peace. Two families were evacuated with feigned force, in the face of feigned resistance, and the pictures were displayed all over the world; proof that there is a government in Israel. It’s a false display. As this group was being evacuated, construction on hundreds of other homes in the territories continued, on stolen land.

But the settlers, of course, are the main beneficiaries of the “evacuation.” After their violence caused the residents of 1,014 apartments and the owners of 1,829 businesses to leave, turning Hebron’s center into a ghost town, the evacuation came and distinguished between one robbery and another. Is it forbidden to steal the two apartments in the marketplace? That means that all the other acts of robbery and oppression in the city are kosher in the government’s eyes.

With typical cynicism and stratagems the settlers have built a network of intimidation and resistance, including their Judgment Day weapon – the refusal to obey orders – to signal once again to the Israeli public: Look how difficult it is to evacuate two families; forget about evacuating tens of thousands. They tried to do that during the Gaza disengagement, they continue to do so by bemoaning the Gaza evacuees’ bitter fate, and now they are transferring the battle to the West Bank.

This spin works well: Israel is now discussing the marginal refusal by a dozen soldiers to obey orders to evacuate, instead of evacuating tens of thousands, and the president is proposing a territory exchange as a solution to the “impossible” evacuation of the settlements. That is how to terrorize, in close cooperation with the IDF and government. An evacuation that could have been carried out in minutes, in the middle of the night and by surprise, as is done to the Palestinians whose homes are demolished, was carried out in the spotlight, with several weeks’ advance warning, to allow the settlers to produce their big show and benefit with pictures of it.

Nothing has changed in Hebron after the evacuation. Thousands of Palestinians who lost their property and their chance for a decent life, the victims of genuine ethnic cleansing, are doomed to a life of poverty and humiliation, and no one can help them. The settlers’ celebration continues in full force, and most Israelis continue to stare at what is happening with horrifying indifference. They are shocked only at the highly publicized refusal of a handful of soldiers and are clicking their tongues: We will never be able to evacuate the settlers.