Common Ground News Service - Middle East
by Amos Goldberg
04 December 2008
JERUSALEM – A new way needs to be carved out that will allow Israel to
express its nationalism in Hebron without conceding land or creating an
In many ways, the dilemma posed by Hebron embodies the ongoing struggle of
Zionism since its inception over the biblical territories of Israel.
Hebron, however, presents this dilemma in starker, sharper, and more
The basic argument presented by the settlers in Hebron is entirely
justified. More so than Tel Aviv, Raanana, Sderot or Kiryat Shemona, in
fact any other city in Israel aside from Jerusalem, the Jewish ties to the
city of Hebron are greater and less questionable.. The continuous Jewish
presence over the ages, the The Tomb of the Patriarchs, the 1929 Arab
assault on the city's Jews and the city's sanctity – all of these render
the thought that Jews may no longer live, visit or pray in Hebron
unbearable. In the midst of a discourse centred on historical, religious,
ethnic and national rights – there is no settlement more legitimate than
the Jewish settlement in Hebron.
In the current situation the Jewish presence in Hebron is made possible
only by means of violent occupation and harsh discrimination (that may be
termed apartheid). The situation in Hebron today is such that basic values
of equity, civil and human rights, and the recognition of another nation's
historical and national rights are all being denied – an unacceptable and
irrational position for anyone with basic moral sensitivities.
The grave mistake of Hebron's Jewish settlers and their supporters is that
they are not seeking to resolve this dilemma. Many of them do not even
recognise its existence. They only recognise one point of reference for any
discussion over Hebron and that is from the ethnic, historical, religious
and national rights of one, and only one, side. For this reason they feel
justified forging documents (as has been intimated not only in the most
recent controversial acquisition of a house in Hebron but also in other
cases such as the Shapiro House), committing daily violent acts against
Palestinians and assaulting Israeli officials.
To them Palestinians are not entitled to property rights in the Land of
Israel and this is the reason a court decision, which would seem just and
reasonable any other place in Israel or worldwide, was seen as vicious and
scandalous and warranting violent opposition.
Those familiar with the political discourses prevalent among many of the
settlers and their affiliated circles such as the Bnei Akiva youth
organisation know that they envision an apartheid state in its true form.
According to their plans, the Palestinians in Israel (or Hebron for that
matter) will be granted residency rights and not citizenship – similar to
the legal status of the blacks in Apartheid South Africa or Jews in Germany
under the Nurenberg laws. This option seems unacceptable to me as well.
So where can we compromise in order to try and foster a solution to the
Maybe the concept of sovereignty, which lies very much at the heart of the
conflict, should be redefined. We know that this concept has been
undergoing radical changes in recent years, for example in Europe following
the European Union. Maybe we too can bend the concept of sovereignty in our
region to suit our needs.
We have become accustomed to viewing only full sovereignty, which is by
definition exclusionary, as the realisation of the national rights of the
Jewish people and its aspiration for a national home. But perhaps Hebron
requires a different kind of national aspiration, one that will not equate
national territorial rights with violent and exclusive sovereignty.
A bi-national mode of thinking may be more appropriate for Hebron, one
that will recognise both the Jewish and Palestinian claims over the city.
Likewise a settlement should recognise some sort of joint sovereignty both
on the municipal and national levels. Moreover, perhaps this is the best
settlement not only for Hebron but for all of Israel.
Any settlement along these lines will require us to entirely revamp the
way we view our relationship with the Palestinians and it will of course
need to be outlined through negotiations with them so that it will address
their national, historical, religious, and economic needs as well.
Ironically, it seems likely that giving up exclusive and exclusionary
sovereignty as a way of realising national rights will be easier than any
alternative that will present us with a choice between an apartheid state
or conceding valuable parts of Israel and displacing hundreds of Jews from
* Amos Goldberg is a fellow at the Scholion Institute of the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem and the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and a member
of the Children of Abraham peace organisation. This article originally
appeared in Hebrew in YNet News and has been translated by CGNews. It is
distributed by CGNews with permission from YNet News.
Source: YNet News, 27 November 2008, www.ynet.co.il.
Copyright permission is granted for publication.