The Jordan Times (Editorial)
December 4, 2008 - 1:00am

Nothing illustrates better the “separate laws for separate people” ethos of the Israeli state than the standoff over a house in Hebron that has been taken over by Jewish extremists.

The presence of a few hundred extremist Jewish settlers in the centre of Hebron has long been an outrageous provocation to the city’s 150,000 Palestinians. The settlers in Hebron, furthermore, are of the very worst kind. They are racist and anti-Muslim, and sustain a supremacist arrogance derived from their belief in divine entitlement.

It is from their ranks that Baruch Goldstein sprang, a “doctor” who refused to treat non-Jews and who finally snapped, walking into a mosque in Hebron in February 1994 during prayer and opening fire with an automatic machinegun, killing 29 worshippers and wounding tens of others.

They are, in short, the kind of people who unfortunately are found everywhere, usually holed up with women and children in some compound in Texas waiting for aliens to pick them up. But they are holding an entire city captive and an entire state hostage.

That Israel has allowed these messianic cults to flourish on occupied territory says a lot about how this country has dealt with its responsibilities under international law.

That the army is afraid to confront them shows a lot about the ethos of Israel’s armed forces and government.

Let there be no mistake about it: if a few hundred Palestinians set up a compound in the centre of Tel Aviv, daubing anti-Semitic slogans on synagogues and houses, they would be dealt with in no uncertain terms.

The Israeli far right has had an iron grip on successive Israeli governments. It has an iron grip on this government.

There can be no peace with Palestinians for as long as these people are allowed to act with impunity or maintain an illegal presence in the West Bank. There can thus be no peace in the region.

The Israeli government now faces a serious choice, one that will have long-term ramifications. Either it stands up to these fanatics, evacuates them from the house in question and takes the opportunity to evacuate them all from the centre of Hebron, or it slinks away, tail between its legs.

The first way, the Israeli government will send a signal both to the far right and to the Palestinians that it is serious about peace. The second will only encourage extremists everywhere.


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