Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave his approval to the establishment of a new Jewish-only settlement in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron, and several families moved in, on Sunday, with the assistance of a military phalanx which paraded the settlers through the city and established them in an illegally-seized Palestinian home.The ‘House of Contention’, known by Palestinians as the Ragaby building, was initially settled in 2007, by a group of settlers who claimed to have purchased the property four years earlier. The Palestinian owner contested that claim, since the settlers had tricked the Palestinian owner into selling them the property. The case went back and forth in the Israeli court system, until an appeal to the Supreme Court last month was overruled, thus allowing the settlers to go forward with taking over the property.
Israeli soldiers accompanied the settlers onto the property on Sunday, with some soldiers waving Israeli flags and others ensuring the water and sewer connection to the property. The chief rabbi of Hebron, the controversial right-winger Dov Lior, cheered the settlement establishment, saying “real peace will be when the nations of the world recognize the exclusive right of the Jewish people to this land”.
The Israeli veterans group ‘Breaking the Silence’, issued a statement that “Six hundred and fifty IDF soldiers and border policemen defend the extremist settlements in Hebron today. As soldiers who served in the city, we know a new Hebron settlement will require the deployment of additional troops to conduct missions, including closing down roads, shutting down shops and instilling a sense of being pursued among the local Palestinian inhabitants. The significance of populating the ‘House of Contention’ must be recognized as another submission to extremist groups and an acceleration of the silent transfer of Palestinians from Hebron’s city center.”
The building in which the settlers established themselves on Sunday can house up to 20 families, and the settlers vowed to fill that building and more. The head of Kiryat Arba, another controversial right-wing settlement located in Hebron, called on the Israeli court to rule in favor of a settlement called ‘Beit Hamachpela’, which the settlers hope to establish near Ibrahimi mosque, in the heart of Hebron.
Ibrahimi mosque is the site of a 1994 massacre in which 29 Muslim worshipers were gunned down by right-wing Zionist American doctor Baruch Goldstein. On the twentieth anniversary of the massacre, in February, +972Mag published a special report, which included this overview of some of Hebron’s history: “For centuries, a small Arabic-speaking Jewish community had lived at peace with its neighbors in Hebron, with whom they shared many cultural ties. It was not until the influx of European Jews arrived at the turn of the 20th century that tensions rose, especially following the Balfour Declaration. These tensions boiled over in August 1929, as violence spread from Jerusalem following a Jewish nationalist march on the Western Wall. Though hundreds of Hebron’s Jews were protected by their Muslim neighbors, 67 were killed in riots fueled by false rumors that Muslims were being massacred in Jerusalem.
“Though Hebron’s contemporary settlers purport to be reclaiming areas that were Jewish prior to the 1929 violence, most of them are once again foreigners (including many Americans) with little connection to the original owners. Their ideological agenda sharply contrasts with the generally good relations enjoyed by Jews who lived in Palestine before the Zionist movement. These settlers continue to expand their presence in Hebron by taking over more Palestinian homes and properties, often through fraudulent means accompanied by violent harassment. Though ownership of several such properties in Hebron is currently under deliberation by Israeli courts, all settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.”