By Bilal Ghaith

Palestinian activists called for receiving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Hebron, Wednesday, with black flags on homes near the Ibrahimi Mosque as observers, politicians and historians dismissed all allegations regarding the “visit” describing it as a provocation.

According to Maarive newspaper, Netanyahu is set to take part in a ritual in the illegal Jewish-only settlement in Hebron, on the steps of the Ibrahimi Mosque, the site where 29 Palestinians were massacred at the hands of an extremist named Baruch Goldstein, in 1994.

These rituals will be held in the presence of Netanyahu, Isareli government ministers and Likud Knesset members, on the premier’s first official visit to occupied Hebron in 13 years. An official ceremony will be held at the site to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1929 al-Buraq uprising.

During this visit, Netanyahu will try to flirt with the ultra-right wing members of Israel, living in illegal settlements in the old city of Hebron, in order to get them to vote for the extreme right camp in the Israeli elections scheduled for September 17.

Itamar Ben-Gefer, Baruch Marzel, and Bentsi Govstein, leaders of the Otsma Yehudit movement, which represents the margins of the ultra-religious right and which demands the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, the 1948 territories and Jerusalem, live in these settlements.

The President of al-Quds Open University, a researcher in Hebron City, Younis Amr, said the facts that underpin Netanyahu’s visit to Hebron are all fake. He came to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque, built by the prophet Abraham, and it is a purely Islamic site occupied in 1967 and divided into a Jewish/Muslim site as a result the massacre.

Amr said Netanyahu’s invocation of the 90th anniversary of the al-Buraq uprising, in which Israel claims that Jews in Hebron and in Palestine in general were subjected to Palestinian attacks, is invalid and contrary to historical facts.

He said that “the claim is false, and those who killed the Jews at the time, was the British Mandate, but Netanyahu is trying to falsely blame it on the Palestinians.”

Amr asserted that Netanyahu is considered the worst Israeli Prime Minister because all his policies are based on incitement, siding with the advocates of apartheid and aggression. This is offensive even to his state, which claims modern democracy, and thus he is committed to occupation, hatred and racial discrimination.

The settlers of Hebron demand from Netanyahu a decision to confiscate the wholesale market and give it to them by claiming that it is historically owned by the Jewish residents of Hebron.

The so-called legal adviser to the Israeli government issued an order nine months ago that ended the Palestinian municipality of Hebron’s control over the market, known as the wholesale market, and to plan to establish a Jewish settlement in the site.

For his part, chairman of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee Imad Hamdan told WAFA that Netanyahu’s visit to Hebron is rejected, stating “Those who want to compete in the Israeli elections come to Hebron to satisfy the ultra-right wing settlers in Hebron, and this is absolutely rejected by the people of the old city of Hebron.”

The old city suffers greatly from the practices and policies of the occupation, which divides it into four parts, where movement is only on foot and through the gates, he said.

There are areas that only residents are allowed to access while there is an area where Palestinians are strictly prohibited from entering. Thus the old Hebron is closed and surrounded by barriers and electronic gates, which has affected all economic sectors, and restricts movement of the people.

Visit Arrangements

The Israeli army informed residents living near the Ibrahimi Mosque, Tuesday, of its intention to impose a curfew in conjunction with Netanyahu’s visit.

Activists in Hebron called on the residents of the old city to raise black flags on the roofs of their homes, specifically in the vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque and opposite al-Dabouya settlement to stress their rejection of the visit.

Political analyst Khalil Shaheen told WAFA that the visit has an important significance in light of the competition for the Israeli elections, especially for the most right-wing votes where Netanyahu’s campaign is focused on trying to win for the Likud party to be able to win the elections and form a government.

The visit aims to convey the message that Netanyahu is continuing to Judaize the city amid the preparations for annexing parts of the West Bank, including Hebron, he added.

Netanyahu is trying to attract the votes of the settlers, which constitute 13% of the total votes and is a strong bloc in the elections. It is clear he wants to say this from the Ibrahimi Mosque where the ultra right-wing settlers are.

He explained that the city of Hebron is targeted not only by settlements, but also large parts of it may be on its list for annexation. Netanyahu made a commitment from within the settlement Alkana, built on land from Salfit, and he is expected to repeat these pledges to impose Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank. This threatens the city of Hebron and the entire area in the south and southwest of the West Bank.

Settlement began in the city of Hebron since its occupation in 1967, according to the information center in WAFA. Some buildings were seized inside the city and converted into residential neighborhoods for Jews in order to geographically link these Jewish areas and the settlement of Kiryat Arba through digging tunnels and construction of roads, which means the seizure of Palestinian property and land. This plan was implemented with the admittance of 73 settlers in the city of Hebron on May 10, 1968, where they inhabited al-Nahr al-Khaled hotel and announced their intention to stay with the support of the Israeli occupation authorities. The number of settlements in the governorate was 30, in addition to more than 20 outposts.

The deputy mayor of Hebron, Yusuf al-Jabari, told WAFA that the Israeli efforts to seize the wholesale market in Hebron were rejected, and that Netanyahu was using Hebron to remain as prime minister, he denounced this visit completely.

Al-Jabari said that the seizure of the properties of the Hebron municipality in the wholesale market is unacceptable, and that Netanyahu does not have the right to seize these properties since the Hebron agreement signed with the occupation stipulates that the right of full administration in the occupied part of the city is to the municipality of Hebron, and therefore the entire settlements are illegal.

He called on the sponsors of the agreement to intervene to prevent Netanyahu from taking over the property of the Hebron municipality.

Author : Bilal Ghaith for WAFA
Edited for IMEMC : Ali Salam