By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Palestine
On the 25th of February, 1994, as hundreds of Muslim worshipers were performing the dawn prayer at the Ibrahimi Mosque in downtown Hebron, a Jewish-American terrorist by the name of Baruch Goldstein descended onto the mosque from the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arbaa, spraying the worshipers with machinegun bullets, killing at least 29 people and injuring many others.
The terrorist, who used his army-issued Galilion rifle, wanted to kill as many innocent people as possible in order to create mass terror throughout the city, the largest in the West Bank. His motive was to thoroughly terrorize the Arabs, who constitute 99.5% of the city's population.
The Israeli occupation authorities, who had to tackle a public relations disaster, denied any complicity or collusion with the perpetrator.
Israeli officials, including then Prime Minister Isaac Rabin claimed the massacre was thunder on a clear day. However, it was hard to believe that the terrorist could not have reached the heavily-protected premises of the huge compound without some connivance with the strong Israeli army garrison at the site.
Goldstein himself was eventually overpowered and killed by survivors, fearing he would still kill more worshipers. Many settler leaders had the audacity to demand the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for Goldstein's death.
Many Jewish religious leaders praised the mass murderer, calling him a great saint and hero. Eventually, a monument perpetuating his memory was erected in Kiryat Arbaa and Jewish pilgrims from as far as California came to pay their respects to and be blessed by the tomb.
Goldstein was also eulogized by many rabbis and Torah sages who heaped praise on him, arguing that a thousand Gentile or Goyem were not worth a Jew's fingernail.
One rabbi, when asked about the religious admissibility of murdering innocent non-Jewish people, said he was not only sorry about the death of innocent Arabs but that he was also sorry about the death of innocent flies!!!
Following the bloodbath, the Israeli government carried out a huge public relations campaign aimed at convincing western especially American public opinion that the Israeli government played no part in the carnage.
Israeli officials argued that Israel and most Jews were dismayed by the criminal act as much as anyone else.
However, polls in Israel and abroad showed that a majority of Jews, including Israeli high school students, enthusiastically supported the evil deed. Moreover, subsequent measures taken against the Palestinians as well as the excessive leniency toward settlers, who hailed the massacre, suggested the government was indifferent toward the massacre and behaved as if the lives of non-Jews were worthless.
No thunder on clear day
The claim that the massacre surprised the Israeli government was too fabulous and disingenuous to be believed. In truth, the massacre was preceded by a poisoned campaign of incitement against the Palestinians by Talmudic circles.
Goldstein was affiliated with the religious Zionist school of thought as taught by Abraham Kook.
According to the authors of "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel," Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky (Pluto Press, 1999), Kook is quoted as saying that "the differences between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews -all of them in all different levels- is greater and deeper than the differences between a human soul and the souls of cattle."
And, according to some torah sages, the difference between Jews and Gentiles is not religious or political. It is rather racial, genetic, and scientifically unalterable.
One group is at its very root and by its very nature "totally evil." While the other is "totally good." Some rabbinic circles with which the killer Goldstein was closely affiliated would quote heavily from the Talmud and Old Testament, justifying genocidal treatment of non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular.
Goldstein was a follower of the manifestly racist rabbi Meir Kahana, who believed in the necessity of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. In 1978, he wrote a book entitled "They Must Go." Fourteen years later, following a speech in a New York City hotel, in which he called for uprooting all Palestinians from Palestine-Israel, Kahana was assassinated.
Today, 18 years later, While Goldstein himself no longer exists, "Goldsteinism", e.g. anti-Palestinian hatred and vindictiveness, is alive and well among the settlers.
A few years ago, Daniella Weiss, a settler leader, visited Hebron to encourage settler squatters, who had taken over an Arab property in the city, to resist government efforts to vacate them.
Weiss, a former mayor of a northern West Bank settlement, quoted extensively from the Old Testament verses urging the ancient Israelites to slaughter every man, woman and child and not leave a breathing thing. According to Weiss, "this is the only way to deal with the Arabs."
Following the massacre, the Israeli occupation army put, all of Hebron, the Arabs, not the settlers, under the harshest and longest curfew ever imposed since the onset of the occupation in 1967.
So cruel was it that several residents succumbed to their illness because they were denied access to local hospitals. Israeli officials argued rather dishonestly that the curfew was justified by "the security situation." However, it was clear, at least from the Palestinian view point that the main purpose behind the extended lockdown was to push as many Palestinians in the Old Town as possible to leave their homes in order to facilitate the coveted takeover of these homes by Jewish settlers.
Needless to say, these fears and suspicions have since been validated and thoroughly vindicated.
The Shamgar commission, a board of inquiry appointed by the Israeli government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the massacre, concluded that the Israeli occupation authorities had consistently failed to investigate let alone prosecute crimes committed by settlers against Palestinians.
But perhaps it was a local military commander Noam Tivon who said it most honestly when he told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz: "Let there be no mistake about it. I am not from the U.N., I am from the IDF and I didn't come here to seek people to drink tea with, but first of all to ensure the security of the Jewish settlers."
It is probably safe to say that the overall situation in Hebron as well the rest of the occupied territories is very much similar to what was the situation on the eve of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre 18 years ago.
Jewish terrorists, otherwise called settlers, routinely vandalize Muslim and to a lesser extent Christian houses of worship and scrawl racist graffiti on their walls, insulting religious symbols of both religions,
In addition, the settlers regularly storm the Aqsa Mosque with heavy protection from the Israeli army and police. This gives the fanatical settlers a feeling of empowerment, which emboldens them to commit acts of terror, vandalism, and even murder against the Palestinians, without risking arrest and prosecution by an inherently unfair justice system that ipso facto discriminates against non-Jews.
Had the Ibrahimi Mosque carnage been committed in any other country, the government would have at the very least vacated the harmful settlers.
However, far from doing such a step, the Israeli government actually acted to strengthen the settler presence in Hebron while doing everything possible to harass the native Palestinians and push them to leave.
More importantly, the Israeli occupation authorities resorted to draconian measures against the Palestinians very presence in the old town. This brings us to the Shuhada Street where Palestinian traffic and even Palestinian individuals are off limit to the central thoroughfare which links the Bab El Zawiya district, the commercial heart of the city, to the eastern and southern suburbs as well as the neighboring smaller towns such as Yatta and Dura.
Some of the buildings abutting the street on both sides go back to the British and Ottoman eras. In recent years, efforts were made to rehabilitate the street. However, Jewish settlers fought the project, breaking street lights and the paving stones, as well as hurling stones at the workers.
Today Shuhada Street is a ghost scene. Only Israeli settlers, soldiers and foreign tourists are allowed to access it. And what they see is anti-Arab graffiti sprayed or scrawled across the streets. Some of this graffiti is particularly ugly, such as "kill the Arabs" and "Arabs to the gas chambers."
More bizarre are the metal mesh cages that enclose the balconies of houses where Palestinians continue to live. For these Palestinians to exit their homes -the Israelis have bolted their outside doors- they have to use dangerous ladders, or crawl out the windows in the back of their apartments and go from roof to roof.
Needless to say, the impact of all this harassment is calculated by both the settlers and the Israeli political-security establishment to make the daily life of Palestinians living in Old Hebron, especially along Shuhada Street, an enduring nightmare. And it has.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|