Harriet Sherwood’s story on April 4, Israel evicts settlers from Hebron house, reported on the forced removal, by Israeli security personnel, of a Jewish family from a house in Hebron yesterday – a home they claimed to have purchased legally. (According to Israeli authorities, the family had failed to obtain the required permit to purchase property.)
Sherwood’s report included these lines:
Israeli security forces have evicted a group of hardline settlers from a Palestinian house in Hebron,
About 500 hardline settlers live in a closed military zone in the heart of Hebron, protected by a large military presence.
Sherwood’s previous report, on April 3, prior to the eviction, included this headline:
That report included this:
The Israeli prime minister has intervened to prevent the eviction of hardline Jewish settlers from a house in the tense West Bank city of Hebron…
What is a “hardline settler”?
Well, in the context of Hebron it refers to Jews who live in perhaps the oldest Jewish community in the world, which dates back to Biblical times – designated as the second holiest city in Judaism, containing sites of historical significance such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Jews have lived in Hebron almost continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke, and Ottoman periods, and it was only in 1929 — as a result of an Arab pogrom in which 67 Jews were murdered and the remainder were forced to flee — that the city became temporarily “free” of Jews.
Under Jordanian control from 1949 to 1967 Jews were not allowed to enter the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and authorities undertook a systematic campaign to obliterate evidence of the Jewish history in the city. They razed the Jewish Quarter, desecrated the Jewish cemetery and built an animal pen on the ruins of the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
After the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jewish community of Hebron was re-established, and today the city has approximately 500 Jews (who live there consistent with the terms of the Oslo accords accepted by the PA) and 150,000 Arab residents.
Calling Jews currently living or wishing to live in Hebron “settlers” necessarily implies that they are colonizing land with which they have no connection.
Worse, referring to such Israelis as “hardline settlers”, as Sherwood does, suggests that there’s something radical or extreme about the desire not to keep the city completely free of Jews.
Such characterizations demonstrate either intellectually laziness or – more likely – ideologically-inspired, completely ahistorical, propaganda.