Commentary: Hebron Villagers’ Plight Well-Documented By HENRY NORR

Tuesday October 04, 2005

If John Gertz actually wants to understand what he calls “anti-Israelism,” I suggest he take a break from name-calling and use the time to learn a bit about what’s happening on the ground in occupied Palestine.  

My report from a hamlet in the south Hebron hills section of the West Bank (Daily Planet, Aug. 30) has now earned me two denunciations from Gertz, plus a letter from his comrade in arms, Dan Spitzer, comparing me to Goebbels. But neither of them disputes what I wrote: Israeli settlers in the area (most of them living in outposts that are illegal even under Israeli law, yet continue to enjoy government assistance and army protection) routinely resort to harassment and violence in hopes of driving Palestinian villagers out of their ancestral homes. 

If Gertz, Spitzer, and anyone else choose not to believe what I wrote because of my association with the International Solidarity Movement, so be it—there are plenty of other sources that document this ongoing attempt at ethnic cleansing. For starters, I’d suggest the regular reports from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, who for years have maintained a presence in At-Tuwani, a village just a few miles from the one I stayed in this summer. Among other things, these reports cover the settlers’ repeated attempts to poison that village’s wells and flocks, as well as an attack a year ago that seriously injured two CPT members, including San Francisco resident Chris Brown, as they escorted Palestinian children to school. 

If Gertz et al. won’t trust the CPT—they’re goyim, after all—maybe they would believe Israeli sources. In June of this year, Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s largest newspapers, reported that “The settlers’ attacks on the Palestinians in this region are a daily occurrence. The most extreme zealots keep coming up with ever-more malicious and destructive ideas—arson, plowing cultivated fields, bringing herds to seeded fields, poisoning sheep, poisoning water wells and more.”  

Finally, B’Tselem, the widely respected Israeli human rights group, has issued a series of exhaustively documented reports on the situation in the Hebron hills. Some highlights from the latest, published just two months ago: 

• “B’Tselem’s survey found that, over the past three years, eighty-eight percent of the residents have been victims of settler violence, or witnessed such violence toward a first-degree relative. No village has managed to escape settler abuse.” 

• “Settler violence against Palestinians is common all over the West Bank. However, throughout the history of the occupation, efforts to enforce the law against settlers have been limited and ineffective.” 

• “…in most cases, not only do soldiers turn a blind eye to settler attacks on Palestinians, they aid the attackers.” 

All of this concerns just one small section of the West Bank. When you consider all the other outrages associated with the occupation—the killing and maiming of children and other innocent civilians, the home demolitions, the “administrative detentions” (imprisonment without trial), the curfews and “closures” and checkpoints that make normal life impossible, and now the monstrous Wall—is it any wonder that “anti-Israelism” is increasing, not just in Berkeley but wherever people value justice? 

For the record, let me add that almost everything Gertz wrote about me personally was incorrect. Becky O’Malley didn’t “appoint [me] as her Middle East reporter”—she simply accepted an article I submitted on a freelance basis. I was not “in the Middle East as a member of the ISM” —I was taking part in the “Palestine Summer Encounter,” a annual program sponsored by the Holy Land Trust and the Middle East Fellowship (and one I highly recommend to anyone who wants to see first-hand what’s really happening on the West Bank).  

Last but not least, neither I nor the ISM “praises and supports Palestinian terror.” 


Henry Norr is a Berkeley resident and former technology reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.