Several days ago, the occupation authorities began the implementation of a new Judaisation project in the vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque in the city of Hebron. The apparent goal of this project is to build an elevator to facilitate settlers’ storming of the mosque, the construction of which will consist of seizing about 300 square metres of the mosque’s courtyards and facilities. However, the project serves the goal of completely Judaising the mosque and making it a purely Jewish site, as well as controlling as much of the land and real estate around it as possible.
Hebron’s problem with Judaisation has been and will continue to be difficult. Its main cause is the existence of a Jewish-only settler neighbourhood in the heart of the city, which has expanded with the seizure of many properties owned by Palestinians in the Old City of Hebron, where the Ibrahimi Mosque is located. Due to this Jewish presence in Hebron, the catastrophic Hebron agreement was made in 1997, stemming from the Oslo Accords. The agreement divided Hebron into two areas, one under Palestinian control, and the other under Israeli control, and this area includes large parts of the south and east of the city, including the Ibrahimi Mosque.The agreement stipulated the reopening of Al-Shuhada Street in the city, which was closed and controlled by the occupation forces, but the occupation did not implement any of its provisions. Instead, it exploited the deal to extend its Judaisation operation in the city and expelled the Palestinians from the southern region, through systematic restrictions on Palestinians since the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994, when the mosque was divided temporally and spatially between Jewish settlers and Muslims. However, the situation at the mosque now says that it is close to becoming a purely Jewish site, as the mosque’s surroundings, including its courtyards, entrances, and the neighbouring Palestinian areas are considered fortified military barracks divided by several barriers and checkpoints. Palestinians are not allowed to access the area with their cars, while settlers do not stop at the barriers. The mosque’s courtyards are dedicated to settlers. Moreover, anyone who does make it to the area hears racist remarks and incitement to kill Arabs from young settlers and their elders.
It is well known that the Israeli occupation project was based in terms of its moral aspect on a religious myth that has no basis, claiming its right to the land of Palestine, and the continuation of this project will remain linked to the need to control Muslim religious sites in Palestine, especially those that are highly symbolic, such as Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Ibrahimi Mosque. This means that the struggle over these places is existential and critical and requires a high and exceptional effort stemming from an awareness of the reality of the dangers that threaten these holy places.
Today, Hebron is facing a great challenge, and is at a crossroads: either to confront this project by mobilising the people, and creating conditions to confront it, or ignoring what is happening, then having to face a bitter reality, in which Muslims lose their mosque. This will force the remaining Palestinians to leave their homes and properties under the pressure of settlement expansion, and the fierce attacks of settlers against the remaining residents of that area.
It is true that the challenge is great and almost exceeds the capacity of the public and the factions with their limited capabilities, but it is possible to reverse the equation of making life difficult. This can be done by moving towards making the settlers’ lives difficult instead of letting them make the lives of the Palestinians difficult. A new equation is needed and it requires will and initiative.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 16 August 2021
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