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Palestine - Visit to Hebron

Palestine - Visit to Hebron

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Published by David Shinn
David H. Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, reflects on a June 13, 2010, visit to Hebron
David H. Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, reflects on a June 13, 2010, visit to Hebron

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: David Shinn on Jun 30, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/30/2010

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Visit to Hebron13 June 2010David H. Shinn The second oldest city in Palestine, Hebron is located on the historicCairo to Damascus trade route 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem. My wife,small child and I first visited Hebron in 1965 when we were assigned to theU.S. embassy in Beirut. We drove our VW Bug from Beirut to the Gulf of Aqaba with stops in the West Bank. At that time, Hebron and the West Bankwere under Jordanian administration following the creation of Israel in 1948and the establishment of disputed borders between the Palestinians and theIsraelis. We still have fond memories of purchasing Hebron glass andpottery, for which the town remains justly famous. We left Hebron on thisoccasion, our second visit to the city, with a new supply.Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel seized control of most of theWest Bank, including Hebron. Discussions that seem to achieve little havebeen underway ever since to resolve the status of Gaza and the PalestinianWest Bank. Hebron poses one of the most contentious issues as it is the onlyurban center in the West Bank other than Jerusalem where Israeli settlementshave been located in the center of the town. As a result, some 400 to 600Israelis in five small settlements protected by, I was told, an estimated 2,000Israeli security personnel, live cheek to jowl with 170,000 Palestinians. Youcan cut the tension with a knife, and there are frequent incidents involvingthe Palestinians and the Israeli settlers. One of the settlements is locatedinside the old Arab souk. A small number of Israelis live on the upper level of one of the walkways through the souk where they display the Israeli flag. The Palestinians have constructed nets over the walkway below to keep, theysay, the garbage from the Israeli living quarters above from hitting them. The nets are indeed full of refuse, although it appeared to be old material andI saw none being tossed from above during the brief visit.As explained by a Palestinian official, the most disturbing part of thisparticular group of settlements is that it is apparently being maintainedlargely for political reasons at the request of zealous religious settlers. Onlyabout 20 percent of the Israelis in these settlements are permanentresidents. The others, often coming from outside Israel, occupy the livingquarters for several months at a time just to lay claim to a part of the WestBank that has been overwhelmingly Arab for centuries. The temporaryresidents are constantly replaced by new arrivals. The settlements, due toIsraeli security restrictions, make it very difficult for the Palestinians to movefrom one part of town to the other. Although there has been some relaxationin Hebron of Israeli checkpoints in recent years, there has been no progress

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