Are Palestinians retaliating?

Posted: May 7, 2010 by Jonathan Boyko in IDF, Israel, Palestinians, West Bank
Tags: , ,

IDF solders talks to Palestinian children in Hebron A Jewish cemetery in Hebron saw fire twice in 24 hours, say news reports:

The Jewish residents’ accusations intensified when another fire broke out in the same cemetery on Friday, near the site’s western fence. Local police and firefighters arrived at the site, and the source of the fire is being investigated.

Police said the first fire may have been the result of a fire lit by Palestinian youths near the fence that got out of control.

On the other hand, the Yesha Human Rights group expressed bewilderment at the police estimate and said, "Since when do Arab youths play in the field at 11pm?" The organization urged the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.


THE ALLEGED ARSON is likely a retaliation by Palestinian activists, particularly for recent mosque arson in the West Bank – a feasible theory. However, Hebron’s Palestinians have much to be angry about without any previous arsons – as well as Hebron’s Jewish settlers. Both sides had ample opportunities to fight each other – and used plenty of them. The step would only cause further deterioration in Palestinians-IDF-Israelis relations.

Not everything is lost, though. Outgoing Hebron area IDF commander Udi Ben-Mukha tells in an interview to Israeli Ynet that the situation is getting better, with both sides recognizing the need to lower the flames:

"There was a decision of the Jewish residents here not to supply a negative motive, no rubbing it in, no confrontation. When such decision is made in Hebron, there’s something worth looking at," Col. Udi Ben-Mukha told Ynet in an interview. "Settlers are in a process of maturation and sobering. There is an understanding of law, understanding the negative impact that can come from the media, and understanding of an image [of settlers] – it has become more important to them than throwing stones." It should be noted that the interview with the outgoing brigade commander was before the fire broke out in the Jewish cemetery in the city, which brought complaints from the Jews that the Palestinians are responsible for the fire.

To illustrate his comments, Col. Ben-Mukha notes the change on Route of the Worshippers. “Each summer, Jews were regularly throwing stones at Arabs, in was crazy, you could not stand it. These acts struck a settlers’ image significantly. A year ago, the penny dropped – now they make summer classes for kids, take the youth to summer camps, to avert violence. Once a strategic decision is made to deal with youth and do no harm – it is a smart decision. Even these days, around the construction freeze, nothing is like it was in the past. There is an understanding over time that violence is not the story, that phase is over.”


Colonel Ben-Mukha is indeed correct and times are changing. Last time I visited Hebron was a bit over a year ago, during Passover. There was still friction between the Jews and the Palestinians, but it was nothing like the riots that took place almost a decade ago. The question is now if the Jews and the Palestinians can make the situation better.


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