August 06, 2007

The Hebron Jewish Community responds to the Washington Post distortions

Folks, this is very important that you read the following articles and email exchanges. Yes, it is a long read, maybe too long, but so are the years in which the media has been bashing Israel, and now it's time to call them on it.

Pay, in particular, attention to the author of these articles: Scott Wilson. Maybe someone should send him a Koran, because he seems to be so in love with arab muzbots. (And to the Jew-hating lemmings visiting here from www [dot] philipweiss [dot again] org, I'd provide you with the hate speech in the Koran too, but the puppy's training is progressing better than we thought.)

For more on Scott Wilson and his other published distortions, see for yourself on Fairness.com.

Received by email:
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From: "EyeOnThePost, Inc."

Dear Friends:

On July 26 the Post published another huge, front page story depicting Hebron's Jewish residents as intruders and troublemakers who cause a major disruption in the lives of its Arab residents and have little in the way of legal, religious or historical rights to the city. Much like its article in the recent past attacking the Jewish legal, historical and religious claim to a right to reside throughout Jerusalem's Old City, the unwritten but logical inference the Post's reporter and editors want their readers to draw is that Jews ought to get out of Hebron and leave it Judenrein. We noted then and we note now that this is a racist and apartheid view of the way the region should be. But it is a racism that serves to exclude only Jews. Post reporters and editors would avidly defend the right of Arabs to live among Jews throughout Israel. Indeed, the Post's opinionated wailing over the incidental separation of Arabs and Jews caused by the security fence is illustrative. But at the same time Post editors and reporters are unceasing in their criticism of Jews for attempting to live securely among Arabs. The article on Hebron omitted vital historical and legal information, downplayed the right of Jews to reside there and distorted the context of events in both the distant and recent past.

The Post's article on Hebron has caused an outcry among most Jews familiar with the history and significance of Jewish claims to a right to have their religious sites respected and to live near them peacefully in Hebron. The community of Hebron itself has spoken out against the distorted writing of Scott Wilson, the Post's
correspondent in Israel and the disputed territories. David Wilder, the Hebron Community's spokesperson, has written a letter of complaint to the Post, and we have reprinted it below. Additional letters from readers are also included.

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Friday, August 3, 2007
Click here to read this "Alert" on our Web site

Land Ownership And History Omitted From Post's Story On Hebron - "Jews Hold Valid and Recorded Deeds" to Much More Land Than That On Which They Currently Reside

To: Letters, The Washington Post
From: Jonathan C. Javitt, M.D., M.P.H.
Date: July 26, 2007
Subject: Scott Wilson's Article on Hebron, July 26

In describing the Jewish claim to the right to live in Hebron, the Post's Scott Wilson acknowledges the 4,000 year old religious claim to the city as the burial site of the Jewish patriarchs and the location of Judea's first capital city. (In Divided Hebron, a Shared Despair, Palestinians and Jewish Settlers in West Bank City Struggle for Existence, Thursday, July 26, 2007, A01)

However, he somehow forgets to mention the far more recent and legally-enforceable Jewish title to land in Hebron. The city was settled in 1492 by Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition, who purchased vacant land and built the entire downtown tract from a tolerant Moslem regime. The Jewish community grew and thrived for centuries under Ottoman rule as Jews (including members of my family) fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe settled there and lived in peace with their Arab neighbors. Ironically, they refused the protection of the emerging Jewish defense forces, relying on the continued tolerance of those neighbors. Radical Islamic forces arose during the British mandate and made Hebron their first target, staging pogroms that murdered 67 members of the Hebron community and which resulted in the forced evacuation of the remainder by the British. The properties currently occupied by Jewish settlers represent a fraction of those to which Jews hold valid and recorded deeds, dating back to the Ottoman empire.

The Post owes its readers both sides of any story.

Jonathan C. Javitt, M.D., M.P.H.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Huge, One-Sided Front Page Feature Article By Scott Wilson, This Time Distorting The History And Religious Significance Of Hebron And The Relationship Of Its Jewish And Arab Communities

The Washington Post has again published a huge, distorted, front page feature article by Scott Wilson depicting Israelis in a negative light. (In Divided Hebron, a Shared Despair,Palestinians and Jewish Settlers in West Bank City Struggle for Existence, Thursday, July 26, 2007, A01) CAMERA describes the Post's spotlighting of this article as "show-case placement and near-magazine length." The following letter by David Wilder, spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron, effectively demonstrates some of the ways in which Scott Wilson, the Post's correspondent in Israel and the disputed territories, habitually slants his reporting and misleads his readers. The Post has already issued one minor correction of the article, but a reading of this letter shows that others are warranted. Following Mr. Wilder's letter is a letter by Leo Rennert further demonstrating Mr. Wilson's one sided, agenda driven presentation:
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THE HEBRON JEWISH COMMUNITY RESPONDS TO THE WASHINGTON POST

Friday, July 27, 2007

To the Editors
Caroline Little
Chief Executive Officer and Publisher
Jim Brady
Executive Editor
The Washington Post

Re: In Divided Hebron, a Shared Despair by Scott Wilson

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dear Sirs,

Considering the Post's reputation, I was quite surprised by the number of factual errors in the above article, not to mention the immense bias portrayed in the feature.

1. "Within Hebron, the separation is enforced not only by Israeli barriers but also by military checkpoints and curfews"

There has not been a curfew in Hebron in years.

2. "Securing the small Jewish minority has a potent impact on the lives of the city's 150,000 Arabs...."

Exactly 10 years ago Hebron was divided into two zones. In an official agreement with Arafat, Israel transferred over 80% of Hebron to The Palestinian Authority. There is no proof of the number of Arabs who live in Hebron, but for the sake of argument, should there really be 150,000, ten years ago at least 130,000 came under the sole control of the P.A. Presently, the number of Arabs in P.A. controlled Hebron would be in the vicinity of 90%. Where then does Israel's presence in less than 10% of the city have a 'potent impact on the lives of the city's 150,000 Arabs?'

3. "In recent months, the Israeli army has helped the Hebron settlers expand eastward to a hilltop home near the settlement of Kiryat Arba"

The Hebron Jewish community purchased a 35,000 square foot building for over $700,000. The Israeli military had nothing to do with the purchase and did not 'help the Hebron settlers expand.' They fulfill their function by offering the necessary protection at the site, as the military does throughout Israel. There are no restrictions on Arabs living in the vicinity of the building.

4. "'There is no future for Arabs and Jews together in Hebron,' said Noam Federman, 37, a settler from Beit Hadassah.... "

Noam Federman never lived in Beit Hadassah. He and his family have lived in Kiryat Arba for the past year and a half. His statements do not represent anyone or anything except his own personal views.

5. "Behind him trailed a small group of men and boys, who at Shuyukhi's instruction were attempting to defy the enforced division of their city that has virtually emptied its most important historic, religious and commercial areas of Palestinians. "

a) According to the Hebron accords, the entire city is supposed to be open to both Jews/Israelis and Arabs. However, Jews are forbidden from entering the "Arab/Palestinian" side of the city, whereas Arabs are permitted to enter the Israeli-controlled side of the city.

b) As above, virtually all of the commercial areas of Arab Hebron are located within the area controlled by the P.A. This is not cut off from the Arabs. In addition, no Arabs have been forced to leave their homes, or move out of the Israeli-controlled side of the city.

6. "The post bars Palestinians from entering Shuhada Street, a once-thriving commercial strip closed by the Israeli military more than a decade ago to protect the two Jewish settlements and a yeshiva along its route. The U.S. Agency for International Development spent $2 million in 1997 to renovate the street as part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement to reopen it for Palestinians. But Israel has since refused to do so."

a) The area closed off to Arab traffic is approximately two blocks long. Alternate routes have been provided. This, in comparison to 80% of the city, closed off to Jews.

b) It is not true that Israel refused to open the street. It was open to vehicular and foot traffic following completion of the construction by US AID. However, the Israel Defense Forces demanded it be closed following the outbreak of the second intifada in October, 2000, when Hebron Arabs began shooting at Jews from the surrounding hills, hills which had been transferred to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Hebron Accords.

7. "there are 100 Israeli-constructed fences, gates, concrete barriers and military checkpoints within the roughly one-square-mile historic center."

These fences and barriers have been constructed to prevent infiltration of terrorists and to prevent easy escape routes for terrorists following perpetration of terror attacks.

8. " The area included the Jewish Quarter until 1929, when Arabs killed more than 60 Jews living there. The survivors fled."

In 1929, 67 Jews were raped, tortured and killed by their next door neighbors. Seventy were wounded. The survivors did not flee. They were expelled by the British. A group returned in 1931 and remained until 1936 when again they were expelled due to Arab inciting.

9. "Hemmed in and harassed, the Palestinians are fleeing today. Nearly half the homes in and around the Israeli-controlled Old City of Hebron have been vacated, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem recently reported."

a) Who is hemmed in and harassed? Arab terrorists shot at Jews for two years, killing and wounding. Dozens of Israelis have been killed in and around Hebron since the signing of the Oslo Accords.

b) B'Tselem is a radical left wing organization, whose facts and statistics are very much in question.

10. "'The Ibrahimi Mosque is ours, not theirs.'"

The 'Ibrahimi Mosque' - otherwise known as "Ma'arat HaMachpela," the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, is the second holiest site to Jews in the world. The site was off-limits to Jews and Christians for 700 years - from 1267-1967. This despite its sanctity to Jews, and despite the fact that the building above the caves was built by Herod some 2,000 years ago, six hundred years prior to Muhammad's birth.
Since Israel's return to Hebron in 1967 the site has been accessible to all people of all faiths. However, Moslems refuse to accept freedom of worship, claim that it's a mosque and declare that should they ever again control the site, it will be off-limits to anyone not Moslem. (The site, nor the city of Hebron is mentioned anywhere in the Koran.)

11. "The 50-yard walkway took months to complete because each night the bricks were uprooted. It opened this year."

The walkway has been used by Arabs for years. A sidewalk was paved last year.

12. "During the three-month period ending Jan. 31, the observer group received 35 complaints of settler violence and harassment, ranging from beatings to throwing debris. Over the next three months, 71 cases were reported.

'The pattern you see is that you have settlement and then violence around it,' Lignell said. 'And you see this project inching forward.'"

a) TIPH - Temporary International Presence in Hebron - is supposed to be an observer force. What is the legitimacy of "received complaints?" Such 'complaints' may, or may not be true. An 'observer force' is supposed to do just that - observe - and not base conclusions around 'complaints received' which have no proof backing them up.

TIPH is an extremely anti-Semitic organization, made up primarily of Scandinavian human rights workers, who know virtually nothing about the Jewish history and tradition of Hebron, and who are notorious for one-sided 'observations. '

b) According to recent reports issued by the IDF and the police there has been a tremendous decrease of violence by Israelis in Hebron over the past year, with very few cases being brought to the attention of the police.

13. "Palestinian patrons, who have watched anxiously as the settlement project recently swelled beyond the city center under the protection of Israel's military, whose strategic goals frequently coincide with the settlers'."

a) Foreign governments, primarily Germany, France and Spain, have invested huge amounts of money in various parts of Hebron, including the Casba. Why is it legitimate for Arabs to renovate property, yet when Jews do such it is deemed illegitimate? Why can Arabs build, buy and sell, while the same activity by Jews is considered negative?

b) The IDF does not and never has been involved with 'strategic planning' with civilians in Hebron. The military is under the direct rule of the Defense Department, i.e. the Defense Minister, the Prime Minister and the Israeli government. There are times when our aims coincide but also many times when they clash.

14. "'The town is divided, it is deserted, and in many ways like a prison for us,' said Khaled Osaily...."

As written earlier, 80% of Hebron is under total PA control. The entire city was open until the beginning of the second intifada, during which time a homicide bomber exploded and killed a couple from nearby Kiryat Arba.
15. "David Wilder, originally from New Jersey, is the spokesman for the Hebron settlers. He largely dismissed public relations until Goldstein opened fire."

This is totally inaccurate. I began working for the Hebron Jewish Community in an administrative capacity in May of 1994 and did not begin work as a spokesman for about 2 years following that, with the advent of the Hebron Accords. My employment had nothing to do with Baruch Goldstein.

[EyeOnThePost: Mr. Wilson could also be asked why he NEVER comments upon the HUGE amount of resources Palestinians devote to public relations, with many spokesmen readily available to the media on virtually any topic and escorts being provided for media representatives throughout the disputed territories a commonplace occurrence.]

16. "Wilder, who like many settlers here wears a pistol on his hip"

This is true. We are licensed to carry a weapon for reasons of self-defense. I have never needed to use it, thank G-d. I know people who are alive today because they had a weapon.

17. "[He] does not agree with what he calls the Israeli military's 'concept of using walls as a means of security, of building barriers and saying, 'Now you are safe.' '

'The problem here is not so much that people can't make a living; it's a political one,' Wilder said. 'The Arabs want a presence here. If they have it, they own it, de facto. And if not, they don't.'

These two paragraphs are total non-sequiturs, making no sense in the context of the article. It is clear that they were inserted: 1) to include a Hebron representative in the article, and 2) to make me look foolish and unintelligent.

18. "On a hilltop less than a mile's trip along streets secured by Israeli soldiers sits a four-story house, which a group of settlers occupied the evening of March 19."

This building was not 'occupied;' rather it was purchased for over $700,000. Why, when an Israeli purchases property he is an 'occupier', but when an Arab buys property and moves in, he is a legal resident?

19. "...the military government in the occupied territories, contends that the settlers did not arrange for the permits Israelis need to buy and move into property in the West Bank."

1) Why does the Washington Post use language 'the occupied territories' as opposed to Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank?

[EyeOnThePost ... or at least the "disputed territories. "]

2) The permits were requested and denied for political reasons, not for any legal reason. The entire transaction will be proven to be legal and legitimate.

20. "and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the caves beneath the Ibrahimi Mosque."

Why is the site called the "Ibrahami Mosque?" Why isn't it written that there are also a number of synagogues in the building, which again, was not built by Herod as a mosque?

21. "'We don't know the people who come and go from there,' said Jabari, 22, a bespectacled middle school chemistry teacher. 'We try to stay inside now as much as possible.'"

Arabs in the neighborhood continue to walk the streets freely. They are not restricted in any way, and no incidents initiated by Jews have been reported in the area since Hebron residents moved in.

22. "One tried to snatch a soldier's gun, Israeli military officials said, and the officer opened fire."

The article concludes with such a sorrowful scene. However, would it have ended the same way had the Arab been able to take the soldier's gun and open fire on the Israelis at the scene? When you play with fire, you get burned.

This article does not attempt, in any way, to portray an accurate portrait of life in Hebron. It clearly portrays the Arabs as the oppressed and the Jews as the oppressors; the Arabs as the victims and the Jews as the culprits.

Within the article on the Washington Post web site are three featured videos: One with the Arab mayor of Hebron, one calling for expulsion of Jews from Hebron, and one featuring an extreme left-wing Israeli.
Why aren't their three videos featuring Hebron Jewish residents?

A graphic map of Hebron - "Detailed map of Hebron and area surrounding shows locations of checkpoints, roadblocks and settlements. ," is totally inaccurate, making it look as if almost all of Hebron is under Israeli rule. This is misleading and false, being that an overwhelming majority of Hebron is under the rule of the P.A.

It is unfortunate that the Washington Post should see fit to print Wilson's shabby, one-sided, biased piece of yellow journalism.

Sincerely,

David Wilder
Spokesman
The Jewish Community of Hebron
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From: Leo Rennert
To: Scott Wilson, Washington Post Editors and Ombudsman
Date: July 26, 2007

Hi Scott,

Your lengthy, front page article, "In Divided Hebron, a Shared Despair," doesn't exactly set a standard
for fair reporting. While you describe the difficult living conditions of both Palestinians and Jews, you heavily tilt the scales against the latter. You describe Jewish residents as "settlers," neglecting to give readers an insight into the lengthy Jewish presence -- about 3,000 years or more -- in Hebron. Nor do you fairly
deal with the respective religious claims of Muslims and Jews.

Let's start with history -- old and new -- that's absent form your article:

Hebron is the oldest Jewish community in the world. It was Israel's first capital. King David was anointed there and reigned there for seven years before he proceeded to Jerusalem. The Jewish presence in
Hebron precedes the advent of Islam by eons. There was an almost continuous Jewish presence in Hebron for about 2,000 years AFTER the Roman conquest -- right on through the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke and
Ottoman periods. Hebron did not become "Judenrein" in modern times until a series of pogroms culminating in an especially brutal mass murder of 67 Jews in 1929 when what remained of the Jewish community
was forced to flee. Israel's victory in the 1967 war restored a relatively brief absence of Jews in Hebron.

Now, let's deal with religious claims to Hebron, which you and the Post badly mangle and misrepresent:

The key shrine in Hebron is the Cave of the Patriarchs. The Book of Genesis gives a very detailed account of the first real estate transaction in biblical history. Abraham, the patriarch of both Jew and Muslims, bought it from a Hittite landowner, cash on the barrelhead, as a burial ground for himself and HIS JEWISH DESCENDANTS.

What you fail to point out is that the Cave of the Patriarchs is far more sacred to Jews than to Muslims. Why? Because there are 3 generations of patriarchs and matriarchs buried there -- all of them progenitors of the Jewish people. Muslims trace their tie to Abraham through his son Ishmael. Ishmael is NOT buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs. But besides Abraham, the cave contains the tombs of five more exclusively Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs, none of whom bear any connection to Muslims. They are Abraham's wife Sarah (a matriarch only to Jews; Ishmael was born to Hagar); Abraham's son Isaac, his wife Rebecca, Isaac's son Jacob, and his wife Leah. No wonder that the Cave of the Patriarchs is Judaism's second holiest shrine (after
the Western Wall in Jerusalem) but does not rank anywhere near the top of sacred Muslim shrines (it's certainly not in the same league as Mecca, Medina or the Temple Mount in Jerusalem).

But you and the Post brush all this biblical history aside and actually make it seem that the Cave of the Patriarchs is HOLIER TO MUSLIMS THAN TO JEWS! For one thing you give precedence to Muslim religious claims when you refer to it as the Ibrahim Mosque and, in the only reference to why this is such a holy place, you write that it's "sacred to MUSLIMS AND JEWS (note the sequence), who believe Abraham, Isaac and other biblical figures are buried in grottos beneath it." Muslims might disagree with you when you toss Isaac into
the equation since he's NOT part of their family tree.

The denigration of pre-eminent Jewish religious claims is even more pronounced in the front-page graphic of Hebron, which pinpoints the location of this holy shrine in bold letters as the "Ibrahim Mosque" and in less eye-catching type as the "Tomb of the Patriarchs." Thus, as far as the article and the graphic are concerned, you and the Post relegate Hebron's sacred status for Jews into a second-class, rear-of-the- bus category.

Given the precarious and often hostile co-existence of Israelis and Palestinians in Hebron, the implicit message of your article is that, since there are so many more of the latter than the former, it's the
Jewish "settlers" who are the basic problem and getting them out of Hebron (so it would again become Judenrein) is the only solution. Not going to happen.

Any realistic solution has to start with Hebron's transcendent religious significance -- to both sides, but more so to Jews.

Clinton and Netanyahu tried to solve the problem with a division of the city as a mainly Palestinian place with a small, protected Jewish enclave -- AND WITH SEPARATE AND EQUAL ACCESS TO JEWISH AND MUSLIM
WORSHIPPERS AT THE CAVE OF THE PATRIARCHS.

That it hasn't worked as well as one might have hoped, I grant you. But the real obstacle, which you totally ignore, is that there is a long history of Arab and Palestinian intolerance when it comes to Jewish religious shrines. From 1949 to 1967, when Jordan ruled both Hebron and the Old City of Jerusalem, Jewish worshippers were denied access to the Western Wall and the Cave of the Patriarchs. During the same period, Jordanian forces desecrated several centuries-old synagogues in Jerusalem, using some of them as barns for their cavalry horses. Jordan dug up Jewish tombstones on the Mt. of Olives and used them to pave a road. Palestinians in the 1990s during the Oslo heydays when they had control over major cities in the West Bank
desecrated Joseph's Tomb in Nablus and used Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem for target practice. With that kind of history, is it any great surprise that a major IDF presence is needed in Hebron to protect Jewish access to the Cave of the Patriarchs? Widespread anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian media also doesn't help
generate confidence that a Palestinian takeover of all of Hebron would allow unimpeded Jewish access to the Cave of the Patriarchs.

But instead of getting to the nub of the problem, you prefer to tilt your article toward the plight of the Palestinians, ending with an up-close, personal description of a Palestinian funeral of a 67-year-old shepherd shot by IDF forces as they came looking for his son and were attacked ("accosted" as you put it) by family members, one of whom even tried to snatch a soldier's gun. Why the IDF wanted this 18-year-old you never bother to inform readers, although it might put the incident in a more objective light. Instead, you prefer to play on reader's emotions with a final paragraph of poetic empathy for Palestinians, which you seldom if ever show for Israeli Jews:

"Men and boys bore Yehiya's wooden stretcher up the hill, pausing to allow mourners to kiss his face. Some held Hamas flags, and the angry chants celebrating martyrdom carried down to the soldiers at the settlers' new home. Then, after tipping the body into the dry ground, the men wandered back down the hill into the divided city."
Perhaps one of these days, you'll find time to do a similar, heart-breaking article about mourners in Sderot after some of the thousands of Qassam rockets that have rained down on this Israeli town kill a few more of its residents. Your Hebron piece conspicuously points up your persistent disinterest in the pain and personal tragedies of Israeli families.

Leo Rennert
[Leo Rennert is a journalist and former White House correspondent]

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