Ed Davey, Hebron and new Israeli settlement

Posted by Caabu on 15 Apr 2014

Ed Davey, Hebron and new illegal settlement

by Chris Doyle

In 2008 I accompanied Ed Davey, the then Foreign Affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party and now Secretary of state for Energy and Climate change, to Hebron together with another Liberal Democrat MP, Mark Hunter.

At the time there was a huge outcry because settlers had taken over a Palestinian home and the Israeli army had been ordered by the Supreme Court to evict them. The deadline for the settlers to depart expired on the day of our visit. There was huge speculation as to whether the settlers would get evicted.

We approached the house which can be seen in the background in this video, where settlers (most seemed armed) had all gathered in expectation of an army move at any time. Tensions were so high that we feared to go closer. A young Palestinian boy spoke to us claiming that the settlers had broken his arm.

The settlers had named it “the House of Peace”, yet of course nothing could be further from the truth. Others have called it the “House of Contention”. To Palestinians it is the “Rajabi” house. Close by were Palestinian Muslim graves that had been desecrated by settlers.

Palestinian Muslim graves desecrated by settlers

Following the visit, the Israeli army did evict the settlers. The house remained empty, that is until now.

Over five years later, the settlers seem to have won. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the settlers on 11 March. The Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon (who called US Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive and messianic”) has authorised the settlers to take over the house.

According to the Israeli group, “Breaking the Silence” this is the first new settlement inside the city of Hebron for 30 years.  It is a large building, perhaps capable of housing 40 families, lying between the settlement of Kiryat Arba and the Ibrahimi mosque. The fear is that this part of a strategic move to connect this large settlement lying on the eastern perimeter of the city to those settlements in the historic centre.  It will almost certainly involve military deployment around the illegal settlement and even closures affecting Palestinian life in the area.

The timing could not have been worse (for those who wish to see peace). The peace talks are failing and combined with earlier Israeli moves condemned by Secretary of State Kerry (announcement of settlements in Jerusalem and a failure to release Palestinian prisoners as agreed) this move has hardly improved the climate.

Chuka Umuna visits centre of Hebron

Hebron is the tensest city in the West Bank with Palestinians effectively banned from the historic centre, some twenty per cent of this historic city.  In this area (H2), Palestinian markets and shops have been forcibly closed by military order and whole areas deserted leading to many describing it as a ghost town (Chuka Umuna MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business visited this area with Caabu and LFPME in November 2013).  The main artery, Shuhada street, has been closed off to both Palestinian vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

As I argued in this article, events in Hebron were key to destroying the Oslo process. This divided city, partitioned to serve the interests of just 850 Israeli settlers, requires genuine attention before further violence and strife occurs.