Abu Sneineh. A neighborhood in the Palestinian city of Hebron, home to some 15,000 people - now a military objective.
Abu Sneineh had the bad luck to be located in the immediate vicinity of the part of Hebron where a group of fanatic religious- nationalist Israeli settlers set themselves up, under massive military protection. The Hebron Agreement of 1997 cut up the city, leaving Abu Snaineh on the very front line. Since last October, it has become hell indeed.
Last week, the settler child named Shalhevet Pass was killed by a bullet fired from Abu Sneineh - a terrible tragedy by any criteria, though not the slightest shred of proof was offered for the assertion that it was done on purpose by "a sniper who deliberately drew a bead on the baby's head", an assertion repeated countless times by Israeli politicians and commentators. The tragedy could also have been the result of random shooting, of which so much had taken place in that area in the past six months.
The Israeli side, by the way, also engages in such random shooting - and with an orders of magnitudes stronger fire-power than anything in Palestinian hands. This kind of random shooting resulted, for example, in the killing of the 11-year old Mahmud al-Darwish, by heavy machine gun fire which penetrated his parents' home at the Hebron suburb of Dura, a killing which took place one day and a few kilometres away from where Shalhevet Pass was killed, but which got much less media attention.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, Abu Sneineh has become a prime target. The settlers are stridently demanding that the army send in troops and altogether conquer the whole neighborhood, however many casualties it would take. Sharon and his Laborite allies have not (yet?) gone this far, but some "down payments" are delivered every day; the army has warned the inhabitants of Abu Sneineh to move away 'for their own good', and the neighborhood is subjected to daily bombardments of tank artillery. This evening, the Israeli TV commentator remarked casually that several Abu Sneineh houses were destroyed in the day's bombardment; the news item was followed by a long reportage on the international piano competition currently taking place in Tel-Aviv, supposedly showing what a cultured and enlightened country we are living in.
And that is far from the end. The Hebron settlers are a very determined and ruthless group, capable of leaving that poor baby unburied for nearly a week as a grisly kind of political demonstration, capable of turning even on the very soldiers on whom the existence of their enclave depends, insulting and physically assaulting them. They have friends in high places - especially in the present government - and they have a decades-long record of eventually getting what they want from the government, whoever is Prime Minister. So, Abu Sneineh with its 15,000 inhabitants is under a very direct and concrete threat.
Yossi Sarid, leader of the Meretz Party and offcial holder of the title "Head of the Opposition" seems to have abdicated the responsibilities of that job, engaging instead in a bit of noisy Arafat-bashing of his own. So it remains to us - and to you - to do what crying out we can, starting with sending the Israeli decision-makers something like the following text.
I am writing to you out of concern for the situation in the city of Hebron, an espcially acute manifestation of the violent, fast- deteriorating situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a whole. The tragic death of settler child Shalhevet Pas in no way justifies daily bombarments on the Palestinian neighborhood of Abu Sneineh and the systematic destruction of its houses by tank artillery, putting numerous Palestinian chuldren into life danger. Neither that daily destruction, nor even the conquest of the whole neighborhood by Israeli troops, can ensure the safety of a settler enclave, planted and maintained by force in the midst of a Palestinian city. It is not a good place for children to grow up - exposed to constant physical danger, and imbibing an atmosphere of paranoid nationalism and racism. There can be no other solution than the removal from Hebron of all Israeli troops and the dismantling of the armed settler enclave presently maintained by these troops.
In a future of Israeli-Palestinian peace, there should be no obstacle to Jews living in the city of Hebron, part of sovereign Palestine - provided, of course, that they respect the laws of the host state, as Jewish communities do all over the world.
Fax your message to the nearest Israeli Embassy in your area, and email it directly to the Prime Minister of Israel and the responsible Labor ministers, with copies to a number of Meretz and Labor Knesset Members.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israeli Minister of Defense firstname.lastname@example.org, Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister email@example.com, copy to Knesset Members firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Sign the "Our Jerusalem, Capital of Two States" petition full text in Hebrew, Arabic and English at http://www.gush-shalom.org/jerusalem
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