Hebron Exposed: Among the Settlers
Israeli Jews fight expulsion with expansion
In one of the most divided cities in the world, Jewish-Arab hostility in Hebron is under strict military control. Each individual has their own sense of ‘truth’, making the war one of words as much as guns, stones, and bombs. Tours run continually, each with their own route, narrative, and maps of the area. Some want peace, others retribution, with the Jewish community continually looking to expand into what is now Palestinian territory. With camera working against camera, in this first part of BBC Arabic's Hebron Exposed, no one perspective seems ‘true’ or ‘right’.
The story from the Jewish side of the checkpoint is one mixed with both peaceful and violent sentiments. The Jewish settler and international spokesperson, Ishai, believes that the media portray his people unfairly. At the boundary between the Palestinian and Settler communities, he narrates his version of events to his children: “The truth is, it’s just a security checkpoint. Arabs are treated with respect here. They come in so they won’t hurt us. Sadly we cannot go to walk in Hebron”.
Ofer, a rescue truck driver, is used to harassment. “See her? She spat on my car.” He does not spit back. Many agitators, such as Marzel who gives his own tours of Hebron, prefer more active retaliation. “We don’t turn the other cheek. We are not from that religion”, he explains. His messages to different groups seem contradictory, wishing to “expel the enemy out of here” whilst professing favour for “opening all the city of Hebron for everybody”. It is a similar case for the activist Anat, who has been put on trial over fifteen times following various confrontations. “If someone hurts you, and you push him away, that’s not violence”, she explains. “With all the violence around us, we are the gentlest people in the world.”
A group called Breaking the Silence, made from former Israeli soldiers opposed to occupation, provides another narrative on their tours. One guide, Dean, explains his story: “even as a solider it took me a long time to understand what was really going on and not just looking at it from a very narrow perspective of a solider”. He continues his work even in adversity; many Breaking the Silence tours are denied entrance to the Settler zone, and Jews like Ofer who disagree with Dean’s views continually harass those listening.
The major narrative development in this war is that of easy access to visual recording technology. Now almost anyone can show the world their perspective. A videographer named Tzipi, for example, documents all she can in her day. “I can see the Arabs when they are throwing rocks, I see them from the roof”, she says, hopeful that “maybe the people in the world will understand that the story is not like they think”. Part One of this insightful documentary demonstrates how this war is fought through a vast web of individual narratives, through anyone's camera lens, truly an eye for an eye.