Pro-Peace Group Barred From Leading Hebron Tours

Settlers Scuttle Meetings With School Groups Led by Activists

breaking the silence

By Nathan Jeffay

Published February 05, 2012, issue of February 10, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A year ago, Israel’s Education Ministry launched a program to encourage schools to visit Jewish sites in the occupied West Bank town of Hebron, drawing fire from doves who charged the ministry with bringing politics into school trips. The doves’ effort to stop the program failed.

Having failed to beat them, a dovish group of army veterans sought recently to join them. But on January 28, the police informed the Hebrew University High School that members of the dovish organization Breaking the Silence would be barred from joining its students on their Hebron tour the next day.

Since the program’s inception, local right-wing settlers have routinely met with and briefed schools taking part in the program. But a statement provided to the Forward by the Israel Defense Forces claimed that Breaking the Silence was barred from accompanying the students on part of their tour because the relevant security clearance had not been arranged. Michael Sfard, an attorney for Breaking the Silence, offered a different account. He said that the police official who called his office with the decree said the rationale was a fear of settler violence. “The demons are dancing,” Sfard said the police told him.

Upon hearing that Breaking the Silence would be barred from meeting with them on the tour, Hebrew University High School officials, citing a desire for balance, canceled a planned meeting with settlers on the tour, as well.

For those backing the tour, the episode was but the latest confirmation of the ability of Jewish settlers to influence government decisions through violence or the threat of violence.

“The decision encourages violence,” Breaking the Silence co-founder Yehuda Shaul said. “It shows settlers that you can achieve with violence, or by creating a fear of violence, what you can’t achieve through legal battles.”

It was the Israeli paper Haaretz that broke the story about the school’s intention to invite Breaking the Silence to accompany its tour, which was scheduled for the following day. The Jewish community of Hebron quickly objected to the Education Ministry, and the police decision to bar the group promptly followed.

The ban came against a backdrop of settler dissatisfaction translating with increasing frequency into settler violence. A United Nations report released last November found that the monthly average of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage increased by 40% in 2011 compared with 2010, and by more than 165% compared with 2009. Settlers have also recently become more willing to attack Jewish targets. In December, they vandalized an IDF base and attacked officers.

Many of the attacks are part of a tactic of hard-line settlers that is called “price tag,” the rationale being that if they attack Palestinians or the army whenever Israel harms their interests — for example, by demolishing an outpost — it creates a deterrent effect for such actions. Shaul views the ban as a “success” for this approach.

Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, dismissed “price tag” as a tactic of “fringe elements” among the settlers. “We vehemently condemn all acts of violence against Palestinians, soldiers and private property,” he said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.