Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of August 4, 1999
THE LESSONS OF 1929
By David Wilder
(August 4) - Not too long ago a journalist visiting Hebron asked me why the Jewish community of Hebron so stubbornly refuses to accept protection from the Palestinian Authority. "After all," he stated, "it is probable that in the near future all of Hebron will be part of the Palestinian state, including the Jewish neighborhoods where you live. Then you will have no choice but to accept protection from Yasser Arafat's police force."
Exactly 70 years ago this week, four Jews, three men and a woman, made their way from Jerusalem to Hebron. The woman's name was then Rahel Yanait. She later married Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of Israel. The group, armed with weapons, came to Hebron as Haganah representatives, carrying a pessimistic message: The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini was stirring up trouble. His incitement was likely to lead to violence.
They offered the weapons to Hebron's Jewish community as a means of protection, just in case the rioting reached Hebron. But Hebron's leadership was not worried. The previous riots in 1921 left Hebron untouched. Hebron's Arabs and Jews lived together as one big family. There were Arabs who spoke Yiddish and the Jews spoke Arabic. They attended each other's weddings and other festivities.
Hebron's Jewish leadership refused to take the weapons, saying they would only be interpreted as a provocation. The four members of the Haganah were politely thanked and sent back to Jerusalem as they had arrived, weapons in hand.
The riots and massacre that then occurred on the Friday evening and Saturday morning left 67 Hebron Jews dead and over 70 wounded. First-hand accounts of the atrocities speak of the unspeakable: rape, torture, castration. People were literally hacked to pieces. The British officer present did nothing to try and stop the attacks. His Arab police force stood idly by while Jews screamed for help. A small number of Arabs hid Jewish families, effectively saving their lives. But the results spoke for themselves.
After the journalist heard these accounts, he continued to query: "Do you then believe that all of Hebron's Arab residents are terrorists."
I explained to him that the perpetrators of 1929 massacre were friends and neighbors of the Jews they mutilated and slaughtered. One of the most loved Arabs in Hebron, a man named Issa, worked for the baker, Noah Immerman.
Issa spoke Yiddish. Issa tortured his employer and then killed him. "If this is what happened when the Jews and Arabs were on friendly terms, what would happen today if Hebron's Arabs thought they had the opportunity to repeat their deeds of August 1929 and get away with it?"
But the lessons of 1929 reach much further than Hebron. During the 1929 riots, Jews were killed in Jerusalem, Motza, Jaffa, and Safed. Hebron was the climax of Amin el-Husseini's incitement. The present Arab leadership, including el-Husseini's cousin, Yasser Arafat, and his nephew, Faisal Husseini, know too that it takes little to stir up the masses.
Faisal Husseini proved this while orchestrating a decade of intifada.Arafat proved it almost four years ago following the "tunnel opening" in Jerusalem, causing a minor war and leading to the deaths of IDF soldiers.
The lessons of 1929 must teach us, not only in Hebron, but throughout the State of Israel, that we cannot and must not put our trust or our lives in the hands of anyone except ourselves.
Surely we must not depend upon the "protection' of a Palestinian armed force. Almost 300 Jews have been killed since Oslo began on the White House lawn in 1993. This, in spite of the fundamental premise of Oslo that the Palestinians will prevent violence and terror against Jews. Senior military officers admit that without the cooperation of the Palestinian police force, Oslo is doomed to failure.
In other words, our safety, as individuals and as a country - our lives and existence, are in their hands.
In Hebron, in 1929, we learned this lesson once, the hard way. There is no reason why should have to learn the lesson again, be it in Hebron, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or anywhere else in the State of Israel.
David Wilder is a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron.