Dear Mr. President,
Sunday's announcement by the Israeli government to include the Ibrahimi mosque on a list of heritage should be strongly condemned by your administration. The city of Al-Khalil, or Hebron, is already suffering because of the 500 illegal settlers and their armed, government-sponsored military escorts who hold the city hostage. I have been to Al-Khalil, Mr. President, and until you can say the same, you cannot imagine the infuriating stranglehold that the settlers have on this city. The roads have endless checkpoints, making driving in the old city almost impossible. The marketplace has to be covered with a net, to catch the garbage thrown down by the settlers. Certain areas are entirely off limits to the Palestinians who have lived there for generations.
The old woman who hosted our group in her home lived on the boundary between H1 and H2, the city, and the settler-only area. She could no longer use her front door to come and go, because it opened on to a settler road. From her home we watched settlers pass along the road, some boys carrying Uzis, along with their books, to school. We could see the IDF camps on the rooftops of shorter buildings, they pointed their guns at us and ordered us off of her roof, where she was showing us the view of the cemetery where her ancestors were buried, not one block from her home, but off-limits to her now, because she is Palestinian.
Mr. President, I understand the contentious nature of Jerusalem, of parts of Israel, of settlements close to the 1967 borders. But Al-Khalil is the largest city in the West Bank and it is no where near the green line. The settler presence there is entirely composed of the most radical elements; the site itself remains scarred by the legacy of a 1996 massacre of 29 innocent Muslims- the killer lies enshrined in a settlement nearby, his headstone praising him for "giving his life for Israel." This is not a gray area. This is a clear violation of law and common decency; an occupation tantamount to apartheid and a city of almost 200,000 terrorized by 500 criminals and the military sent to protect them.
I am certain that the language I use in this letter will be dismissed as hysterical. But let me say very plainly that I am, if anything, understating the disgusting conditions for the residents of Al-Khalil. And stepping in to condemn the Israeli's move to claim an even greater hold on a city that, under any reasonable two-state solution will have to be entirely Palestinian, would only help the US appear reasonable. This is the kind of injustice that we cannot accept, that must be remedied, if peace is ever to exist between the two nations.