“Abraham of the Old Testament, or Ibrahim of Islam, is a vital figure across Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
His prophetic fame, arises from the story of his offering of one of his sons to God, because He commanded him so. God however, spared the son and a sacrificial lamb was offered instead.
In the city of Hebron, are the Caves of The Patriarch [sic] where Abraham is said to be buried and above them stand a Mosque and Synagogue where Jews and Muslims pray. It is an uneasy understanding between two communities that share this ancient city and this home of worship.
Lipika Pelham explores Hebron, the caves that are central to it and the faith of the people who live in this tense, disputed city.”
While Lipika Pelham went to great lengths to present differing versions of the story of Abraham as equally valid narratives, her use of language when describing her visit to Hebron was distinctly less impartial. Areas of Jewish residence in Hebron were exclusively described as “settlements” and the people who live there “settlers”, while Pelham chose to use the Jordanian political terminology for the area in which the city is located. [emphasis added]
“I’m in Hebron in the West Bank – an ancient city at the centre of the religious, tribal and political dispute which dominates this part of the world and far beyond.”
“The current political conflict goes back to 1968; just under a year after Israel occupied the West Bank.”
“He [Abraham] settled in Canaan which included the area we know now as the West Bank, with Hebron at its centre.”
“…Hebron, where some 800 Jewish settlers live in gated communities guarded by about three times as many Israeli soldiers, right at the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods.”
“Step outside of Beit Hadassa and Avraham Avinu settlements, walk through the checkpoints and turnstiles and you are in a typical Middle Eastern souk.”
Describing the Cave of the Patriarchs, Pelham misrepresented the mission of the security forces stationed there to prevent terror attacks.
“Heavily armed soldiers are guarding the entrance to the Jewish side to make sure that visitors are not Palestinian or visibly Muslim. On the left are the wide stone steps into the Ibrahimi mosque – also watched by Israeli soldiers.”
When Pelham visited a museum, listeners heard an account of the 1929 Hebron Massacre which whitewashed the fact that “violence broke out” because of incitement by Arab leaders against Jews and gave listeners to understand that the death toll in Hebron alone was the total number of Jews murdered “all over the country” while highlighting the fact that people who did not describe themselves as “Palestinian” at the time stepped in to help their neighbours. Notably, the record of the ruling British administration was erased from Pelham’s account.
[14:19] “The story ends with massacre in Hebron of the Jews in 1929. This was a watershed moment in Jewish history as the riots ended the continuous Jewish presence which had lasted in Hebron for millennia. In August 1929 violence broke out all over the country. Sixty-seven Jews were murdered and over a hundred wounded. Bodies were mutilated, 350 Jews were saved by their Palestinian neighbours. During the Passover of 1968 when the Jews reentered Hebron…they wanted to reestablish a Jewish presence in the West Bank city. So in a way, the reality of hostility and separation really started then.”
Perhaps most significantly, listeners to this programme around the world were denied an explanation of the 1997 agreement which brought about the division of the city into two areas – H1 (80% of the city) under Palestinian Authority control and H2 (20%) under Israeli control.
[19:30] “In this tug of war over who Abraham belongs to and who should live in the city of the patriarchs, life goes on on both sides as it has been since the 1997 Hebron Protocol. It followed one of the bloodiest events in Hebron’s current history. In 1994 Baruch Goldstein turned a machine gun on Muslim worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The Jews and the Muslims until then prayed together in the Mosque-Synagogue without the barriers and checkpoints.”
In other words, in her entire 27 minute report about “this tense, disputed city” Lipika Pelham did not bother to clarify to BBC audiences that Israelis live in specific areas of it because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement over twenty years ago.