The piece itself is by Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian freelance journalist and former Princeton professor of journalism. Titled "Why Can't Israel Accept Other Religions and Cultures in the Holy Land?" it starts off biased and counterfactual from the headline and goes downhill from there.
Before we start demolishing this piece, piece by piece, it's worth making one point: Whether or not Kuttab wrote the headline himself, he certainly wasn't embarrassed by it.
So let's start with that atrocity of a headline, and some basic facts. Israel does not have a Constitution, but its Supreme Court has recognized that freedom of religion in Israel is enshrined in Israel's Basic Law regarding Human Dignity (the "Basic Laws" essentially act as a Constitution). That reality is reflected in the wide range of practicing religions represented in Israel: not just Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but the Baha'i Faith, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other, smaller religious groups. The holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, is administered by an Islamic Waqf, and Jews are barred from praying there - or even singing, closing one's eyes for too long, or other "religious displays." So were Kuttab being intellectually honest, the remainder of the article should have been four words long:
"It can, and does."
Instead, we get this:
As a young boy growing up in Bethlehem, I was often excited when our family had company. My dad, a Christian clergyman, loved to take us and the guests to Hebron. Dad would take us to the Cave of the Machpela, situated within the Ibrahimi Mosque, where Abraham and his family are buried and would tell the story of how Abraham obeyed God’s calling even when it came to the request to sacrifice his own son. He would also tell us that the son in the Biblical story was Isaac, son of Sarah, while in the Koran the story refers to Ishmael, son of Hagar.
For us kids, the visit to Hebron, or al-Khalil in Arabic (the Arabic name means “companion,” in reference to Abraham being God’s companion), was never complete without purchasing some of the amazing grape products. Not only did we often buy grapes when they were in season, but Dad, who had a sweet tooth, always bought some delicious treats: dibess (grape molasses), quttain (dried figs) and my personal favorite, malban (dried sheets made of grape juice that stay tasty all year). We also loved the glass-making factories where skilled Hebronites made amazing glass creations while we watched.Well, this isn't a bad travel-log, I guess.
I mean, he leaves out the thousands of years of continuous Jewish presence in Hebron and the 1929 massacre of Jews that put an end to it until after 1967, but who can really complain about that? Then he gets to the heart of his piece:
For me, the holy site and its cultural connection to Hebron are enough reasons to justify its recent designation as a World Heritage site by the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).This is probably true! Hebron ought to be a World Heritage site
The barbed wire, metal detectors with heavily armed soldiers and rowdy settlers make a visit now totally unpleasant.Ah, here we go. Did you notice? Jews living in Hebron are the cause of problems. In an essay titled "Why Can't Israel Accept Other Religions and Cultures," Kuttab brazenly argues that if the damned Jews would just have stayed out after they were massacred, Hebron would be so much better. And the barbed wire, metal detectors, and soldiers? They're there because Palestinians are so accepting of other cultures and religions that they keep attempting to welcome their Jewish neighbors with bullets and bombs. Oddly enough, the Israeli army attempts to prevent that sort of thing. Some of Hebron's Jews are equally odious. But if all you read was Kuttab, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they weren't under constant threat.
Hebronites are also barred from many areas in parts of the old city, including Shuhada Street which the Israeli army bars Palestinians from using.Because, you see, Jews can't be Hebronites. The real Hebronites are the Palestinians; after all, that 1929 massacre got rid of the pesky Jews who'd been there before.
A massacre in the mosque by a Jewish settler who killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in 1994 justifies UNESCO’s decision also to label the old city of Hebron/al-Khalil as an endangered site.Did you see that? A 23 year old incident, widely and vehemently condemned in Israeli society and which has never been (and may it continue to never be) repeated, is the best justification Kuttab can muster for a decision, this month, declaring the site to be "under threat." That's as close to an admission as you'll get that the decision was obviously nuts.