De-TIPHing Hebron - A historical Overview of Foreign Observers

David Wilder argues that the Temporary International Presence in Hebron has always been biased against Jews.

22.7.18, 11:43 | David Wilder | 343 reads
Last week's incident in which a TIPH member slapped a 10-year-old Jewish boy has renewed calls to review or eliminate the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. The revelation that a TIPH member punctured the tires of a Jewish-owned vehicle was also revealed and elicited angry responses from several Members of Knesset. The following is a collection of past editorials from veteran Hebron spokesperson David Wilder on TIPH.
To TIPH or not to TIPH
December 17, 2000
The Barak administration is currently debating the merits of an international observer force to be deployed in Israel. Hebron has first-hand experience with such a force.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron, otherwise known as TIPH, has frequented Hebron's streets for the past four years. TIPH observers are citizens of four Scandinavian countries, Italy, and Turkey.

The TIPH mandate says explicitly, "It is TIPH's purpose to create a feeling of security among the Palestinian population of Hebron and contribute in restoring normal life." The allegations implicit are clear. Despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority controls 80% of Hebron, the city's Arabs are insecure and their lives are abnormal due to the Israeli presence in the city. On the other hand, TIPH has no obligation to observe Arab instigation or violence against Hebron's Jewish citizens.

TIPH observation is a one-way street. They see what they want to see and ignore what they wish to ignore. For example, in March 1998 soldiers near Beit Hadassah apprehended an Arab on the Israeli "wanted list." The Arab resisted arrest, reacted violently, and was subdued. TIPH observers did not arrive in time to witness the Arab's violent resistance, but did film his being restrained.

This summer a 16-year-old Hebron girl was physically assaulted by an Arab while walking from Hebron to Kiryat Arba. TIPH observers did not record the attempted rape, but did record the reaction of angry Jewish residents.

Many TIPH observers arrive in Hebron with preconceived notions and, perhaps, antisemitic attitudes. In an interview with an Oslo suburb newspaper, Nordstrands Blad, on April 5, 2000 observer Yngvil Mortensen said about Israeli soldiers, "they make noise, cause damage to houses, throw down waste and urine [from the rooftops] and let the Jewish settlers almost ravage freely." This was never witnessed and is, of course, an out-and-out lie.

When asked about Palestinian stone-throwers, Mortensen responds, "Would you have liked to be checked three times a day by foreign soldiers? Or that your city is occupied by a foreign power? If we compare with the German occupation of Norway during World War II, we called the sabotage and attacks on Germans resistance fighting."

In a Periodic Report for October 1, 1997 through March 31, 1998, TIPH reports "Settlers in the Old City have harassed their Palestinian neighbors by throwing objects (stones, bottles, acid, vegetables and eggs), trespassing on Palestinian properties during the night, threatening and using abrasive language."

In fact, many TIPH observations are frequently based not on eyewitness accounts but rather on complaints issued by Arabs. Hebron's Jewish community has never been requested to respond to these charges, which are entirely false.

TIPH recommendations are absurd "Also, soldiers have been witnessed playing with children - the intermingling between settlers and IDF weakens the respect for the responsible security apparatus. It is also undermining the feeling of equal protection under the law - it is in the interest of all parties that such conduct should be stopped."

This report totally ignores the fact that during March 1998 Hebron came under a full week of literally hundreds of rock- and fire-bomb attacks, as well as two shooting attacks at the Avraham Avinu neighborhood.

There is a single mention of Arab violence against Jews in the 15-page report. "TIPH has also observed and reported attacks against the settlers, who frequently complain about their feeling of insecurity. When settlers complain about lack of security, this often results in increased military presence, exacerbating the situation for the Palestinians."

In other words, Arab complaints are legitimate, while Israeli grievances "exacerbate the situation." TIPH's influence on the IDF is thoroughly negative. An article in The Wall Street Journal on November 10, 2000 reported from Hebron "When TIPH comes past, we put our guns down,' said a young Israeli soldier..."

The implications concerning an international observer force are apparent. Is Israel prepared to accept international observers in Gilo? How will Israel respond to observers stationed in Beit Jala during an Arab shooting attack on Gilo? Will the IDF dare retaliate, knowing that an Israeli strike may endanger the observers?

A final question concerns the effectiveness of an observer force in enforcing any type of normalcy. TIPH observers have theoretically increased the Arab sense of security over the past four years, thereby bringing about a relaxing of tensions in Hebron. Despite this, the Jewish community of Hebron has been under constant, almost daily, shooting attacks for over two months. If this is any measure of TIPH's ability to bring about peace and quiet, they can only be judged as a total failure.

Allowing such biased, ineffective, subjective, and, in some cases, antisemitic observers into Israel can only be detrimental to the best interests of our state.
This article was printed in the Jerusalem Post on December 17, 2000 and reprinted in Israel National News on July 8, 2001.
De-TIPHing Hebron
 January 27, 2010
The past two weeks witnessed massive attacks aimed at Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as a result of his "infamous" meeting with Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Cellikol. The meeting was purported to be an Israeli diplomatic scolding following airing of a Turkish television show which allegedly portrayed IDF soldiers kidnapping and shooting Arab children. The Turks denied the allegations, retorting that the soldiers in the show were not Israeli.

When the meeting commenced, Ayalon refused to shake the ambassador's hand, Cellikol was seated undiplomatically on a low sofa and the Turkish flag, customarily present as such an event, was missing. If the point wasn't readily understood, Ayalon verbally described the scene to Israeli cameramen present in the office.

What followed, which might have been expected, was a small, virtual war between Turkey and Israel, which led to an Israeli apology.

However, clearly, behind this less than diplomatic rendezvous was more than meets the eye. Only a few weeks ago, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israeli diplomats stationed around the world to "stop turning the other cheek." At a heads of missions conference in Jerusalem he declared: "The problem with Israeli diplomacy over the years is that it does not do enough to preserve the honor of the State of Israel. Terms like 'national honor' have value in the Middle East. There is no need to provoke or exaggerate, but there must not be an attitude of obsequiousness and self-deprecation, and the need to always justify the other side. This is a wrong approach."

This is exactly the policy Ayalon represented when meeting with Cellikol. And it had little to do with a television show. For the past year, since Operation Cast Lead, Israel-Turkish relations have hit an all time low. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of "inhuman acts" in Gaza and demanded placement of international observers there to prevent Gaza's "self-destruction."

Erdogan's suggestion of "international observers" strikes a raw nerve, especially in Hebron. Turkey is one of six countries participating in the Temporary International Observer Force (TIPH) in Hebron. This organization has been actively operating in Hebron for the past 12 years, since the implementation of the "Hebron Accords" between Yasser Arafat and Israel, which divided Hebron into two, unequal parts.

According to the official TIPH mandate, its major functions include:

• providing a feeling of security to the Palestinians of Hebron with their presence;

• helping to promote stability and an appropriate environment conductive to the enhancement of the well-being of the Palestinians of Hebron and their economic development;

• observing the enhancement of peace and prosperity among Palestinians.

The allegations implicit in this mandate are clear. In spite of the fact that the Palestinian Authority now controls 80 percent of Hebron, its Arabs are "insecure" and their lives are abnormal due to the Israeli presence in the city. TIPH has no obligation to observe Arab instigation or violence against Hebron's Jewish citizens.

Unfortunately, TIPH is far from objective. The organization also partakes in activities outside of the framework of its mandate. Such activities include interference in internal Israeli affairs. For example, following the purchase of Beit Hashalom in Hebron, TIPH head of mission Karl-Henrik Sjursen, in a media release, said: "TIPH urges the IDF to evacuate the settlers from the building to avoid that new facts of the ground are being established... This action of the settlers can be seen by the Palestinians as an unnecessary provocation in an already tense environment. It might have serious consequences for the security situation in the city."

He later added, "The occupation of the house has not only led to increased violence but also further destabilized the situation in Hebron as a whole. In this respect TIPH again urges the Israeli authorities on all levels to take necessary measures to evict the occupants. In the light of the ongoing violence and the continuing violation of both Israeli and international law, we also encourage the Israeli authorities to evict the settlers occupying the house on Patriarchs' Hill with no further delay."

This type of intervention by a foreign body is blatantly negative toward Israel and certainly produces negative impressions in countries around the world, most definitely in the other countries participating in TIPH and the "host countries" - the US and Russia.

In February 2004, outgoing head of mission Jan Kristensen, in a media interview, accused both Israeli civilians and the IDF of ethnic cleansing in Hebron: "The activity of the settlers and the army in the H-2 area of Hebron is creating an irreversible situation. In a sense, cleansing is being carried out."

One further example of TIPH's bias: On November 12, 2000, Mary Robinson, then chairwoman of the UN Council for Human Rights, visited Hebron. While driving in a TIPH vehicle up the hill to the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, her car was shot at. TIPH later examined evidence concerning the attack and concluded: "TIPH received the results of a ballistic expertise carried out by the Danish police. The expertise showed that the shot was fired from a Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle. Moreover, a reconstruction conducted by TIPH personnel in cooperation with the Danish experts clearly designated the origin of the shot: a house in the H1 area, north of Bab al-Zawiya."

This information was included in the 15th periodic report published by TIPH, but it was not publicized to the public-at-large, leaving many people believing that the attack had been perpetrated by Jewish civilians or IDF personnel serving in Hebron.

The TIPH presence is detrimental, damaging and disadvantageous to the State of Israel. In conducting tours for civilians and diplomats without any Israeli representation, TIPH presents a very one-sided, biased account of Israeli and IDF policies, which only add to the negative propaganda being disseminated internationally.

When Ayalon visited Hebron, in response to a question, he emphasized that the "T" in TIPH stands for temporary, and clarified that the organization's mandate would not be automatically renewed. His spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that it would not be "rubber stamped," as had been practiced in the past. Clearly, the logical continuation of the Lieberman-Ayalon doctrine, preserving Israel's pride against foreign animosity, leads to the conclusion that Israel must end the TIPH mandate in Hebron when the it expires at the end of this month.
This article was originally printed in the Jerusalem Post on January 27, 2010.
Other related past articles by David Wilder:
The Ha’aretz Hooligans -  February 17, 2004
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