‘It’s exactly what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go: they could drink from that fountain, they couldn’t go over there, they couldn’t eat in that place,’ the American actor tells an Israeli TV station during a tour of the segregated West Bank city.
Richard Gere visited the West Bank city of Hebron this week, guided by the Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence.
Gere was in Israel to promote his new film “Norman,” and was accompanied to Hebron by director Joseph Cedar, an Israeli, along with a crew from Channel 2 News.
In the report, broadcast during the prime time evening news hour Wednesday, Gere responds to what he sees in blunt terms. He compares occupied Hebron to the Jim Crow era in the southern United States.
Looking around, Gere says to his guides, and to the television camera, “It’s exactly what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go: they could drink from that fountain, they couldn’t go over there, they couldn’t eat in that place. It was well understood — you didn’t cross over if you didn’t want to get your head beat in, or you get lynched.”
Having internalized the understanding that he is standing in the middle of a deserted street in what was once a busy commercial area, Gere sees Jewish settlers moving about freely where Palestinians are forbidden to walk and says: “This is the thing that’s flipping me out right now…This is really bizarre, this is genuinely strange … who owns the city, and their feeling of ‘I’m protected, I can do whatever I want.’”
[Watch the full video here]
This particular part of Hebron is home to about 500 radical Jewish settlers, notorious for their extreme racism. The city is home to over 160,000 Palestinians. Shuhada Street, which used to be the main commercial avenue of the area, bustled with human traffic 20 years ago — as one of the guides for Breaking the Silence describes to Gere. Today it is eerily empty, except for a heavy Israeli military presence.
Palestinians are forbidden to walk on Shuhada Street. Their shop doors have been welded shut. The army has bricked up and sealed the fronts of Palestinian houses that face the streets through which settlers pass on their way to synagogue.
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