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Hundreds march in Hebron: 'Open segregated Shuhada Street'

Israeli soldiers fire volleys of tear gas to break up the protest, prevent the march from reaching the street Israel has forbidden Palestinians but not Jews from walking or driving down.

Hundreds march in Hebron demanding the end of settelements and segregation in the city, February 24, 2017. (Haidi Motola/Activestills.org)

Hundreds march in Hebron demanding the end of settelements and segregation in the city, February 24, 2017. (Haidi Motola/Activestills.org)

Around 400 people marched through the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday to mark 23 years since the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) Massacre, and demanded the city’s Shuhada Street be re-opened to Palestinian residents, and to end the occupation. Shuhada Street has been segregated — closed to Palestinians but not Jews — for 16 years: Palestinian residents cannot walk out their front doors, and shops owned by Palestinians have long been forced shuttered.

The protest departed from H1, the Oslo-era designation separating the part of Hebron under Palestinian administration and the part run by the Israeli army, where the city’s Israeli settlements are located. The goal was to reach Shuhada Street. The protesters chanted against Israeli settlements, and expressed solidarity with those being displaced from Umm al-Hiran.

Read also: +972’s special coverage marking 20 years since the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre

Waiting along the route of the march, on the side of the city allegedly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, were Israeli soldiers. The moment the marchers came into sight, the soldiers began firing intense volleys of tear gas. Very quickly, the vast majority of the protesters dispersed into alleys and side streets that filled up with gas, while a number of local youths stayed behind to respond to the soldiers by throwing stones.

Many people suffered from tear gas inhalation; an Israeli photographer was beaten by soldiers. It was unclear at the time of writing if or how many injuries or arrests there were.

The protest march was organized by a coalition of Palestinian left-wing political parties, Youth Against Settlements, “Human Rights Defenders” (HRD), various women’s organizations and others, and Tarabut-Hithabrut. Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti also took part, along with representatives of the popular committees of Nabi Saleh and Bil’in.

Activists said that Israeli forces raided two organizers’ homes Thursday night and threatened them, saying the march should not take place as planned. The activists were Badee Dwaik from HRD and Anan Da’ana from the Committee to Protect Hebron.

After Israeli troops broke up the protest with volleys of tear gas, a number of local youths stayed behind to respond to the soldiers by throwing stones, February 24, 2017. Hebron. (Haidi Motola/Activestills.org)

After Israeli troops broke up the protest with volleys of tear gas, a number of local youths stayed behind to respond to the soldiers by throwing stones, February 24, 2017. Hebron. (Haidi Motola/Activestills.org)

Friday’s march marked the end of two weeks of protest actions in Hebron, all of which called to re-open Shuhada Street. Thousands of Palestinian residents suffer negative consequences from the closure, with hundreds having to climb over roofs just to reach their homes on the segregated street.

The segregation and closure, of course, only exist because of the presence of some 900 Israeli settlers among well over 100,000 Palestinian residents of Hebron.

The protest was organized by a coalition of Palestinian organizations and left-wing political parties, Hebron, February 24, 2017. (Haidi Motola/Activestills.org)

The protest was organized by a coalition of Palestinian organizations and left-wing political parties, Hebron, February 24, 2017. (Haidi Motola/Activestills.org)

“We are living in a period in which both the societies in Israel and the Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza are moving to the right,” Hisham Sharbati, an activist with the Committee to Protect Hebron, which coordinates among left-wing parties in Hebron, told dozens of Israeli activists who came to the protest.

“The joint struggle is important to us in order to strengthen the Left on both sides,” Sharbati added. “They try to claim that the Palestinian struggle for independence is part of Islamic terrorism or even ISIS. We are standing here together to show that we are fighting for basic human rights and justice. I hope that next year we can mark the massacre in a joint ceremony in a liberated Hebron, without occupation and with soldiers.”

This article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Hebron is one of the holy cities. Dear leftist, please do not ignore the Jewish heritage. Thank you. For us the occupation is Arabic.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        He’s not “ignoring the Jewish heritage,” Halevy. He wants to strengthen the left on both sides. You want to strengthen the right on both sides. Looks like you have a difference of opinion on how to go about things. Yours is the long and bloody way. His is the shorter and non-bloody way. Why can’t your sons inherit this hereditary priest-king thing you think you have going inside of a two state solution? According to the regional peace initiative that Mitchell Plitnick outlined two day ago (look at Point (4)):

        (1) Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.
        (2) Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.
        (3) Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options, and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.
        (4) Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.
        (5) Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.
        (6) End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          You unfortunately forget several important points:

          – The Judea and the Samaria are a part of the Jewish heritage
          – There has never been any “Palestinian” people. Even some “Palestinian” leaders admit it
          – There has been one million Jews kicked out the Arabs countries in the 50′ and 60′ Can we forget the Jewish refugees?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy, the area between the river and the sea is a part of both peoples’ heritage. As perhaps Peace Now has best articulated,

            “it makes no difference whether Israelis, or Jews, or anyone else recognize the Palestinians as a people. The Palestinians view themselves as a distinct people, with deep ties to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel and supporters of Israel can neither deny nor wish the Palestinians and their claims out of existence. That is the reality that must be accepted and addressed if there is ever going to be peace, security, and stability.
            “At the same time, Israelis and Jews should recognize the gross insincerity and disrespect involved in denying the Palestinians’ identity, because we have experienced the same ugly denial. For years, extremists within and outside the Arab world have attacked the legitimacy of Israel as a state by attacking the Jewish claim to the land and attacking the legitimacy of Israelis as a national group. They have argued that Israelis are nothing but foreigners who came from the West, who should go back where they came from.
            People of integrity – Jewish and non-Jewish – categorically reject and condemn such attacks on Israel. We point to Jewish historical and religious ties to the land, to the continual presence of Jews on the land throughout history, and to the well-established Jewish longing for Israel way before 1948. We insist on Israelis’ right to self-determination and security. And we recognize the pain such attacks cause to Israelis and the threat these attacks represent to the very possibility of Israel-Arab peace.
            Likewise, for decades there has been an effort among extremists in Israel and abroad to try to delegitimize the Palestinians as a people and delegitimize their right, as a people, to self-determination. These arguments are historically incorrect and insensitive. Worse, they are irrelevant to the current situation on the ground, and politically damaging to Israeli interests.
            There is ample historical documentation showing that a separate local identity among Arabs living in Palestine started forming in the 16th and 17th century, and that a national Palestinian consciousness began crystallizing early in the 20th century, as anti-colonial movements took root around the world. This national consciousness transformed into a national movement and later into a national liberation movement, in large part as a result of the friction between the Palestinians and Zionism, the Jewish national self-determination movement.”

            Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      Arab Hevron residents had the opportunity to show how open and “progressive” they were with their Jewish minority before 1967. So what did they do? In 1929 they conducted a massacre of Jews and threw the survivors out of the city. A small number tried to return and reconstruct the community which has existed more or less continuously for 4000 years but that small remnant was run out of town in 1936. In addition, during that period the Muslim managers of the holy Tomb of the Patriarchs would not allow Jews to even enter the building, even though it was built by Jews long before the Arabs/Muslims invaded the country.
      They had their chance. The dream of driving the Jews out of the city once again will be resisted.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Not that I agree with your simplistic potted history or your account of others dreams but what does this mean then? That failures of progressivism in 1929 mean that you the occupier get to luxuriate in your failure of progressivism in 2017? And everybody else nowadays will just sign off on that? And if they don’t then you are the victim again? And we’ll strengthen the right on both sides and have a battle of right wing ideologies instead of strengthening the left on both sides and making peace? There is a good anecdote to describe your way of coming at this. Both in the way you selectively ignore what both sides did, good and bad, and the way you invoke a selected past as justification for human rights violations in the present. Turns out you think the way settler children have been taught to think. Check it out:


        ‘Another milestone in the long journey that led Shaul towards this point began early in his Army service. Shaul explains that the seminal historic event in every settler child’s early
        education is the 1929 massacre during the riots against Jewish immigration to Palestine, when 67 Jews were slaughtered on a single day – though 435 survived after being sheltered by their Arab neighbours. And then he recalls how he saw an elderly Palestinian woman coming down from the hillside neighbourhood of Abu Snena to be greeted by settler children throwing stones at her. “I said to a child of about 10, ‘What do you think you are doing?’ He said, ‘Do you know what this woman did in 1929?'”

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          The vast majority of Germans never laid a hand on Jews during the 1933-1945 period. In fact, neither did the leaders who led the whole thing. Does that mean Germany and its leaders have no responsibility for what happened. If the people of Hevron allowed a massacre of its Jewish population (which wasn’t Zionist as it was understood at the time) what does that say about them? Why did they run the survivors out of town if most Arabs liked Jews as you imply?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I do not accept your simplistic historical narrative. What the massacre and the events surrounding it say about “the people of Hevron” today, I don’t know. And you don’t either. Nor can you or I have a simple, pat answer to what atrocities allowed by “the people of Israel” say about them today. But framing it the way you do sure does anchor things with a dead weight to the past and prevent moving forward, and justifies human rights violations in the present by selectively quoting the past. And justifies the status quo, your vested interest. (For a more complex view of the past see the book review below.)

            Peace Now: “One would do well to be careful demanding a Jewish “right of return” to Hebron and other parts of the West Bank, given that Palestinians who fled from Israel also claim a “right of return” to the lands they left.
            But even for those who support a Jewish presence in Hebron, the question then becomes: what kind of presence? Among the reasons the Hebron settlers are so reviled is that their behavior has often been violent and arrogant in the extreme, destroying property, hounding and harassing Palestinian residents, abusing IDF soldiers sent to protect them, and loudly demonstrating their presence in every way imaginable. As we remember the horrific violence used against the Jewish community of Hebron in 1929, we should not forget that Hebron was also the site of one of the worst acts of Jewish terrorism in memory, when in 1994 Baruch Goldstein, a settler from the settlement of Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hebron, murdered 29 Muslim worshippers while they were at prayer in the mosque in the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
            Protecting the security and way of life of some 600 Jewish settlers who have chosen to make their homes in the heart of Hebron – a city of 160,000 Palestinians – would be a heavy burden on the IDF even if the city were not a focal point of violence and hatred. In the current context, achieving this mission has come at the cost of the most basic rights of the Palestinians of the city. Palestinian residents of downtown Hebron have been placed under curfew for months at a time, they are prohibited from accessing parts of the city, their businesses have been shut down, and key traffic arteries have been closed to them entirely. Indeed, in the wake of the Goldstein massacre, the Palestinian population of the city center has nearly disappeared. Apart from the settlers, who enjoy unfettered movement throughout the city, the downtown and old city of Hebron are a ghost town of empty streets and shuttered shops, daubed with the settlers’ anti-Palestinian graffiti.
            A city with 160,000 residents cannot be held by force indefinitely. Even then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized this fact when he ceded control over most of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority in 1997.”

            Recommended reading:
            Book Review: Menachem Klein’s History of Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron

            Reply to Comment