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The market square is empty in Hebron

There are many injustices under the occupation: small ones and big ones. There is theft and murder and never ending oppression. There is Shuhada Street, and they all exist there.

By Leehee Rotschild

During a protest against the continued closure of Shuhada Street to Palestinians, demonstrators climb a fence, bulit by the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Hebron February 22, 2013. Hundreds of demonstrators, including foreign and Israeli activists, gathered to mark the 19th anniversary of the closure of the street by the Israeli army in 1994 following the massacre by Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler, who went on a rampage inside Al Ibrahimi Mosque, killing 29 Palestinian worshipers. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

On the Friday before last, Palestinian protestors accompanied by Israeli and international solidarity activists wanted to mark “Open Shuhada Street Day” in Hebron. Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians since the Baruch Goldstein massacre in 1994, including residents who live on the street and have to climb onto their rooftops to adjacent streets in order to leave their houses. Meanwhile, settlers living in the area come and go freely. Shuhada Street, which used to be the market place of Hebron, has turned into a “ghost street,” with a checkpoint at its entrance.

On that Friday we gathered by the street’s entrance. Palestinian youth hung flags and signs on the checkpoints and the drums beat loudly with slogans against the injustice, on the street, which above all else is the embodiment of apartheid. But the Palestinian residents, who are punished with the closure of their street for a massacre committed against them, whose private and public space is torn from them, have no right of protest under the laws of the occupying army. The protest chants were drowned out by the explosions of stun grenades and whistles of tear gas canister. The smells of the market were overwhelmed by the stench of skunk water. I had planned to write a proper post about this demonstration, with accurate reporting from the ground, but it is hard to maintain accuracy when the protest spreads all over town. It is hard to remain organized when your head echoes with explosions and your heart beats rapidly from running and fear. And I gave up.

And then I saw these photos. Taken by Activestills, they show Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir – the first wearing a Kahanist T-shirt, the later in mock Palestinian prisoners uniforms – marching in the heart of Shuhada Street; the same street in which the Palestinian protesters were prevented from entering, heavily guarded by Israeli security forces, the same forces which dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets the Palestinian demonstration, marking the anniversary of the Goldstein massacre, the same massacre for which the Palestinians are continually punished. So I decided that something must be said, even if nothing more than a summary.

Israeli settlers at the Hebron Jewish settlement’s Purim parade on the city’s Shuhada Street. Itamar Ben Gvir (L), is dressed as a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner. February 24, 2013 (Activestills.org)

There are many injustices under the occupation: small ones and big ones. There is theft and murder and never ending oppression. There is Shuhada Street, and they all exist there.

I conclude with the Facebook status I published upon my return from the demonstration that day, which still feels most appropriate:

At the end the of the day I’m angry. I’m angry with the Israeli soldiers, and with the PA collaborators. I’m angry with the international community that remains silent. I’m angry at the occupation and apartheid, and the checkpoint blocking a street in which people have homes and families and lives. I’m angry with the Israeli media, according to which “things are calm now,” which means that apartheid is back in order and the resistance has subsided for the day. I’m angry because I’m now back home, safe and sound. But when I left there was still tear gas in the air and the explosions of the sound bombs were still echoing in the streets of Hebron. I’m angry because no one should live like this and still people do, and because for the people of Hebron, for those who live in Shuhada Street, things are “back to normal” now. There is nothing normal about the way things are. I’m angry and sad, and as we sit down for dinner, I go and to wash my hands and my face, and some teargas leftovers leak into my eye. It stings and burns, and the tears are bitter with the taste of tear gas, and with the taste of rage.

Leehee Rothschild has been active in the Palestinian struggle for over a decade. She currently works with Anarchists Against the Wall and Boycott From Within. She writes about activism and political struggle on her blog, Radically Blonde and other publications.

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    1. rsgengland

      In 1929 67 defenseless Jews of Hebron were massacred, and the remaining Jewish survivors were evacuated.
      Thus came to an end thousands of years of Jewish life in Hebron .
      The Jews were effectively murdered and ETHNICALLY CLEANSED from Hebron.
      Baruch Goldsteins actions have no place in the history of the Jewish people.
      His actions were and are unacceptable to almost all Jews.
      His actions though seem to have a resonance in the life and folklore of the Palestinians, as evidenced by the spate of suicide bombings against Israelis, and the esteem the
      Palestinians show towards these bombers.

      Reply to Comment
      • Andrew Miller

        “Baruch Goldsteins actions have no place in the history of the Jewish people.
        His actions were and are unacceptable to almost all Jews.”

        Two comments: First, you apparently know little about Qiryat Arba. E.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Goldstein#Veneration_of_Goldstein_and_celebration_of_the_massacre

        Second, if you wish for people to believe that Kahane, Goldstein, and those who celebrate them are not typical of Jews, then you should accept that the events of 1929 were not typical of Palestinian Arabs then, and they are not typical of them now.

        More generally, what is the point of your comment? To distract attention from the blatant racism that the Israeli occupation imposes on Shuhada Street?

        Reply to Comment
        • rsgengland

          My post was to highlight that Jews were ETHNICALLY CLEANSED from Hebron in 1929.
          The massacre in Hebron was one of many committed by the Palestinians, not least by their love of martyrs that strap belts laden with explosives and small metal pieces and then detonate themselves in restaurants, buses, shopping malls and supermarkets, to kill as many Jewish civilians as possible.
          If the security barrier and other measures were not in place, these bombings would still be occurring.
          Examples are Jerusalem Oct/Nov 2012, and Bulgaria 2012.
          As far as Goldstein is concerned, except for a very small extremist sect, his actions were and are reviled by almost all Jews.

          Reply to Comment
          • It is perfectly possible to sneak round the separation barrier without detection by the army. The army knows it. Everyone knows it.

            But Leehee’s short piece is not about this. It is about the closure of Shuhadeh Street to Palestinians, which was undertaken specifically in response to Goldstein’s massacre of Palestinians in Ibrahimi Mosque. On Shuhadeh Street today there are families who are forced to climb in and out of their back windows with ladders when they want to enter or leave their houses, because their front doors and windows are sealed with metal shutters. Some families have had to split up, as the elderly members can no longer cope with these sorts of gymnastics. Again, these restrictions were implemented after a group of Palestinians was massacred by an Israeli terrorist. How you can turn this into an issue of Israeli Jewish security is beyond me.

            “As far as Goldstein is concerned, except for a very small extremist sect, his actions were and are reviled by almost all Jews.”

            I agree with this. But members of that small extremist sect are living in Hebron, and when they’re your immediate neighbours, all of a sudden they don’t feel so small any more – especially not when their actions are enabled by the military power of the state. On Purim it is quite routine for Goldstein’s supporters to dance through the street dressed in his likeness. Two of my friends were presented with a poster of him once and told ‘This is your king’ – with the army looking on, doing nothing. It’s a hostile intimidating place to be if you happen to be Palestinian.

            Reply to Comment