Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hebronís 4th annual Open Shuhada Street demo


By Claire Matsunami - February 25, 2014
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Hebron] [Shuhada Street]

Approximately 2000 people protested on Friday 21 February against Israel’s closure of Shuhada Street, a major road in the old city of Hebron closed to Palestinians by Israeli forces since 1994. 

The protest, organized by the group Youth Against Settlements, called for the reopening of Shuhada Street, once the economic heart of the city and the main artery connecting the north and south areas of Hebron. 

“We just want to show the international community that Palestinians are not allowed to walk on their street, Shuhada street, which used to be the main street in Hebron…We just want to try to go to work on our street,” said activist Badia Dwaik, who was arrested at the demonstration.

The march included approximately 2000 people, including an unprecedented appearance by Gazan activists. Starting at Sheikh Ali Makaa mosque, protesters peacefully marched toward Shuhada Street. The Israeli military met the demonstration with tear gas and stun grenades. 

Most protesters dissipated quickly, with a few staying behind to confront the military.  Youth threw stones and burning tires where thrown into the street to cloud visibility.  As clashes continued between a small group of activists and citizens, the military began to shoot rubber-coated steel bullets. 5 people were arrested and over 15 injured throughout the day.

Youth Against Settlements is “a Palestinian national non-partition group working to dismantle settlements by pure nonviolent resistance and popular struggle,” according to the group’s coordinator, Issa Amro. Friday’s demonstration was organized in an effort to encourage the reopening the street. However, the protest had a larger goal: to raise awareness about the situation in Hebron and call for international pressure on Israel to demand the “abolishment of settlements, and putting an end to Israel’s occupation and the apartheid policies,” Amro told the Palestine Monitor. 

On 25 February 1994, during the First Intifada, Israeli doctor Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi Mosque during Friday prayer and opened fire, killing 29 Palestinians and wounding over 100. In response to the massacre, Israeli authorities shut down Palestinian vehicle access to Shuhada Street, stating the closure was due to security reasons. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities allowed for the construction of 4 Israeli settlements around Shuhada Street. 

In 1997 the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority negotiated the Hebron Protocol, which once again allowed Palestinians vehicles onto Shuhada Street. It also established the division of the city into two areas: H1 under the purview of the Palestinian Authority, and H2 under Israeli martial law. Shuhada Street is located within H2, along with the Jewish settlements next to it.

In 2000 the Second Intifada prompted Israel to close the street once again, this time to Palestinian pedestrians as well. The closure effectively collapsed the economy of what was once the economic heart of the city, and has had a devastating impact on the city as a whole.

“You could say Shuhada was Hebron,” said Issa Amro.

According to B’Tselem, 1,141 businesses closed in Hebron during the Second Intifada; approximately 440 of which were closed by direct military order, while the rest were forced out of business due to the lack of economic opportunity.

Hebron is one of the most impoverished cities in Palestine, according to a report by the United Nations Development Program. A 2009 survey by the International Committy for the Red Cross found that 77% of Palestinians living in Hebron still lived below the poverty line. 

Today there are approximately 350-400 Jewish settlers living in Hebron, according to settlement watchdog organization Peace Now. These settlers and the Israeli military are the only people allowed to access Shuhada Street. Prohibition of access to Shuhada Street, and the installation of Israeli military checkpoints, have severely limited mobility for Palestinian families living in Hebron’s Old City, especially for those living in the H2 area. In order to gain walking access, citizens must apply for a permit; however, Israeli authorities effectively stopped issuing permits in 2008, according to B’Tselem. Instead, citizens are forced to resort to traveling through side entrances, neighboring apartments and over rooftops. 

Palestinians in Hebron are also subject to physical, emotional, and systematic violence by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers. Palestinian children walking to school have stones thrown at them, citizens are beaten with clubs, streets have grates and tarps hung over them because settlers often throw bricks and waste down on pedestrians, and houses are arbitrarily searched or seized. The Israeli military does little to protect Palestinians, and instead, operates as security for the settlers.

Life in Hebron is so unbearable that many have left the city to find safer homes elsewhere. “It is not occupation anymore, it is displacement,” said Issa Amro. “Israel is doing their best to take out the Palestinian people.” 

Despite the fact that the protesters never gained access to Shuhada Street, many remain optimistic. “Shuhada Street is not going to open with one [demonstration]. It needs to be a continuous work,“ said demonstrator Mariam Barghouti in an interview with the Palestine Monitor. 

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