Friday, September 22, 2017

Open Shuhada Street, end Apartheid

Juicebox Gallery

By John Space - February 23, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [In Pictures] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Shuhada Street] [Hebron] [protests]

Photos by Lazar Simeonov.

This article is part of an ongoing series in the Palestine Monitor about the unique challenges faced by the popular resistance movement in the city of Hebron, also known by its Arabic name, Khalil.

On Friday February 22, hundreds marched in Hebron's old city to demand the opening of Shuhada Street, a major artery in the city connecting the center to the cemetery. The Israeli army closed Shuhada Street to Palestinians following Baruch Goldstein's massacre of 29 people inside the Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, and today most of the street is accessible only to settlers.

According to the Israeli human-rights organization B'Tselem, 1,014 housing units are abandoned in Hebron's old city and 1,819 shops have been closed as a result of the occupation. Many of the store closures and home evictions took place on Shuhada Street.

Youth Against Settlements, the Hebron-based activist group that organized the demonstration, issued a statement denouncing Israeli apartheid policy in Hebron.

"The Israeli state has imposed on the Palestinian residents of the city a regime of forced evictions, curfews, market closures, street closures, military checkpoints, subjection to military law including frequent random searches and detention without charge, and lack of protection from rampant settler violence, which has pressured approximately 15,000 Palestinian civilians to flee their homes in the Hebron city center, turning it into a virtual ghost town," the statement said.

Dozens of demonstrators were seriously injured at the hands of Israeli security forces, who fired tear gas canisters, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition

The demonstrators, including several dozen members of the Palestinian National Initiative and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Initiative, marched peacefully toward Shuhada Street and were met with violence from Israeli security forces, who set up temporary barbed-wire barricades to prevent activists from reaching the street. Around two dozen protesters sat down in front of the barricades, risking extreme personal injury. Israeli soldiers attempted to disperse them with stun grenades and sprayed them with foul-smelling "skunk" water when the stun grenades failed to scatter protesters.

Dozens of demonstrators were seriously injured at the hands of Israeli security forces, who fired tear gas canisters, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition. At least one person was shot with live ammunition, sustaining an injury to the leg that required hospitalization, according to Irene Nasser, one of the organizers of the demonstration.

Despite Israeli violence, the demonstration was an important step in the campaign to end Israel's apartheid system. Nasser said the demonstration was part of a larger ongoing struggle to free the Palestinian people from repression.

"It's a tactic of a larger strategy of popular resistance. Within the larger popular struggle, we also have direct action, which includes road closures. We've had activities like (tent cities in) Bab al-Shams and al-Manatir and in Beit Iksa," she said. "There are a lot of different actions and activities and tactics that are used, and this (demonstration) is one more traditional tactic."

The demonstration lasted from noon until around four o'clock pm, when Israeli troops retreated and Palestinian Authority security forces sent in a riot squad to clear the area. Organizers will continue demonstrating in Hebron through at least Monday, February 25th, the date of the 19th anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre.

The demonstrations in Hebron are important because the city is a stark example of the two-tiered apartheid system applied by Israel, Nasser said. 

"I think, in terms of the reality of the occupation, Hebron is a great example of how the occupation manifests itself in Palestine. The Apartheid nature and the division in the city, the restrictions on movement within the city, are kind of like a microcosm of the larger occupation. And I think it is extremely important to demonstrate against it, to protest against it, and try to change the reality here as much as possible," she said.

Nasser said Friday's successful demonstration can serve as an example for the broader popular resistance movement in Palestine.

"I would like the microcosm to spread out into the rest of Palestine and for the segregation and for the Apartheid nature of the occupation here to end," she said.




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