What I saw today would shock any normal human being. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is nowhere more visible than in Hebron.
The Israeli’s have made Palestinians suffer by restricting movement, creating checkpoints, closing streets and markets, setting curfews, welding shut entrances to homes and businesses and conducting random searches.
This caused the economy of the old city to collapse which drove almost all Palestinians from this area to leave their homes and businesses. Jewish settlements now dominate the heart of the city.
The Israelis justification for this being ‘security’, to protect the Jewish settlers.
To me this is blatant apartheid; treating Palestinians legally and physically differently based on their ethnicity.
Our tour took us down a street lined with market stalls which is now overlooked by settlers who have moved into the abandoned homes of Palestinians. A wire net has been put up to protect Palestinians from settlers who throw rocks, knives and even pour acid over Palestinians walking down the street.
Hebron is split into two parts. H1; under Palestinian control and H2; under Israeli control. There are streets that are open to settler traffic but only Palestinian pedestrians. Some streets are completely closed to Palestinians. Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians for the past 16 years.
It was once the main street running through the city centre, now all Palestinian shops are shuttered. The Israeli military ordered them closed due to security concerns, meaning more than 1800 Palestinians lost their livelihoods.
Palestinians are only allowed to walk on the right side of this street.
The centre of the old city is a ghost town.
We walk down a street which is closed to Palestinians. As we walk towards the Palestinian area a soldier shouts at us in Hebrew and three Israeli girls shout to us “thats the Arab side… you don’t wanna go there!”
As we watch some Jewish children playing outside the settlement of Beit Hadassah a Jewish settler child tells the Israeli soldier to get a Palestinian who is merely standing nearby, to move.
We carry along up some steps and along a path walking towards Qurtoba School, we see graffiti vandalised on a school door which demonstrates the racial hatred engrained into the settlers.
‘GAS THE ARABS’
I was reluctant to photograph this, but wanted to show the true reality.
As we are walking up a hill towards a Palestinian community centre we pass 4 Israeli soldiers who are escorting 2 Israeli settler teenage girls as they walk through the Palestinian area.
Once we reach the community centre we are told the story and significance behind it. The community centre is the last building the Israelis need to claim in order to expand their settlement. But the Palestinians and internationals have struggled against this and succeeded; the solidarity behind this building means they will never let it be taken.
This is a place for the children to enjoy playing.