By Nina Larsson
17 June 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On June 13th, 20 Palestinian, Israeli, and foreign women dressed in traditional Palestinian clothes attempted to walk the central street in the West Bank city of Hebron but were violently attacked and dispersed by the Israeli military. Six individuals were arrested; 3 international, 2 Israeli, and one Palestinian journalist.
At three o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, 20 women managed to enter the closed Shuhada street in H2 area of Hebron. Symbolically dressed in traditional Palestinian clothes, the women aimed to bring attention to the apartheid politics of the Israeli military occupation and the oppression that Palestinian women face on a daily basis. Palestinians are not allowed to walk on Shuhada street in the centre of their city, while Israeli settlers from the local illegal settlements can walk freely.
The procession had just begun when an Israeli settler assaulted the women. Shortly after, Israeli military violently blocked and harassed the women. When several men joined the group they were violently attacked by Israeli police, one of them thrown into the ground. When women attempted to prevent the arrest of a man among them, soldiers attacked them too. One female International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer was pressed to the ground and prevented from standing up. Eventually she was dragged to her feet by two soldiers, who forcefully marched her off to an Israeli military jeep and detained her.
“When I cried out to the soldier to let me go, I heard someone shouting behind me, ‘not let you go, let you die, in jail you will die,’ I couldn’t see if it was a soldier or a settler’, the detained female volunteer said, who emerged with a bruised eye from the soldier’s violence.
6 were detained, 3 women and 3 men. Several others were injured by the soldier’s brutality. Israeli soldiers prevented journalists from filming and a settler broke the camera of one observer.
“I did not really understand what was going on, everything happened in a rush. I just could not believe how violent they were. When pushing me into the ground, they kicked me in the head and hit me with the bottom of a rifle”, said another ISM volunteer.
When asked why he believes he was targeted by the Israeli military, he replied, “because of the colour of my skin. I am a bit too dark for their liking.”
Another ISM volunteer who was present said, “we were not shouting or anything, just walking, and suddenly we were surrounded by soldiers with machine guns. When some among us were violently dragged by soldiers onto the ground, I was shocked. One girl was bleeding. For what? All we were doing was walking.”
3 of the 6 detainees were released within a few hours. The 3 remaining were arrested and arbitrarily accused of attacking and injuring soldiers. They were held handcuffed and imprisoned for over 24 hours. In court the three international and Israeli participants were freed from charges of attacking soldiers, but convicted for preventing soldiers from arresting. The final court decision prevents them from entering Area A and Hebron city for the following 3 months. If the conditions are broken they are sentenced to pay an amount of 5000 shekels. The 3 declared that they may appeal the decision.
The illegal Israeli settlement on Shuhada street is occupied by some of the most radical settlers in the Palestinian West Bank. Shuhada has been closed to Palestinians since the killing of 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque by settler Baruch Goldstein in 1994. As a result of the massacre, Palestinians were forced to close down their stores, schools, houses, and mosques in the area. Further restrictions were imposed on Palestinians the following years. In the central parts of Hebron, Palestinians face daily harassment by Israeli settlers and soldiers.
Nina Larsson is an International Solidarity Movement volunteer (name has been changed).