Friday, May 27th
Tel Rumeida and Shuhada Street are among the oldest areas of the city of Hebron. They are also among the most difficult places for Palestinians to now live. The first illegal settlements set up after the Israeli occupation in 1967 were along Shuhada Street and in Tel Rumeida. Populated by ideological Israeli settlers who believe they have a divine claim to the land, some of the settlements’ most infamous members belong to parties now recognized as terrorist even within Israel. Despite this, their continued presence in the area is facilitated by the protection of hundreds of Israeli soldiers. Over the years settlers have attacked and harassed Palestinians in Tel Rumeida and Shuhada street, with little or no accountability for their actions.
The increased military presence protecting the settlements has exclusively impacted Palestinians. Since 1993, when an extremist Israeli settler massacred 23 Muslim worshippers at the city’s Ibrahimi mosque, checkpoints and closures have severely restricted Palestinian movement. Most of Shuhada Street, once Hebron’s main thoroughfare and marketplace, is now off limits to Palestinian vehicles, and a 1 kilometre stretch –where three illegal settlements are situated- is completely prohibited even to Palestinian pedestrians. Faced with a daily life of restrictions, harassment and violence, an estimated 1000 Palestinians were effectively forced out of their homes. The latest Closed Military Zone has further stifled Palestinian life in the area, and increased fears that all Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida will be lost to the settlements.
Wednesday, May 25th
“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” – Article 49, Fourth Geneva Convention.
The establishment of the Israeli settlements all over the Israeli occupied West Bank, thus, evidently contravenes international law. The Israeli state is transferring their own citizens into settlements built on Palestinian land in the Israeli occupied West Bank. These settlements all over the West Bank, built exclusively for Israeli citizens, are not only illegal under international law, but also directly cause the expropriation and expulsion of Palestinians from their own land.
The 4 Israeli settlements in down-town Hebron are no exception from this – and here, by making the majority of Shuhada Street a settler-only road and not allowing any Palestinian to be present there – the apartheid policy, and attempts at forcible displacement of Palestinians is even more obvious. There is one last tiny stretch of Shuhada Street where Palestinians are still allowed to walk, but not to drive, thus allowing only “numbered” Palestinian residents access.
Monday, May 23rd
Whereas Palestinian ‘numbered’ residents are not allowed to receive any kind of visitors – their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, grandparents, cousins or nephews – settlers from the illegal settlements are free to go and even drive cars anywhere inside or outside of the CMZ.
Can you imagine having your whole family barred by a foreign occupying army from visiting you at home? This rule is strictly enforced and has no exceptions – whether it is your brother’s birthday, your daughter’s wedding or your parents are seriously ill – you will not be allowed to visit them.
Sunday, May 22nd
Marwa recounts when her and her two brothers were attacked by settlers: “Me and my two brothers were near the checkpoint, and there was a group of settler kids between the age of 8 and 15. They started yelling at us and saying bad things, so I yelled at the soldiers for help. The soldiers held all three of us back and said we could not leave before the settlers had gone. One of the settler kids told the soldier that I was a ‘troublemaker’, and then the soldier threatened me with putting me to jail if I made any trouble.”
“I live right next to the worst settlers in Hebron. I have never seen people as bad as them. I was attacked by them multiple times – everyone in my family has been injured by settlers. And the worst part is that the Israeli Police, that controls the area, does nothing about that. But if a settler accuses a Palestinian of doing anything, the Palestinian is guilty till they prove the opposite. The settlers throw stones at us without any consequences, but we can not do anything against them and no one can or will stop them from hurting us”, explains Sundus.
Friday, May 20th
Deliberate targeting of human rights defenders & press.
Once the area was declared a CMZ on 1st November 2015, Israeli forces started deliberately and directly targeting human rights defenders documenting and monitoring the Israeli forces’ and illegal settlers’ violations of human rights of Palestinians. This is by no way a coincidence; Israeli forces are deliberately trying to silence not only human rights defenders, but also the press, both of which are entirely banned from accessing the area.
Both the local Youth Against Settlements (YAS) activist group, as well as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Hebron where evicted from their respective centers. Whereas YAS was afterwards included in the boundaries of the CMZ, ISM was repeatedly kicked out of their office by the Israeli civil police with photocopied ‘CMZ-orders’ without stamp or signature and despite them having a legal rental contract. The Israeli forces are trying to silence any voice speaking out against their crimes and violations and to stop the world from knowing the real face of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.
Again and again you hear Palestinians comment that the soldiers are only there to protect the Israeli settlers. If settlers behave aggressively towards Palestinians, the Israeli forces tell the Palestinians to leave, with no consequences for the aggressors. Illegal Israeli settlers are allowed to walk around freely and are not checked at checkpoints, and they are not required to be registered with a number. Regularly groups of Israeli and other jewish tourists from around the world enter the closed military zone for guided tours, with no restrictions on movement. Those Palestinians who reside in the closed military zone (CMZ) and are allowed to enter, still face delays and harassment. Additionally their friends and family living outside are not allowed to enter the area to visit them, which further hollows out the community and their ability to continue living under what was even before very difficult circumstances.
Not only is this a racist apartheid strategy but it constitutes collective punishment for the whole Palestinian community. Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention states: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.
Similarly, the 1973 Apartheid Convention declared apartheid a crime against humanity. Article 2 defines it as ‘inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them’. It includes “ Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person by the infringement of their freedom or dignity” and “denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to freedom of movement and residence”.
For Palestinians the restrictions caused by the CMZ are suffocating. Children are urged by their parents to only make absolutely necessary journeys due to the fear of soldiers and settlers. Not being able to play with friends outside in the CMZ, does not make for a happy childhood.
Understandably, this makes many families consider moving away from the area, in effect forcibly displacing them from their homes.
200 days – can you imagine your home suddenly being inside a closed military zone (CMZ), your friends and family not allowed to visit you anymore, you and your family being assigned a number that suddenly replaces your identity and decides whether a foreign army will allow you to reach your home?
This form of collective punishment for Palestinians in the CMZ in Shuhada Street and the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood today marks 200 days – 200 days too long of being a number and not being treated like a human being. It is a sad anniversary that proves that the international community has turned a blind eye on the plight of the Palestinians, that in the CMZ have been reduced to numbers. This dehumanization historically has already led to genocide.
The impunity of the Israeli forces deeds against the Palestinian population needs to stop.
Ethnic cleansing of Shuhada Street
In the aftermath of the 1994 Ibrahimi mosque massacre, only a tiny stretch of Shuhada Street has remained open for Palestinians. Whereas the majority of this once thriving Palestinian market was forced closed by the Israeli forces and Palestinian movement there is strictly prohibited, a tiny stretch of the street located between Shuhada and Daboya checkpoints, is still open for Palestinians.
As it is located on a settler only road, Palestinians are only allowed to walk through there. The declaration of the closed military zone on 1st November 2015 now further limits Palestinians’ ‘movement’ to a degree where only registered, or rather numbered, residents are allowed to walk down the street. The street is a dead end for any Palestinian, as they are not allowed to proceed past Daboya checkpoint (ironically, except for when blindfolded, handcuffed and dragged to the military base on Shuhada Street). It is obvious that the Israeli forces are attempting to ethnically cleanse even the last tiny bit of Shuhada Street of any Palestinian presence.
When entering the closed military zone, any Palestinian resident – unlike settlers that can freely walk anywhere inside the zone without ever being stopped – has to be registered with the Israeli forces. At the checkpoint, Palestinians are not regarded as human beings – they are registered with a number, that for most of them was written down on their IDs by the Israeli forces. When crossing the checkpoint, Palestinian residents thus have to give their number, in order to be allowed to proceed to their own homes.
The only information asked for by the Israeli forces is the ‘number’ that was assigned to the residents. To be degraded to a mere number and not considered full human beings, draws terrifying parallels to other historical events. Whereas Mohammad is not allowed to pass the checkpoint, number 938 is.
Freedom of movement at Shuhada checkpoint and numbering Palestinians
Suffocating Palestinian life – emboldening settlers
The closed military zone (CMZ) is suffocating Palestinian life in the area – while facilitating freedom of movement for settlers, and complete impunity for their actions. It is strangling Palestinian daily life by hour-long waits for an eventual humiliating passage through the checkpoint – and then merely as a number, not as a person. It is also preventing access for any outside visitors like family or friends; clearly it is not a way of life anyone would choose, nor does it make for a happy community. Thus it directly, and deliberately, creates a coercive environment that culminates in leaving no option for the Palestinian residents but to leave their homes in a search for a better life.
The sole aim of the closed military zone, therefore, clearly is the forced displacement of the Palestinian population – a population that has already been degraded to numbers. Creating such a ‘coercive environment’ that directly causes forced displacement – exactly like the closed military zone in Tel Rumeida and Shuhada Street in occupied Hebron – is considered a crime against humanity.