24th October 2016 | International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | Hebron, occupied Palestine
One year has lapsed since the passing of Hashem Azzeh, a devoted husband and loving father of three, and close friend of ISM. Hashem died following an exacerbation of a latent heart condition that was triggered by tear gas inhalation suffered in his own home when Israeli forces were showering demonstrators at Bab al-Zawwiyeh with tear gas. The circumstances of Hashems death are inextricably entwined with the objective of his life, which was to defend his city of Hebron and its Palestinian residents from Israeli occupiers determined to remove them from it.
Hashem lived in the H2 area of Tel Reumeida, a neighbourhood that has been devastated by the Israeli occupation and the settlements that now surround it. He and his family suffered daily harassment at the hands of settlers and Israeli forces alike, who regularly attacked their home and enforced upon them curfews, which often saw them imprisoned in their own home. In perhaps the most disturbing example of the violence they experienced, his wife, Nizeem, suffered two miscarriages following physical assault by settlers during her pregnancies. However, despite these despicable and inhumane atrocities carried out against them, Hashem and his family remained steadfast and unwavering in their determination not to be intimidated from their home, and that of several generations that preceded them. It is for this unyielding strength and resilience shown in the face of relentless assault that Hashem will best be remembered.
Hashem’s activism saw him conjure close ties with international activists from all over the world. Testament to the admiration held for him by the international activist community was the presence of a large number of internationals at his memorial, which was held last Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of his passing, organised by the Hebron Defense Committee (HDC). Invited to speak were Anan Dana (HDC), Ahmad Jaradat (Alternative Information Centre), Fahmi Shaheen (Co-ordination Committee of the Political Factions), Abdelmaieed AlKhateeb (The Residents of Tel Rumeida) Mohammed Al Qeeq (Hungerstriker of 94 days) and Stella (Unadikum Association representing international friends of Hashem).
Since Hashem’s death, the situation in the Old City of Hebron and throughout occupied Palestine has only worsened. Hashem, like Fadi and Hadeel, is just one of the more than 35 Palestinians killed in the Old City of al-Khalil by Israeli forces, with completely impunity for the occupying forces and settlers from the illegal settlements committing these war crimes. In addition to executing and murdering Palestinians, Israeli forces then kidnap the bodies of these martyrs, denying their families the very basic right of a funeral. In the Tel Rumeida neighborhoud, the roadblocks and checkpoints have increased and worsened, and the whole area has been declared a ‘closed military zone’ in obvious attempts of Judaization of the area through ethnic cleansing of it’s Palestinian population.
However, by far the most moving tribute was delivered by Hashems’ daughter, Raghad Azzeh, who described how after her father’s death, the situation just grew worse. In a time where the international community is not acting, the Palestinians of the area need to stand with each other as Hebronites (people living in Hebron). After her fathers’ death, the prison that Israeli forces have made the family home, has worsened, with the main access to their house closed down just a day after Hashem’s tragic death. In her address she appealed to those present that they honour his memory by embracing the principles that guided Hashems’ own activism, and to remain resolute in opposition of Israel’s continued encroachment of their homes and livelihoods until Hebron, and its Palestinian residents, are freed from the occupation under which they currently suffer.