The Open Shuhada Street Campaign takes place annually during the last week of February to commemorate the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque and raise international awareness of the horrifying reality in Hebron.
The creation of settlements in Hebron included three stages:
Stage One, expropriate land from Palestinians claiming it is for military use;
Stage Two, build civilian housing on the military base and then allow Jewish settlers to move in; and
Stage Three, recognize it as a legitimate Jewish settlement.
This sets a precedent for the creation of facts on the ground that would become the model for the expansion of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.
In order to fully understand the reality in Palestine, one must come to terms with the idea that the conquest of Palestine by the Zionists was done with the intent of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing of the native inhabitants of Palestine. This was true when, in 1948, 78 percent of Palestine was conquered and renamed Israel and it was also true when, in 1967, the conquest was completed and Israel took the remaining 22 percent of the country.
The intention was and remains taking over the land and populating it with Jews at the expense of Palestinians. It is true in the villages and in the towns, in the cities and in the countryside. It is crucial to examine how the Zionist regime accomplishes its goals on a case by case basis, and how local Palestinian leaders and grassroots groups resist. One particularly troubling example is the Zionist takeover of the old city of El-Khalil, Hebron, and the actions taken by Youth Against Settlements (YAS), and its leader and cofounder Issa Amro, to resist this takeover.
“You are treating families in a way you would not want your own family to be treated. It’s as simple as that.”
— Anonymous IDF soldier
The Israeli soldier stands at the entrance to Shuhada Street. The street is deserted, its stores shuttered, doors welded shut. The old center of Hebron has been a ghost town for many years. The Israel Defense Forces refer to “tzir sterili,” or sterile roads, because no Palestinian is allowed on them, whether in a car or on foot.
The occupation of the West Bank is a half-century old. That’s a long time. Jews did not go to the Holy Land to deploy for another people the biological metaphors of classic racism that accompanied their persecution over centuries. But the exercise of overwhelming power is corrupting, to the point that “sterile” streets, presumably freed of disease-ridden natives, enter the lexicon.
The soldier at the checkpoint is a young man with a ready smile. He tells me he’s visited New York. He asks where I bought my watch. I ask him what he’s done to merit the punishment of Hebron. He laughs, a little uneasily. He’s clearly uncomfortable with his mission, enforcing segregation, and wants to connect. No doubt he’d rather be on the beach in Tel Aviv enjoying a beer.
Following the death of Abraham . . . we read: “his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre.” (Genesis 25:9) I can’t help but think this short verse says all that needs to be said about that godforsaken cave. It’s long past time to bury the dead and get on with living.
The Torah portion for this Shabbat, Chayei Sarah (Genesis 21:1-25:18) begins with a complex description of Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah as a burial place for his wife Sarah — a site that eventually becomes the familial burial plot for the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
The name “Machpelah” literally means “the doubled one” for reasons that are not entirely clear. According the Midrashic legend, Adam and Eve were the first to be buried there. In a Talmudic debate (Eruvin 53a), Rav suggests the cave had two levels, while Rabbi Shmuel says it contained tombs in pairs. Abahu comments that anyone buried in the cave had a double portion in the world to come.
But there is a more compelling reason why this site might be called “the doubled one.” It has literally functioned for centuries as both a synagogue and a mosque.
“All my writings on social media are part of the freedom of opinion and expression stipulated by the Palestinian Basic Law and are protected by all international laws and conventions. My arrest will not affect my defense of human rights and the rights of journalists to exercise their work freely and without pressure from the government.” — Issa Amro
Yesterday morning, Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro was arrested by Palestinian Authority police for posting a message on Facebook stating that the PA should respect freedom of expression after it arrested journalist Ayman Qawasmi. That was yesterday morning around 10:00 AM, Palestine time. Issa is still in custody almost 30 hours later. His detention has now been extended and Issa has declared he is on hunger strike, refusing all food, water and medicine until he is released.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have condemned the PA’s detention of Issa and called for his immediate release. He was arrested under a new law issued by the PA that gives it broad powers to arrest and imprison Palestinians for statements made online that harm “national unity” and to block access to websites. The PA, which was created under the Oslo Accords during the 1990’s and was supposed to be a temporary body on the way to statehood, operates under the overall control of Israel’s occupying army.
“It was reading the works of giants such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and your own civil rights pioneer, Martin Luther King, Jr., that convinced me to spend my life using nonviolent methods of resistance to forge a path forward for myself and my people. I owe a great deal of my fortitude and strategy to King and thinkers like him.”
My name is Issa Amro. I am a 36-year-old Palestinian human rights defender from the city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where I work with an organization called Youth Against Settlements.
While we live thousands of kilometers apart and have never met, my fate is more closely linked to the office you will hold, and the choices a U.S. president makes, than many might think. The United States’ military, economic and diplomatic support has allowed Israel to continue its occupation of Palestinian lands, upholding their racist, apartheid regime.
I have not spent my youth thinking about my career or travelling the world, the Israeli chokehold on our society limits my opportunities on both those fronts. Instead, I have been engaged in near-daily confrontations with hostile settlers and an occupying army, both of whom want me, my family and my friends to leave our land and never return.
“Of course the Israeli settlers target him. The people who are activists, or the people who try to document Israeli violations, are being targeted by the Israelis all the time, because they don’t want to allow people to see the reality of how life is here.” — Hebron resident Ayman Samir
Emad Abu Shamsiyah first started receiving death threats in March, after a video he filmed for Israeli rights group B’Tselem, which captured Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shooting dead Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, 21, was released to the public. The video sparked a media frenzy surrounding the incident, and directly led to the initial indictment of Azaria. Shamsiyah has not had a good night’s rest since.
Shamsiyah lives in the city-center of Hebron — arguably the most contentious city in all of the occupied West Bank — and the only city-center where Palestinians and Israeli settlers live side-by-side.
During the case, Shamsiyah was frequently accosted by Israeli settlers near his home, who demanded he change his testimony. After last week’s ruling, which found Azaria guilty of manslaughter, the threats against Shamsiyah have reached a new level, as 67 percent of the general Israeli population supports a full pardon for Azaria.
The lack of support for the manslaughter ruling has translated into anger among Israeli settlers, who have a neighbor directly responsible for the main evidence in the case. As a result, Shamsiyah cannot walk the streets of his neighborhood without fearing for his life.