Introduction: Palestine rarely makes the news in Indian media. When it does, it is usually because "clashes" or “hostilities” have flared up yet again. Knee-jerk sentiments are often quick to ascribe Palestinians with “terrorism”. The reality is that the Palestinians are an exceptionally warm and welcoming people.
Perceptions about Palestine are too often shaped by lack of information or by propaganda. It is easy to dehumanise those we are ignorant about.
This 10-part series on Palestine consists of photographs from East Jerusalem and the West Bank taken by the author during a visit in early 2018. They convey varied aspects of Palestine’s natural beauty, her ancient and unique history, Palestinian art, education and culture, and the grim realities of their lives under Israeli military occupation.
In part nine, we look at the most troubled city in the West Bank — Hebron.
[Below: A map of West Bank, Gaza and Israel (L); the West Bank (R). Courtesy: palestinett.org]
Hebron, with a population of 200,000, is the most troubled city in the West Bank and a microcosm of the occupation. The Old Town district of Hebron used to be the heart of the city and Shuhada Street a central artery.
Israeli Jewish-only settlements have been illegally established all around West Bank since 1967 as we saw in a previous post. Yet Hebron is the only city where settlements have been established inside the city.
Today, about 800 Israeli settlers live inside Hebron. Israel has erected a vast military infracture and posted thousands of soldiers to “protect” these settlers. Shuhada Street has been cordoned off and Palestinians are subjected to extreme movement restrictions. Yet the street remains open to the Israeli settlers and even to tourists.
The entrances of Palestinian homes that opened into Shuhada Street were all welded shut by the Israeli military forcing the families living there to make holes in their walls leading into neighbour’s houses that have entrances on other streets.
Sustained violence by the Israeli settlers and soldiers, movement restrictions, daily humiliations and other forms of abuse have forced hundreds of Palestinian businesses shut, ruined the economy and caused many families to abandon even their houses in that part of the city. What used to be the center of the city is now a ghost town.
If security of the settlers was indeed the primary concern, Israel would have simply pulled those few hundred settlers back into Israel.
[Below] Different sections of Shuhada street, where Palestinians are no longer allowed. Shops that used to belong to Palestinians have been sealed. What used to be a lively market place wears the look of a ghost town.