18 January 2012
AL-KHALIL/HEBRON:Three Stories of Resistance on Martin Luther King Day in Hebron
by Kathleen Kern
by heavily armed border police at the Qitoun checkpoint that CPTers
monitor because schoolchildren and teachers must walk through it, the
teenager who sells ka’ak (a chewy sesame bread) argues with soldiers
every morning until they finally unlock the gate to the checkpoint and
let him and his cart through. On Martin Luther King Day, however, they
were ignoring him, so he finally walked back over to the gate, picked up
a rock, broke the padlock, and pushed his cart through. The Border
Police pushed him back and locked the gate. Another day, another time,
they could have beaten him up or arrested him as has happened many times
to young men his age in Hebron, and he must have known that, but he was
literally determined to go about his business.
A couple hours later, we got a call from Hani Abu Haikel, a friend
we have known since 1995. He and his family have had eight cars
destroyed by Israeli settlers in the last three years. The Israeli
military no longer permits them to park cars in their driveway. Hana Abu
Haikel, his sister, parks her car in H-1, under nominal Palestinian
control, a steep walk down the hill from their Tel Rumeida neighborhood.
Yet even there, the settlers found it and, according to an eyewitness,
accompanied by an army jeep, they burned this car as they have burned
all the others. So Hana has gone on a hunger strike by her burned car.
Her family has filed 500 complaints against soldiers and settlers since
the settlement moved next door in the 1980s. This time, she said, she
will not file a complaint and she will not eat until she gets some
guarantee of justice.
Late that afternoon, we got a call from a neighbor who told us
soldiers were stopping all the young men in an open plaza around the
corner from our apartment in the Old City. Most were simply walking to
their homes at the end of the day, when soldiers ordered them to spread
eagle themselves against a wall. One soldier in particular seemed hyped
up and angry, as though each young man, just by being visible, was
presenting a challenge he must subdue. Some of the young men seemed
resigned to the harassment, some angry, but one young man pretty much
laughed through the whole process. When the soldier placed his arms
against the wall, he let one arm drop; when the soldier replaced it, he
let the other one drop and he repeated the repositioning process with
his legs. When the soldiers started taking pictures of the young men,
some resisted by covering their faces. But the young man who was
laughing simply smiled and said, in English, “Cheese.” My colleague
Michael and I, who had been quietly and apprehensively working on
strategies of intervention, burst out laughing.
As part of our job, we publicize the abuses of the Israeli
occupation here in Al-Khalil/Hebron, but sometimes we do not write
enough about what the people here do to claim what they are entitled to.
The ka’ak seller has the right to peddle his wares in his own city
without walking through a checkpoint controlled by soldiers from another
nation. The Abu Haikels have the right park cars in their own driveway
and expect that the authorities will prevent settlers from destroying
them rather than protect them while they are doing it. Young Palestinian
men have the right to walk through their own neighborhoods without
soldiers treating them like criminals.
That is what Martin Luther King Day is all about.