Every May 15th, Palestinians remember the Nakba (Great Catastrophe). The Nakba refers to the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians during the late 1940’s as Jewish Zionists were establishing the Israeli state. The facts of the Nakba are as shocking as they are unknown to the West. See a full article and some of these factshere.
In this article, a CPTer writes: This year, as I remember the Nakba in Hebron in solidarity with the Palestinians, I am struck by a new understanding of the role of remembrance. Remembering the Nakba is not just a memorial of loss for the Palestinians; remembering the Nakba is not just an act of resistance that tells Israel and the world that the Palestinian people will not forget what is rightfully theirs. Remembering the Nakba is also a nonviolent weapon wielded against the occupation and the sentimentalities of the Israelis and the Americans that support it. Remembering cries out, “We will not let you forget! We will not let you turn a blind eye to our right to exist and our right to return!”
Remembrance in this sense is an act of revolution. It is the oppressed and the marginalized, it is the attacked and the violated, it is the poor and the robbed, refusing to allow comfort to settle in for those who have stolen from them.
And so for those of us who are privileged and comfortable, I hope that today we can take time to remember what has been stolen so that we can be here. I hope that we will remember those who have been downtrodden so that we can so easily forget and absolve ourselves of responsibility. I hope that we will be haunted by the on-going acts of violence carried out in our names. And I hope that in this remembering we will have sleepless nights, uncomfortable silence, loss of appetite, and regret. And I hope that in remembering we will be spurned to action to give up our comforts and disavow our privilege so that others may find rest and peace and may return home.
A Turbulent School Year
The final week of May marks the last week of school for Palestinian children in occupied Hebron. CPT has made a short video, compiled from the many, many hours of military oppression we have witnessed at Qitoun checkpoint this academic year.
The video is all filmed in one location, and so, with the same group of children who are forced through this checkpoint daily. The video shows just a tiny fragment of the oppression Palestinians are subjected to here at this checkpoint, in Hebron, and all over occupied Palestine.
Needless to say, such footage does not make it onto the news channels of those countries who economically, militarily and politically support this military occupation.
Please watch and share this video widely.
A settler tour during Passover
Passover in Hebron
While a holiday for the Jewish visitors and settlers in Hebron, Passover (Pesach) is far from celebratory for the Palestinians. Rather, increased military presence, heightened restrictions, waves of settler ‘tours’ and disruption to work, education and economy characterised April 22nd – 30th for the Palestinian residents of Hebron.
Of course, masses of military personnel are a consistent feature of military occupation on the streets of Hebron. Yet a ‘holiday season’ for the Jewish settlers can only mean one thing for the Palestinians, even more military harassment, restrictions and impositions. At Qitoun checkpoint, six extra soldiers were stationed on a Palestinian rooftop for the week, further militarising children’s walk to school. A nearby medical centre also became home to a temporary military base, while a former Palestinian shop adjacent to a girls school was also commandeered for this purpose. Meanwhile, above the apartheid path on which CPT accompanies Palestinian kindergarteners, sat an Israeli sniper, his gun overshadowing these children’s walk to school. One of the boys we walk to kindergarten did not attend one morning this week as he was tired from the military invasion of his home the previous night. Needless to say many more Palestinian children did not attend school over the week of Passover, indicating the disruption of education as a result of the intimidation precipitated by the heightened tensions in the city.
Those that did attend school were subject to increased restrictions of movement, controlled and corralled into even smaller pockets of space by the architecture of occupation, such as the proliferation of road blocks and police barriers. On April 28th, the entire kindergarten, including children and teachers, were temporarily prohibited from walking home from school, without being given a clear reason. Border Police initially detained the twelve five year olds against a wall, before moving them into one tunnel, and then another, at which the Border Policeman patrolled the entrance. After ten minutes, the children were allowed to leave, to walk back down the path from which – during that week – they could see Jewish children on a bouncy castle on the other side of the apartheid fence.
Furthermore, Jewish visitors attended two days of ‘tours’ hosted by the settlers of Hebron, whose residence here is illegal under international law. On the first day, waves of tours came the the souk, flanked by dozens of military personnel. On the second day, the tours entered the H1 – supposedly PA controlled – area of Hebron to visit a Jewish tomb, once again alongside masses of Israeli soldiers and Border Police. These tours create an air of intimidation and control, asserting the military dominance of the occupation, and hence disrupting Palestinian life and economy and creating further spaces for settler harassment and provocation of Palestinians attempting to go about their lives in Hebron.
While Passover celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from enslavement in Egypt, the ever present oppression of this military occupation is further asserted over Palestinians on the streets of Hebron. Sadly, deliverance from oppression is not something that Palestinians can celebrate yet. We work, hope and pray for this day to come.
Freedom of Religion Denied
Every Friday, CPT monitors the checkpoints that control access for Palestinians as they make their way to pray at Al Ibrahimi Mosque. Friday prayers are an integral part of Muslim religious practice.
Many Palestinians in the H2 area of Hebron must pass 4-5 checkpoints in an area of less than one square mile. Most of the checkpoints are in close proximity to each other. Palestinians never know just how long they will be hindered at checkpoints. Times varies depending on Israeli Military orders or the whim of the soldier or border police at the checkpoint. And if the soldiers or border police choose to deny entry, no explanation is required as to why denial of movement has been made. Palestinians are often delayed for so long that they are unable to access the mosque in time for prayers.
The most common hindrance is ID check for males who are generally below 30 years of age. The soldier might stop a person and demand they hand them the ID or throw it to them from a distance. The soldier will then read the ID that is written in Hebrew, make the person wait in the heat, the cold, or the rain whilst a phone call is made. This may take a few minutes or 20 minutes or more before the person is allowed to proceed.
Usually, young men who are stopped are required to lift up their shirts and pull up their pant legs while their IDs are being checked. Once they are cleared they can move on to the next checkpoint, where this humiliating experience may happen again.
In contrast, the Zionist settlers move in and out of the same area freely and without interference of any kind to access the synagogue adjacent to the mosque. Many Zionists carry automatic rifles slung casually over their shoulders or have a pistol poking out from the waist band of their trousers.
At the end of March, a sign was fixed to the Qitoun checkpoint, one of the access points to the mosque area, advising 15-25 year olds that they would not be able to pass through until further notice. On the following Friday, ten people were turned back from the checkpoint and more than 30 young women and men, a few older men, and a couple of families were also turned away from an adjacent checkpoint.
During Jewish holidays, Palestinians are often denied access to the Al Ibrahimi Mosque because they must pass in such close proximity to the Jewish settlers celebrating at the synagogue. The week-long celebration of Passover is especially difficult. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Hebron has a large influx of visitors who come to pray at Al Ibrihami Mosque. Yet, instead of making access easier, additional turnstiles and metal detectors are added and long lines often form as soldiers check every worshiper. Palestinians are regularly forced to wait their turn while trapped in the turnstile.
Freedom of religion and the right to practice one’s religion is enshrined in International Human Rights Law. Yet here in Hebron, freedom to practice one’s religion at one’s place of worship is severely hampered and is often denied. Yet for the Zionist settlers who worship adjacent to the Palestinians, access is freely given. This is Israeli apartheid at work.