Today I complete my month in Hebron and tomorrow I say goodbye (for now) to my teammates at CPT and this beautiful city.
What have I learned?
The shooting of Palestine’s beloved journalist Shireen Abu Akleh two weeks ago and the army’s violence against mourners as they carried her coffin in Jerusalem was a profound shock to people here. It was not exceptional; instead, it mirrored very vividly what’s happening in Hebron, and in Palestine, on a daily basis.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is murderous, and it’s intensifying.
During my time, though I saw heavily armed soldiers everywhere and experienced tear gas and sound grenades, I didn’t see anyone killed. But everyone I met here knows someone who was shot at a checkpoint or otherwise gunned down.
And daily, I saw and heard of things that are dangerous and life-destroying:
- A house in H2 was taken over gleefully by settlers. I also saw Palestinian homes and shops where part of the living accommodation had been stolen by settlers, making a cramped life with overtly hostile neighbours.
- I watched my teammates while they were delayed and humiliated several times per day at checkpoints. One teammate was made to display his socks while a soldier aimed a gun at his ankles. There is always anxiety. These experiences are anxiety-inducing one time, but every day is unbearable.
- I saw the bandaged foot of an 18-year-old wounded from expanding bullets. The army shot at him while he was running away because he’d been accused of throwing stones and he knew no one would believe the accusation was false.
- I talked to parents in an extended family where many of the children had breathing difficulties because of daily tear gas exposure. When the kids throw stones—small stones, inaccurately—at the nearby checkpoint, the soldiers fire tear gas indiscriminately, a huge over-reaction to the kids’ understandable anger against the occupation.
- I visited the South Hebron Hills where villagers have been fighting a legal battle to prevent the demolition of their villages for settlement expansion. Last week they heard that they had lost. Demolition has begun and hundreds of families are at risk of homelessness.
- Settlers march triumphantly through areas such as Shuhada Street, now closed to Palestinians but once a great centre of their life together.
- Teenagers are growing up with the knowledge that the army can kill anyone and there will be no justice; their death will be blamed on Palestinians.
- Young adults want to go abroad if they possibly can, and will try to get fall-back citizenship of a Western nation just in case life in Palestine becomes unliveable.
Life in Palestine is already unliveable. I was only here a month. What I saw just scratched the surface.
Please believe that this is far from an equal conflict. Please consider these words from Noam Chomsky:
“Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no navy, no artillery units, no mechanized armour, no command in control, no army…and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.”