Due to the forced closure of Palestinian run shops, there are over 1,800 empty shops and businesses in Hebron. Businesses that had thrived for generations sit silent behind welded shut doors. Ancient market places like the camel market and spice market are crumbling ruins, while the ancient city gates that used to connect this part of the city to the main market area are now concreted up.
It is a uniquely disconcerting feeling to walk down city streets where only the bones of the streets remain. All the life, all the color in this ancient part of Hebron is gone. With life being made so unbearable and no way to make a living, over 1,200 families have left this part of the city.
Imagine the indignity of not being allowed to walk down the street or drive a car in your own city? Imagine the relentless grind of knowing that you must pass through multiple checkpoints in order to go to the shops, go to work, or visit family and friends, and that at any time you could be turned away from one of these checkpoints and your entire day upended?
In the occupied Palestinian territory, Israeli military law applies to Palestinians and Israeli civil law applies to Israelis. Under military law, the arrest of minors is permitted, and people can be arrested without charge and without trial under administrative detention. In the occupied Palestinian territory, Palestinians do not have equal rights and are not treated equally under the law.
The injustice faced by the Palestinian people is visible everywhere in the West Bank, from the military presence to the separation wall and the proliferation of military checkpoints. And there are the daily realities that you don’t see; violence and intimidation, arbitrary house raids and arrest – particularly of young men – and home demolitions. The Palestinian activists we met in Hebron talked about the denial of their identity, the lack of control they have over their daily lives, their experiences of violence and arrest, and attempts by the military to take over their homes for new settlers.
The daily reality of life in the occupied Palestinian territory for Palestinians is a tangled web of injustice. They are being slowly and deliberately pushed off their land. They must live under a military occupation that implements a system under which they are second class citizens. They do not have equal access to vital resources such as water. They must pass through an enormous separation wall to move between Jerusalem and the West Bank, and only then if they have the relevant permit for this. Their spaces and their identity are being constricted and controlled on every level.
It is deeply unjust that the group that someone is born into means that they do not have full control over their daily lives and that their human rights are denied on a daily basis. Walking down an eerily silent street in Hebron in what should be a vibrant and thriving market place put this daily reality into sharp focus for me.
Today, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I think about the spirit, resolve and strength of Palestinians in the face of a military occupation that has been ongoing for 55 years. I stand with the people of Palestine in their fight for justice. Are you with me?