On February 28, gathered in the shadow of Wall Street’s infamous “charging bull” statue, some twenty activists began their march to the headquarters of financial giant Goldman Sachs a few blocks away, as part of the Open Shuhada Street initiated by Youth Against Settlements (YAS), a grassroots Palestinian organization fighting oppression in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. The protest was organized by CODEPINK, with sponsorship from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Adalah NY.
Shuhada Street is the main thoroughfare in Hebron’s city center, the largest city in the West Bank, where a particularly violent and ideological group of 850 or so Israeli settlers live in close proximity to 40,000 native Palestinians. The once bustling Shuhada Street was closed by the Israeli military shortly after Baruch Goldstein, a violent Jewish religious extremist, twenty-nine Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounded some 150 at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994. Kiryat Arba, the illegal settlement on the outskirts of Hebron where Goldstein lived at the time of the massacre, remains a home base for the violence and extremism perpetrated against the Palestinians of Hebron.
The purpose of Tuesday’s action on Goldman Sachs was to highlight the funding such settlements receive from private U.S. companies through tax-exempt charitable foundations, such as the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund. The Goldman Sachs Gives initiative has made large donations to the Hebron Fund, according to multiple over the years, thereby funding the ongoing occupation of Hebron.
During the protest, activists wound their way through downtown Manhattan’s narrow streets, holding signs reading “American capitalism funds Israeli occupation” and “Goldman-Sachs: Occupation is not charity.”
Asaf Calderon, an Israeli activist now living in New York and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, spoke to Muftah about the connections between the Israeli settlement enterprise and American capitalism. Goldman Sachs is an “extremely important symbol of capitalism’s involvement in authoritarian regimes around the world,” Calderon said. Without funding from the U.S. government and U.S. capitalists, the fifty-year Israeli occupation of Palestine would surely come to an end as “money provides legitimacy,” he added.
Hebron’s settlements are particularly reliant on private funding. “The settlements in Hebron could not exist without foreign money—without powerful, capitalist investment,” Calderon told Muftah. Upon reaching the offices of Goldman Sachs, activists set up a mock apartheid wall in front of the building. The action occurred in tandem with actions in France, Switzerland, and the UK.
“This was our eighth year of demanding the opening of Shuhada Street, that Israel end its human rights violations and take the settlers out of Hebron. The settlers live here illegally carrying out of violence without any accountability. It has been 50 years of occupation and 23 years since the Ibrahimi mosque massacre. It is time that we have justice and equality,” Issa Amro, Youth Against Settlements founder and human rights defender, wrote in , describing the global week of action.
Tzvia Thier, a protester and Holocaust survivor who grew up in Israel and is now an active member of Jewish Voice for Peace, said she had put off going to Hebron until her last days in Israel, before moving to the United States. “If you want to know what is apartheid, what is Israeli colonialism, what cruelty is,” Thier told Muftah, “look to Hebron.”
“If you want to know what is apartheid, go to Shuhada Street.”