Hebron is regarded by many as a microcosm of the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine. Israel’s regime of forced evictions and separation has profoundly impacted the lives of the 30,000 Palestinians living in Hebron’s H2 area under Israeli military law.
To see and hear first-hand how these policies affect day to day life in Hebron and the West Bank, I participated in a guided tour with Youth Against Settlements (YAS), a “national Palestinian non-partisan activist group” seeking to expose the effects of the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Settlers armed with M16 assault rifles near the Ibrahimi Mosque
Since 1967 Jewish fundamentalists have been colonizing Hebron along with other tracts of the West Bank. Their ideology holds that Israel is the embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and that it is their divine right to inhabit Yeretz Yisrael (‘Greater Israel’). Belief in this tenet of Zionism is shared by the incumbent right-wing Israel Likud party, which actively advocates settlement expansion in the West Bank.
As we emerged from the taxi just before Givat Ha’avot settlement, the soldier manning its entrance was quick to yell at us not to take photos. But we carried on, slightly intimidated, to meet Palestinians whose land has been stolen by settler-colonists.
Only military jeeps and settler runabouts passed us by as we turned onto one of Hebron’s main North-South thoroughfares. Vehicular travel along this road is denied for the 500 or more Palestinian families living on or adjacent to it. Israel’s segregation of roads in the West Bank is by no means limited to Hebron alone. Of the 450 miles of Israeli-only roads covering the West Bank, the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, has identified “clear similarities to South Africa’s former apartheid regime”.