Friday, July 11, 2008

More Press on Hebron

Some veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa visited Hebron this week, and The Independent has an article about their impressions. While the South Africans were careful to point out differences between apartheid in South Africa and the occupation here, some said that in many ways the oppression of Palestinians is worse than what they experienced, especially here in Hebron.

The article also reports that when settlers began yelling at the tour group it was Israeli tour guides - not the harassing settler - whom soldiers arrested. Unfortunately CPT has been noticing an increasing tendency for soldiers and police to comply with the settlers' wishes in terms of who is allowed to travel freely throughout the city. Israelis and internationals are supposed to be allowed in all of Hebron, but lately CPT and other international groups have been prevented from walking on some streets near settlements.

Today, a few of us accompanied Asef, an Israeli from Breaking the Silence, who was trying to visit a friend on Tel Rumeida. We joined him on his second attempt to get to his friend; the first time settlers attacked, yelling at him and throwing eggs. The police told him they would not protect him if he was by himself, so he turned back. We accompanied Asef and his friend Amos with video cameras, while a group of settler men followed, also filming. Ultimately Asef and Amos were surrounded by settlers, police and soldiers all arguing with one another. The police defused the situation by taking them away from H2, ending the conflict but also reinforcing the settlers' influence over which Israelis and internationals can move freely within the city.

This enforced separation between settlers and those who would challenge them arguably reduces conflict in the short term. But the burden of separation here is being borne disproportionately by thousands of Palestinians - and the result looks a lot like apartheid.

(More on viewing the occupation through an apartheid framework here.)

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