Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tensions Rise in Hebron

Tent erected by settlers in Wadi Nasara, July 19

Hebron has changed over the past few weeks. About three weeks ago the Golani Brigade arrived here after a stint in Gaza. They are known as "the most aggressive and roughest" brigade in the IDF, according to a former officer with the Golani who is now with Breaking the Silence.

Maybe in response to the influx of more sympathetic soldiers, the settlers have also been acting up recently. Two weeks ago they erected a tent on Palestinian land in Wadi Nasara, a valley bordering the settlement Kiryat Arba. The young settlers who occupied the tent threw stones and attacked Palestinians and internationals who passed by. On July 19, they pepper sprayed and hit ISM volunteers and also broke their camera. Within two days after the tent was erected it was removed - either by soldiers or settlers. But two days later a new tent was up, which remains until now. The settlers there continue to periodically throw stones at passersby.

Not only has settler aggression increased, soldiers are asserting their control and often seem to cooperate with the settlers. When Marius and I arrived to film the July 19 altercation at Wadi Nasara soldiers stopped us from reaching the ISM'ers. "Why are you in my country?" one asked me. "This land is for Jews, not Arabs. Arabs are dogs." On July 29, CPT got a call about young settler boys who were throwing stones at a Palestinian boy flying a kite on his roof. The settler boys were in a soldier's observation tower when we arrived, but the soldier made no apparent attempt to remove them. They didn't throw any more stones, but one boy, who might have been about 12, held a stone in his hand and flicked his wrist toward us a few times as if he was going to toss it. The boys told us not to film them, and when we continued, six more soldiers arrived at the observation tower. They claimed the boys weren't throwing stones and told us to stop filming. When we continued, the soldiers started toward us, climbing across the roofs of houses. (The stone throwing had stopped, so we left before they reached us.)


Soldier with gun pointed at Deboya checkpoint, July 21

The soldiers' behavior at checkpoints has changed as well. Especially at the Deboya Street checkpoint to Tel Rumeida, people are being stopped and searched more regularly. On July 21, Marius and I were on our way to Tel Rumeida when we found a line of people at the checkpoint. Five people were being detained there, including a 12-year-old boy who had Hebrew writing on his shirt. "He stole it," explained one of the soldiers. They held him there for about half an hour before letting him go.

This is life in H2. Everything is unpredictable. There is power in the soldiers' inconsistency - some days Palestinians can pass a soldier or a checkpoint without a problem, some days they are detained while their ID numbers are called in. Young men, of course, are searched more regularly and detained more often. On July 30, I passed a group of young men stopped on Shuhada Street who said they had been held there for two hours.

A few soldiers have told me that they are cracking down because of intelligence predicting an attack in Hebron. Whether this is the real reason or not, the effect is the same. Every time a Palestinian is held at a checkpoint or subjected to a new restriction he is reminded of who is in control.

2 comments:

Douglass 63 Book Discussion said...

I read about your article in the Ithaca College Alumni Magazine in Jewish Week. I wanted to read what you wrote myself before I commented. I too was in the Territories in 2008. My experiences were not as intense as yours because I was only there for 10 days. However, what I did see conformed with your experience. I traveled with a group of 40 with Rabbis for Human Rights North America.

Keep up the good work.

Douglass 63 Book Discussion said...

I read about your article in the Ithaca College Alumni Magazine in Jewish Week. I wanted to read what you wrote myself before I commented. I too was in the Territories in 2008. My experiences were not as intense as yours because I was only there for 10 days. However, what I did see conformed with your experience. I traveled with a group of 40 with Rabbis for Human Rights North America.

Keep up the good work.