Palestinians demand the opening of Shuhada Street

An estimated one thousand Palestinians, joined by Israeli and international activists, took to the streets on Friday to demand the opening of Shuhada (Martyrs) Street, a former thoroughfare in the West Bank city of Hebron. Israeli occupying forces fired foam-tipped bullets, tear gas, and sound grenades resulting in the serious injury of nine protestors, in addition to the many who suffered the adverse effects of tear gas inhalation.

Protestors attempted to reach Shuhada Street but were intercepted by Israeli forces who formed human walls to prevent Palestinians from reaching the street that formerly hosted the city’s main market. The protestors marched towards the line of soldiers, holding signs and chanting, “We don’t want the settlers nor the occupation,” and, “the people want Shuhada Street.”

Israeli forces used riot dispersal methods at multiple locations when they were outnumbered by the protesters who had gathered. The use of these weapons effectively segmented the crowd that was forced to scatter to adjacent streets and alleys to avoid the incapacitating tear gas and the disorienting sound grenades. A small minority of Palestinian youth responded with stone throwing only after Israeli forces had violently suppressed the protesters assertion of their rights to free speech and freedom of movement. (I mention this for the sake of refuting the misleading articles and headlines which parroted the claims of Israeli military spokespersons, emphasizing the injury of five Israeli Border Police while dismissing the history and current political realities of Israel’s colonization of Hebron).

Friday’s protest marked the 17th anniversary of Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinians who were praying in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque. Following the 1994 massacre, Shuhada Street – a main artery serving the Old City of Hebron as well as the Ibrahimi Mosque – was closed to Palestinian traffic. No Palestinian cars, nor Palestinian themselves are permitted on Shuhada Street; whereas, Israeli settlers are permitted to travel freely while under the protection of the Israeli military. Many Palestinians whose homes are located on Shuhada Street are not able to use their front doors. Some residents of Shuhada Street are forced to use ladders connected to neighboring roofs in order to leave their homes.

As seen in in Hebron on Friday, the Israeli government continues to suppress Palestinian popular resistance and attempts to paint all Palestinians actively involved in the nonviolent struggle as deviant and violent individuals. The Israeli media predictably reported that stone-throwing troublemakers were seeking to gain access to the “Jewish Quarter” of Hebron, while in fact, the protestors were attempting to access a street, in the heart of an Arab city, from which they have been barred based on ethnic criteria. Contrary to Israeli hasbara (propaganda) claims, the Palestinians in Hebron, and all across the West Bank, who are daily struggling against Israeli’s expanding colonial project are ordinary people, they are people who have been pushed to the brink by Israel’s inhumane occupation.

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