‘It Has Become A Prison’: The ghettoization of Hebron

Israel/Palestine
on 18 Comments

Hebron’s Old City, located in the “H2 area” under full Israeli military control, is subject to dramatic new restrictions introduced last week. Israeli soldiers seized several homes in the Tel Rumedia area and barred the residents from going in or out, declaring the area a military zone and banning access to non-residents, in a move that parallels security restrictions imposed recently upon areas of East Jerusalem.

Since the beginning of last month 22 Palestinians have been killed in Hebron, and nine in the Old City that has been the epicentre of escalating tensions.

Even for the 50 families who live in Tel Rumeida, who had a mere few days to register their name and ID card to the Israeli authorities, the plans will severely restrict their freedom of movement, as they will have to undergo rigorous security searches every time they wish to leave or enter their homes.

According to a resident of Tel Rumeida, “They told me I have the number 36 [on the list with who’s allowed to go in and out], it’s just like in prison. They try to make you a number, you’re not a person”.

Motasem Isied, 28, is a resident of Hebron and spoke to Mondoweiss about recent events: “It’s pretty disturbing what is happening here. As Palestinians we are familiar with these incidents – night raids, tear gas and so on – but everybody is incredibly frustrated and sad about what is happening in Hebron, because it has never been like this”.

“Now areas are controlled by names, so if you’re not on the list you are not allowed in. Some residents aren’t even on the list, so they can’t reach their homes. Those who can are completely socially isolated”.

Israeli soldiers in watchtower overlooking Hebron. (Photo: Megan Hanna)

Israeli soldiers in watchtower overlooking Hebron. (Photo: Megan Hanna)

Israel rights group B’Tselem claimed that the “immoral” moves are “draconian and not dictated by reality”, and “constitute collective punishment of residents of Hebron who are suspected of nothing and are forced to suffer serious disruptions in their daily lives”.

An IDF official commented claiming the measures are in reaction to the recent rise of violence, and are aimed at separating the Jewish and Palestinian populations of the city.  Dubbed operation “Breathing Closure”, the plans have been enacted for vague “precautionary measures” to “contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the safety and well-being of Israelis”.

‘Young Palestinians are constantly a target’

On Oct. 26, Saad al-Atrash, 19, was shot seven times whilst walking in the Old City and left to bleed to death for 40 minutes, in what Amnesty International have called an “especially egregious case” of killings that seem more to resemble extrajudicial executions than acts of self-defense. Three days after al-Atrash was killed, another Palestinian identified as Mahdi al-Muhtasib, 23, was shot dead near the Ibrahimi Mosque.

“It was bad before, but the new order is shoot to kill, and then confirm the killing. They shoot then ask questions”, says Issa Amro, a local activist from Youths Against Settlements. “In the past, soldiers targeted people in the resistance, now there is the feeling among people that they will kill anyone”.

Dania Ersheid’s inert body and blood-soaked headscarf presented a particularly shocking image of the grave situation unfolding in the city. The 17-year old student was fatally shot on Oct. 22nd on her way to school by the Ibrahimi checkpoint by Israeli soldiers. According to a news report “the teen raised her arms and stated “I don’t have a knife” before she was shot with “eight to 10 bullets” before she fell to the ground”.

Also among those killed was 23 year-old Houmam Adnan Isied, Mostaem’s cousin. Speaking of the incident, Mostasem said, “It is all happening to young people, they are being targeted in cold-blooded killings, including my relative. He was killed in an area with a lot of CCTV cameras, and they claimed he was trying to stab a soldier, so we demanded to see them. Of course they refused.”

“We haven’t been able to even bury him yet, he was supposed to be released this week. Then they made a condition that they would release him only at midnight, and we had until 3am to bury him. But they still haven’t given him back.”

When voicing his fear over the unpredictable aggression of the Israeli military, Motasem said, “I can remember what was happening in the 1990s during the first intifada, and I fully lived through the second. Even though it was really dangerous, everybody agrees that we have never felt unsafe in the way we do now. Because you never know when, or where, or what the soldiers are going to do to you. As a young Palestinian, you are targeted at any time and at any place in Hebron.”

An international activist living in Hebron told Mondoweiss: ” I’ve witnessed the Israeli armies continuous crackdown on Palestinians, not only in Tel Rumeida, but everywhere in the H2 area. Seeing body-searches of Palestinians at gunpoint is not a rarity anymore – all while settlers are freely walking the streets and are never stopped or checked at all.”

To date, 80 Palestinians have been killed in the spate of violence across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories that began at the beginning of last month. Of this figure, at least one third of Palestinians fatalities occurred in Hebron; where on average one Palestinian was wounded or killed every 3 hours in the city throughout October.

“It’s a ghost town now”

Empty market (Photo: Megan Hanna)

Empty market (Photo: Megan Hanna)

But such statistics have a limited scope in evoking the unsavoury reality of daily life for Palestinians currently living in Hebron. Motsaem spoke of how he is too anxious to go to the Old City now; “I went there only once recently, and there was no one in the streets, it was completely empty apart from soldiers. Shops by the Ibrahimi mosque have been under a direct military order to close for more than a week now, it’s affecting the families whose incomes rely on them”.

Hebron is unique compared to other cities in the West Bank due to the presence of 800 Zionist settlers living throughout the city, alongside double their number of Israeli soldiers who are predominantly based around 18 military checkpoints, which restrict the movement of 30,000 Palestinian inhabitants. Whilst the city is no stranger to violence and harsh military control, such extreme measures have not been imposed since the aftermath of the Goldstein Massacre in 1994, when Israeli authorities sealed access to certain areas and imposed a 24-hour curfew for six months. Residents are praying that these new military restrictions will not be as long-lived.

About Megan Hanna

Megan Hanna is an independent freelance journalist and photographer, based in the occupied Palestinian territories. You can follow Megan on twitter via @Megan_Hanna_.

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18 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson
    November 11, 2015, 1:26 pm

    RE: “Even though it was really dangerous, everybody agrees that we have never felt unsafe in the way we do now. Because you never know when, or where, or what the soldiers are going to do to you. As a young Palestinian, you are targeted at any time and at any place in Hebron.” ~ Megan Hanna

    MY COMMENT: This reminds me of Ariel Sharon’s “maintained uncertainty”* which was designed to “maintain acquiescence”** on the part of the Palestinians! ! !

    * FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    [EXCERPTS] . . . It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness. . .
    . . . It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence. . .

    SOURCE – http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n05/alastair-crooke/permanent-temporariness

    ** FROM WIKIPEDIA [Learned helplessness]:

    [EXCERPT] Learned helplessness is behavior typical of an organism (human or animal) that has endured repeated painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it was unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn escape or avoidance in new situations where such behavior would be effective. In other words, the organism seems to have learned that it is helpless in aversive situations, that it has lost control, and so it gives up trying. Such an organism is said to have acquired learned helplessness.[1][2] Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from such real or perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.[3] . . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

    • Leahj
      November 14, 2015, 4:08 am

      JLewisDickerson, “This reminds me of Ariel Sharon’s “maintained uncertainty”* which was designed to “maintain acquiescence”** on the part of the Palestinians! ! !”

      I found this post, which also included ideas on ‘learned helplessness’, very interesting. Thank you.

  2. weiss
    November 11, 2015, 2:48 pm

    Warsaw Ghetto version 2.0

    • Kris
      November 11, 2015, 7:16 pm

      Isn’t Hebron really Warsaw Ghetto version 3.0? Gaza is version 2.0.

      • weiss
        November 11, 2015, 7:19 pm

        True…

        They seem to be making new versions of brutality on a regular basis. Israeli ingenuity at its worst.

  3. kalithea
    November 11, 2015, 6:02 pm

    Who can live like this? Yet another ghetto. A ghetto here, a concentration camp there; people living in tents in Gaza next to the rubble that was once their home. Human beings treated worse than animals. Children hunted down; abused, screamed at, slapped around in interrogation rooms, and another just 13 kicked while dying, and left to die on the public street while a Zionist shouts: Die you son of a bitch…die!. A child who only wanted to fight for his freedom is left to die this way. Death is the only way to freedom for Palestinians imprisoned in Zionism.

    Where is God? Come in please.

    • RockyMissouri
      November 12, 2015, 9:49 am

      The people who do this are the lowest form of humanity. WE are the lowest, to do NOTHING ABOUT IT.

    • Leahj
      November 13, 2015, 5:47 am

      kalithea, ” kicked while dying, and left to die on the public street while a Zionist shouts: Die you son of a bitch…die!. ”

      That’s a minor mistranslation. What he actually shouted was ‘Die you son of a whore…die!’ Which to a Palestinian boy, would be even worse.

  4. Kris
    November 12, 2015, 1:51 pm

    ““They told me I have the number 36 [on the list with who’s allowed to go in and out], it’s just like in prison. They try to make you a number, you’re not a person”.

    1939 redux.

    The first Nazi ghettos were never intended to be more than temporary, an interim concentration of Jews pending a decision concerning what the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was going to be. http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/

  5. Leahj
    November 13, 2015, 10:18 am

    ‘Dubbed operation “Breathing Closure”, the plans have been enacted for vague “precautionary measures” to “contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the safety and well-being of Israelis”.’

    I remember what happened in 2006 when the state of Israel & Hezbollah went to war against each other. The US, like several other countries, worked to quickly get their citizens out of Lebanon — out of harm’s way & safely home. It seems to me that if Israel is worried about the safety of Israeli citizens in Hebron, the right move would be the same. Go get them out of that dangerous place & put them back in Israel, where they belong. And are welcome. What a good idea!

    • echinococcus
      November 20, 2015, 11:22 pm

      Where they belong? No illegally imported interlopers are “welcome” anywhere in Palestine: the owners of the entire country that was under British mandate have rejected the partition and occupation.
      And the place is El Khalil to you, unless you are another bible-thumper.

  6. mcohen.
    November 14, 2015, 1:23 am

    Luckily no Israeli,s have been killed otherwise the retaliation would have been far greater.i think that 11/11/15 was day one and full scale conflict is on the horizon in the region.whether the population of the west bank survives this conflict only time will tell
    The Russian plane downing,the Beirut bombings,the Paris attacks are the first shots in a war between Islam and the west.the security measures in Hebron,so called ghettoization,is a scenario that will be repeated in European cities.

    • Leahj
      November 14, 2015, 4:02 am

      mcohen, “Luckily no Israeli,s have been killed otherwise the retaliation would have been far greater.”

      Do you mean overall, or just in Hebron? The last I heard, 81 Palestinians had been killed, & 12 Israelis, including an Israeli father & son, who were just outside of a settlement south of Hebron.

      ” i think that 11/11/15 was day one and full scale conflict is on the horizon in the region.”

      I’m not sure what you mean. I thought it started in October.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      November 14, 2015, 4:49 am

      “Luckily no Israeli,s have been killed otherwise the retaliation would have been far greater.”

      That’s Zionist morality for you, right there.

      “the Paris attacks are the first shots in a war between Islam and the west.the security measures in Hebron,so called ghettoization,is a scenario that will be repeated in European cities”

      It’s disgusting how Zionists aren’t wasting one second to rush to exploit this tragedy for their own nefarious aims, just as they did with Charlie Hebdo. And ”mccohen” isn’t the only one. The Guardian comment page is full of the usual ”See? We told you! We are all fighting the same enemy! Support Israel!” nonsense.

      FFS.

    • diasp0ra
      November 14, 2015, 8:28 am

      @Mcohen

      Are you..for real?

      • Mooser
        November 14, 2015, 3:37 pm

        “@Mcohen Are you..for real?”

        Shhhh, “diasp0ra”. “mcohen” has been told the IDF has carte blanche to operate anywhere in the world, in or over anybody elses territory, and protect all uh, “Israelis”, and “mcohen” personally.
        It’s the only way they can get him to leave the house.

    • Mooser
      November 14, 2015, 11:11 am

      “are the first shots in a war between Islam and the west.”

      A prospect which has, apparently, scared the ellipses out of you!

  7. Kay24
    November 14, 2015, 8:21 am

    These pictures will be the ugly pictures of a brutal occupation in history. We still feel the horror and helplessness, when seeing old pictures of barbed wire fences, and helpless people looking out, from years ago. The difference being, these check points and barbed wire fences are not within the nation that has cruelly put them up, and who treat innocent people like criminals, as they go about their normal lives in their own neighborhoods.

    It is hard to comprehend that such conditions exists today, and that a “democratic” occupier instead of giving the oppressed their freedom, continue to mete out collective punishment, and make them pay for crimes the occupier themselves are guilty of.

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