The recent extension of a fence further segregating a Palestinian community in Hebron has angered residents and sparked the first in a series of protest against their oppressors. The evening of the August 28 saw the Salayma neighborhood take to the street behind the erected fence to oppose the injustice. Working in collaboration with Youth Against Settlements–a Hebron-based nonviolent organization that works to end closures, restrictions, human rights violations and military occupation of Palestinian land–the community gathered for approximately one and a half hours chanting “We want to live in freedom! We don’t want no fence!” and waving signs with slogans such as “no fence, no apartheid.”
The construction is an extension of a fence originally erected in 2012 to segregate the community and restrict their access. It divides in two the Ibrahimi Street, the road that leads to the Ibrahimi Mosque; two-thirds of the street is divided off and allocated to the Israeli settlers, with the remaining third left for the Palestinian community. The gross inequality is stark, the Israeli side is well paved and accessible to cars and buses, whereas the Palestinian side is made up of broken paving stones and only accessible on foot. To make matters worse, a further extension of the fence not only lengthens it 36 yards (making it 133 yards in total) but now includes a gate that is locked between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Upon opening the gate, a loud alarm sounds alerting the soldiers on duty of who are passing. The gate is not wheelchair accessible, causing a massive problem for the three disabled residents who have to maneuver their mobility scooters through a narrow passage and uneven surface.
The protest was made up of around 60 people, 40 of whom were children. Due to the residents’ restricted access, the protest took place behind the fence, on the Palestinian side. Upon attempting to protest in front of the fence–or on the so-called settler side–residents were commanded back to their side by the soldiers. Three settlers looked on at the protest and jeered at those in attendance, one settler was particularly provocative, relentlessly harassing those involved. The attendance of 40 children highlighted who this fence is affecting, children as young as four clung to the fence’s wire chanting for their freedom, drawing attention to the fact that many of them have known a life only with a fence to segregate them. A childhood characterized by imprisonment, where a task such as the school run–something so routine to much of the world–can be interrupted by their inability to pass through a locked gate.
Hebron is a city hit particularly hard by the occupation. The only city in the West Bank which has (often armed) settlers living amongst its Palestinian residents, frequently tormenting its dwellers and making life unbearable. Since the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians at the Ibrahimi Mosque by the Zionist extremist Baruch Goldstein, Hebron has been subject to an official policy of segregation. A city made up of checkpoints and areas closed off completely to Palestinians, the apartheid sentiment is clear.
The segregation fence of Salayma makes life intolerable for its residents, it imprisons a community guilty of no crime-except that of being born Palestinian. The “Segregated and Unequal” campaign launched with this protest calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to remove the apartheid fence in Hebron and to allow its residents the ease of movement they should be entitled to. The injustice of the fence is yet more evidence of the flagrant oppression imposed upon Palestinians’ daily lives in Hebron, and must be brought to an end.