As a nonviolent Palestinian human rights defender, I ask you to join the 8th Annual International Open Shuhada Street campaign. This year marks 50 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. In the city of Hebron, it also marks 23 years since Brooklyn-born Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi mosque and opened fire. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed and 125 more injured. Since then, Shuhada Street, once the main marketplace and thoroughfare in Hebron, has been almost entirely closed to Palestinians. Around 850 ideologically extreme and violent settlers currently live in Hebron’s old city. While these settlers roam the streets freely, openly carrying machine guns and pistols, Palestinian face 12 permanently staffed checkpoints and dozens of freedom of movement restriction barriers. Separate paths are designated for Jews and Palestinians and children are tear gassed on their way home from school. Israeli soldiers are stationed throughout the city to protect the 850 settlers. No protection is given to the around 7000 Palestinian residents of the city who endure home invasions, harassments, restrictions, and violence at the hands of the settlers and soldiers.
When I was a young child I remember Shuhada Street being so crowded that my father had to hold my hand tightly to keep me from getting lost as we walked down the street. Today the street is a ghost town. The front entrances to Palestinian homes and shops are sealed shut. Palestinians families on the street have to use rooftops, alleyways, and back entrances to reach their homes. Some families have even built cages around their houses to keep themselves and their children safe from violent settler attacks. Last winter, Shuhada Street, and much of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, was declared a closed military zone. No guests, medical professionals, home repair specialists, journalists, or even human rights observers were allowed to enter.
In 2010, Youth Against Settlements, the Hebron based organization that I am the coordinator of, began its annual Open Shuhada Street campaign to demand an end to the strangling restrictions, closures, and separations in Hebron. Every year, around the 25th of February, the exact anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre, we organize a week of activities, culminating in a large demonstration that attempts to open Shuhada Street for all people. Around the world, people hold teach-in and protests to raise awareness and stand with us in solidarity. This year, for the 8th Annual International Open Shuhada Street Campaign, we will be targeting the Hebron Fund, an American organization with 501c3 charity tax status that raises money to support the illegal settlements in Hebron, and Goldman Sachs for donating to the Hebron Fund.
Located in Brooklyn, NY, the Hebron Fund lists as their primary goal as being the, “raising of capital for the improvement of daily life for the [Jewish settler] residents of Hebron, Israel.” Despite their blatant support for illegal settlements and the most ideologically extreme and violence of Israel’s settler movement, the Hebron Fund is able to use its charity tax status to have donors to write off financial contributions to support settlers in Hebron. According to the most recent figures available in 2003, Hebron’s settlements received around 45 percent of their funding through the Hebron Fund. In 2013, Haaretz reported that the Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund donated $18,000 to the Hebron Fund as part of “a clear pattern in the Fund’s giving to Israel right wing groups or their American fronts.” Along with the Hebron Fund, organizations receiving donations from the Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund in 2012-2013 included $6,100 to the American Friends of the Likud Party, $708,000 to AIPAC’s American-Israel Education Foundation, and $15,000 to the American Jewish International Relations Institute, an organization that “monitors, tracks, and combats anti-Israel voting patterns at the United Nations.”
The 2017 International Open Shuhada Street Campaign will take place February 19-26. In Hebron, throughout the week we will have film showings, children’s activities, art projects, teach-in’s, and community gatherings. On February 25th, the anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre, activists and journalists from Palestinian and Israeli cities will join us in Hebron for a mass nonviolent protest and march down Shuhada Street. We ask you as our solidarity partners to hold protests outside of the Hebron Fund in Brooklyn and Goldman Sachs across the world. If you don’t have a Goldman Sachs in your city, you can hold a teach-in or other solidarity event wherever you see fit. We will provide personal stories from Shuhada Street families, pictures of apartheid in Hebron, and even instructions on how to create a mock-checkpoint to use for your action.
On December 24, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334, demanding Israel immediately halt illegal settlement construction. However, Israel responded by saying that they would continue to build settlements with no regard for Palestinian human rights. Last winter Israel fortified and remodeled Checkpoint 56 at the entrance to Shuhada Street. This past summer they authorized the first new Israeli settlement construction within Hebron’s city center in decades. They also revised 18 charges against me in Israeli military court, in an effort to halt my nonviolent human rights work. On January 20, Donald J. Trump becomes president of the United States. He has sworn to provide Israel unconditional support and cover in the UN and stymie any actions that would advance Palestinian rights. He has nominated David Friedman to be the next US Ambassador to Israel, a man who has raised billions for Israeli settlements, promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and supports Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Between the Netanyahu administration in Israel and the Trump administration in America, our best hope for freedom and equality will come from the international community joining our grassroots nonviolent movement. It will come from you recognizing that 2017 is the time to act. We ask you to begin by signing up to join the 8th Annual Open Shuhada Street campaign.