On March 28, Palestinians and international activists gathered to protest the long-time closure of Shuhada Street in Hebron, leaving one arrested and five injured.
The protest was attended by about 50 local and international activists, including MK Mohammad Barakeh of Hadash and Palestinian Legislative Council member Sahar Qawasmi. Giving a passionate and fiery speech in front of the entrance to Shuhada Street, Barakeh was an inspiration to the crowd. Supported by chants of “free free Palestine,” Barakeh argued into the loud speaker that the military had no right to close the street off, as the Israeli high courts have ruled that it should be open to traffic. In a face-to-face argument with an Israeli military commander ordering the crowd to disperse, Barakeh stood his ground, demanding that the road be opened. After the soldiers used force, tear gas, and sound bombs to disperse the crowd, one German activist was arrested and five were injured, including one man who was knocked unconscious.
Shuhada (Martyrs) Street was once the center of the Palestinian market in Hebron. Today, it is a closed military zone for both Palestinians and settlers. Along the main road of the Hebron old city, there is now a military gate with watch towers looming over what used to be a thriving and vibrant city center. On the other side of this gate is the Jewish settlement of Beit Romano.
The demonstration in Hebron was organized in connection with Land Day (30 March), a yearly event commemorating the March 1976 Israeli government announcement of a plan to seize 20,000 dunams (or 5,000 acres) of Palestinian land in the Galilee. During the widespread protests against this plan, six unarmed Palestinians were killed by Israeli military. Today, Palestinian Land Day protests honor those six that died, but also stand for the struggle against the racist and discriminatory land policies of the Israeli governments. The demonstration in Hebron was one such protest.
The Israeli military originally closed Shuhada Street in 1994 after the Goldstein massacre, claiming it as a preventative measure against potential violent reactions by Palestinians. Since then, Shuhada Street has been a focal point within Hebron, with local and international activists fighting to have it reopened as the center of the Palestinian market in the city. In 1997, the street was reopened for vehicle traffic only and was subsequently closed in 1998. In 2005, the Israeli High Court ruled that Shuhada Street had been closed without appropriate orders, and it was then reopened to pedestrian traffic, but with limited access for Palestinians imposed by the military. Today, only the 50 Palestinian families that live in the area of Shuhada Street are allowed to enter, having to pass through a checkpoint every time they wish to leave and return to their homes.
This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) on 29 March 2009 under a Creative Commons license.