For 17 years by order of Israeli authorities, Shuhada Street in Hebron, West Bank, has been closed to Palestinians. Below is my letter in this regard mailed to the Embassy of Israel to the United States.
February 22, 2012
The Honorable Michael Oren
Ambassador of Israel
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive N.W.
Respectfully I write to you concerning the Government of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, making particular reference to the closure of Shuhada Street in Hebron and recommending its reopening.
The Government of Israel continues occupation of the West Bank and as the administering power has, along the sides of Shuhada Street, formerly a busy marketplace in this Palestinian City, allowed settlements to develop and settlers to become privileged dwellers. Palestinians are denied basic rights as residents. In 1994 Shuhada Street was closed to Palestinians by the Israeli army after the killing of Palestinian worshipers by a settler. Thus the victims were punished! The overall injustice to which Palestinian families, for many Hebron has been home for generations/centuries, have been subjected appears to be for the benefit of non-Palestinians simply because the non-Palestinians are Israelis.
It is appalling! Palestinian-operated businesses have been closed; Palestinians may not leave their homes through a door that opens onto Shuhada Street — for a period passes were issued to allow use of doors opening onto Shuhada Street; there is military surveillance; Palestinians are forbidden to work or to drive on Shuhada Street. The settlers reign supreme in the home of Palestinians. The humanity and the understandable and justifiable anger of Palestinian Arabs should be acknowledged.
Palestinian Mizrahi and Palestinian Arabs have lived together in these lands for centuries. As is known there have been documented conflicts in Hebron between Arabs and Jews. Reference is made here to the 1929 massacre of Jews by Arabs. Many Jews were saved by Arabs who took them into their homes. In 1994 an Israeli settler attacked Moslem worshipers inside the Cave/Tomb of the Patriarchs — a place of worship both for Jews (Me’arat ha Machpela – Cave of the Double Tombs) and for Moslems (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahim – Sanctuary of Abraham [also] Ibrahim’s Mosque) — both people the “seed of Abraham” — both people Semites.
Should not the plight of Palestinian Arabs be kept in mind by the Israeli occupiers? Over the decades so many Palestinians have had to leave their homes, some of them ancestral homes. Yes, there was a Holocaust but the Palestinians had no involvement in it — it was European. The Palestinians did not turn away the St. Louis — It was the United States. It is necessary for us to consider history forthrightly, to weigh culpability carefully, to assess ‘action and reaction’ accurately and with sensitivity/fairly.
The powerful combination of the Government of Israel and the Government of the United States makes it possible for the occupying power to act — while the world watches — often in disregard of rights and well-being of the people whose homeland it occupies.
I, Excellency, strongly believe it is within reason that all in life should have the right, among other rights, to —
sanctity of one’s of home and its property
adequate access to homeland water supply
adequate access to energy sources and resources
leave and return home unimpeded
Why should Palestinians be denied basic rights in their own homeland? Even the Balfour Declaration stated ‘… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’
Empathy for those perceived as ‘the other’ is needed. Do we have sympathy for the people in both the town and the village dealt with here? In her ‘New York Times’ op-ed article, December 28, 2011, ‘Honoring All Who Saved Jews,’ Eva Weisel described what happened in December 1942 when German troops occupied her hometown. She was 13 years old. I point out that a Palestinian of Eva Weisel’s generation also could describe an event no child — or adult — should have to experience. In April 1948, the Arab village of Deir Yassin, in a part of Palestine which was to become part of Israel, was seized and occupied. As I see it, if continuing physical and social carnage are ever to be understood as non-solutions in conflict resolution, all of us will have to take to heart the plaintive utterance of Shylock “…If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?….”
Excellency, it is my request to your Office that your Government be urged to act to restore the rights of Palestinians, and in this connection that you recommend the permanent reopening of Shuhada Street in Hebron.
– Barbara Walker
(retired United Nations staff member)
for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photo: Eva-Lee Baird