Palestinians Skirmish over Renaming of Blocked Hebron Street

15.09.11 – 10:13PNN – Palestine News Network |  Brendan Work

In a bizarre incident outside of the entrance to the Israeli settlement inside the southern West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians with spray paint skirmished over whether to rename al-Shuhada Street Apartheid Street.

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A tag placed near the entrance to what was formerly al-Shuhada Street in Hebron (Brendan Work, PNN).

“This is the street of the martyrs!” yelled one youth—al-Shuhada means “the martyrs”—after tearing down a sign belonging to the organizers of the event. “It is for all the injured and dead. This street is for all their brothers and sisters, for all Palestinians. We will not change the name.”

The youth, who would not give his name, then used black spray paint to cover tags reading “Welcome to Apartheid Street,” writing “al-Shuhada Street” next to them.

Organizers of the event identified him as Azmi al-Shoukhi and said they were sure he was a collaborator with the Israeli army. During the abortive demonstration, at least 25 armed Israeli soldiers blocked off the entrance to the street with barbed wire.

“I know the people who disturbed the action, they are collaborators,” said Issa Amro of the Youth Against Settlements, who organized the official renaming ceremony. “Not all of them, but some. All of Hebron is with changing the name: we talked to the mayor, the governor, and the Palestinian political factions, and many, many people who approved of it. It’s not a big deal.”

The street, lying in the center of the old city of Hebron, enters the Jewish settlement of Beit Hadassa, where about 600 settlers live separated from about 200,000 Palestinians. It has been blocked off to traffic since 2000 and unlicensed pedestrians since 2002. The contrast between the empty silence within the Israeli military checkpoint and the market scenes outside it form one of the starkest symbols of what many Palestinian and international activists call Israeli apartheid. Inside the settlement, all of the Palestinian shops are closed and many tagged with Stars of David, and Palestinians without a special permit are not allowed to walk around.

“Here is policy of apartheid against Palestinians, and the whole world can see,” said Amro, pointing to the soldiers blocking off the street. “There’s a reason we’re going before the UN—it’s because of this. All we want is a civil democratic state.”

The soldiers indicated the demonstrators would be allowed no further passage on the street—which, for their part, they claim is called Beit Hadassa Street.

Ra’ed, a fruit seller working in the old city, said he hadn’t heard about the name change or the ensuing controversy.

“If they open the street, that’ll be a change,” he said.

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