Saturday, December 16, 2017

Fun day for children in segregated Hebron neighbourhoods sends political message


By Rhiannon F. - November 07, 2017
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Hebron] [Apartheid]

A protest with a fun twist was staged on Monday in occupied Hebron by Youth Against Settlements, drawing attention to the segregation and jail-like conditions residents of al-Salaymeh and Gaith neighbourhoods face.

The neighbourhoods, adjacent to the Ibrahimi Mosque, have been isolated by a fence installed by the Israeli army since 2012.

The fence was expanded in May this year, closing in the neighbourhood completely, besides one door that remains locked between 11pm and 6am.

Youth Against Settlements (YAS) Director, Issa Amro, told Palestine Monitor the soldiers quite often forget to open the gate. “It’s punishment for 50 families,” he stated in an interview at the YAS centre in Hebron.

YAS have organised six protests over the last three months as part of their campaign, 'Segregated and Unequal,’ though the protest held this week was intended as a fun day for the Palestinian children of the neighbourhood.

As part of the Hebron Freedom Fund, YAS provided face-painting, music, clowns and balloons for the children living in al-Salaymeh and Gaith.

Amro said organising the fun day near the fence and in such a restricted area sends a “very big political message.”

“Despite all the attacks and all the oppression we’re still trying to make a change for the children and give them hope,” Amro told Palestine Monitor.

This type of protest, Amro believes, also teaches the children values of non-violence tools when reacting to soldier and settler violence within Hebron.

“When the settlers attacked us yesterday I asked the children to keep dancing in front of them, and they did,” Amro said.

The fence isolating the al-Salaymeh and Gaith neighborhoods runs along Ibrahimi Street, next to the Ibrahimi Mosque, where Israeli soldiers stand at the bottom of the street and ask for pedestrians' religion.

Muslims are instructed to walk inside the fence, over rocks and rubble, while settlers are given full access to the streets.

“[Through protesting] we are asking mainly for them to take away the wall, so we can start to bring life back to [residents].”

For each protest YAS organise, the Israeli army attend in force.

“I was threatened many times that we should stop. Once they even prevented us from protesting inside the fence,” Amro explained.

The army’s rationale for the neighbourhood's segregation and closing down of non-violent protests is always 'security reasons.’

“Security is a mutual concept, we all need security and nobody should have more security than the others,” Amro points to the lack of protection forces for Palestinians in Hebron.

“This area is under the Israeli army, not the Palestinian police. We need security, we need to be protected from settler violence,” Amro continued.

The issue of security is quashed through the recent example of approving 31 new housing units within Hebron's old city for settlers.

“They are taking away a military base, as they claim to be for security, and they are building a settlement. If there’s a [security issue] you don’t bring more people to live here.” 

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