A second report from an ICAHD member who is currently in Hebron with the Christian Peacemakers Team and reporting back on their experiences...
The drive out of Hebron takes you through a very beautiful city. A spacious road divided down the middle by lines of trees leads into an area of countryside that separates Hebron from Bethlehem. Hebron is the largest city in the Occupied Palestinian Territory - a little short of a quarter of a million Palestinians. Jewish settlers have built around the edge but their most problematic incursion is into the Old City itself, where around 600 settlers have occupied a series of Palestinian
homes. This has led to the presence of a large number of military personnel and border police who are there to guard the settlers from any violence that may occur from the Palestinians.
June 25th/26th has marked the ﬁrst unveiling of Trump’s “Deal of the Century” with a conference in Bahrain. It seems that this ﬁrst part of the plan is all about money - a kind of bribe to persuade the Palestinians that it would be worth settling later in the year for some sort of political solution that will allow Israel to maintain all the advantages they have gained in terms of territory and power over the past 52 years of the Occupation. We shall see.
For now, Hebron is the centre of much unrest and daily protests about whatever “deal” is being discussed in Bahrain. Easy to write these words in a dispassionate way - but more scary when the message comes in to the Team that we are required to be out there as clashes are happening. These messages may come in from other Human Rights groups such as the International Solidarity Group or Ecumenical Accompaniers or very often from Ocha (United Nations Ofﬁce for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). We are on call 24/7, with team members taking turns to be on call through the night. We always go out in pairs. Protests arising out of the Deal of the Century have put a lot of pressure on the Team during these last few days.
The main demonstration yesterday against the Deal of the Century seemed pitifully inadequate compared with the thousands of people that usually come out in London and elsewhere to support the Palestinians. Yet towns and cities all over the West Bank and in Gaza did indeed make their protest against a deal which obscures all the essentials, if peace is to break out - ie an end to the Occupation; equal rights for all Palestinians and the right of return for refugees. As this little group in Hebron proceeded towards the Checkpoint near the Old City, the response from the authorities was enormous - completely disproportionate to any threat that was coming their way. We went out to monitor these clashes in shifts, for 2 hours at a time. I was out between 12noon and 2pm, so the temperature was around 33c. My team mate had brought masks with an alcohol lining to protect us from the tear gas, which, the night before, had got to our throats and eyes badly. The mask worked well, but increased the heat terribly and I found myself feebly looking for shady spots on the street, from which to do the work of counting and recording the number of tear gas canisters and sound bombs ﬁred and the number and manner of arrests made. A few children started throwing stones at the IDF who arrested several of them, but on this occasion they were later released.
The CPT house is situated in the chicken market. The area is full of cages ﬁlled with frightened birds standing in the sun and waiting to be sold. Geese and ducks roam around in a continual state of panic and feral cats and their kittens rush into corners, trying to avoid scooters and bikes negotiating the narrow alley ways. In fact the animal population reﬂects only too closely the constant sense of anxiety and stress that pervades life here. Only the odd horse or donkey passing along the road near Checkpoint 56 seem to take the tear gas and sound bombs more or less in their stride. I admire them!
The Team possesses an extremely sophisticated camera, with which my team mate was able to ﬁlm these recent incidents. Another twosome from CPT went out at 2pm and other pairs later, so the whole protest was covered well on into the night and, on the following day, we were able to piece together the information and put it onto a spread sheet ready for when it might be required by Ocha or other Human Rights organisations. CPT also uses the information gathered this way to compile a quarterly newsletter, available to supporters and other agencies.
But right now, we are preparing for a party! One of the Team is celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary, far away from his wife alas, and two of the team are leaving, so we shall gather together a very nice take-away meal and meet in the home of one of the Palestinian team members and watch and sing along to Les Miserables!