By Ellen Davidson
As part of this month’s Open Shuhada Street campaign in Hebron, the Veterans For Peace delegation currently in the West Bank participated in a street action today. Shuhada Street, which used to be Hebron’s main market street, has been closed since 1994, despite a specific section of the Oslo agreement specifying that it should be reopened. The street is considered “sterile,” which means that the Israeli military forbids Palestinians from walking on the street.
Setting up a makeshift vegetable stand on Hebron’s Shuhada Street. PHOTO: ELLEN DAVIDSON
The VFP delegation of nine, including Israeli veteran and author Miko Peled, joined with Issa Amro of Youth Against Settlements and Ariel Gold of CODEPINK Women for Peace to set up a small vegetable stand on the street. With a few cartons of oranges, cabbages, cauliflower, and lemons balanced on upended buckets, the protesters began hawking their wares to the empty street, with only the welded-shut shops as witnesses.
A contingent of Palestinian journalists appeared and began photographing and filming. Soon, a settler tore up in a jeeplike buggy and began photographing the protest. Up to that point, the soldiers down the road had been observing from a distance and two other soldiers had been sitting in their armored vehicle across the street.
Former CIA analyst and VFP member Ray McGovern hawks his wares: “One shekel! One shekel!”
Soon an Israeli police jeep appeared, and the settler became more aggressive, getting right up in Amro’s face. The police officer, since he is not allowed to physically restrain the settler, pushed Issa away instead. Miko Peled then inserted himself between the policeman and Amro to prevent any further violence.
The police were followed by a commando team. The head of the commando team ordered everyone to leave within one minute or be arrested. He held up a piece of paper claiming it was an order making this all legal. When Peled pointed out that the so-called order had no date or signature, the soldier walked away and wrote in the date and signed it, even though the commander was not present. Amro shouted that it was illegal to do so. Later it turned out that the map on the back didn’t even specify this location.
When Tarak Kauff of Veterans For Peace asked one of the soldiers why we should have to leave, he responded, “Because you are provocating.” Later, Kauff said, “It’s true. This was a perfect example of provocative nonviolent direct action, provoking the Israeli military into showing its repressive hand.”
Delegation member Matthew Hoh agreed: “All this to stop us from giving away some fruit?”
Eventually, the group dismantled the makeshift vegetable stand and moved away from Shuhada Street, but not before several of the VFP members attempted to engage the soldiers in conversation about Palestinian rights and the Israeli military’s role in Hebron.
As the group moved away from Shuhada Street, Amro pointed to the settler and said, “Everything you have is paid for by their tax money. Your clothes, the gun you carry, everything.”
Although no one was arrested, a soldier did demand to see my passport, which he photographed. I hope this doesn’t bode ill for any future attempts I might make to come back here.