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Israel to open Hebron road to Palestinian traffic
Ma`an/Breaking the Silence
Feb. 17, 2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel’s army may open a main Palestinian road to Palestinian traffic in Hebron, according to Israeli news reports on Monday.
The road, Zion Route, has been restricted to Jews only for the past ten years, Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported. It leads to the illegal Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba toward the Ibrahimi Mosque, parallel to Shuhasha Street, which is also closed to non-Jewish traffic.
The road has long been nicknamed the “Apartheid Route” due to its racially and religiously segregated traffic. It was closed ten years earlier due to a number of Palestinian attacks on illegal settlers and settlements.
A solidarity organization in Hebron applauded the move, saying the “apartheid policy in Hebron is beginning to crack,” after several years of “joint struggle between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“After many years of draconian restrictions on the Palestinian population and the administration of a policy of gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from wide swaths of the city,” the statement went on to say, “[Israel] announced that it intends to open the main road.”
“This welcome shift will change the face of Hebron, allowing the Palestinian population that is under Israeli control to begin to reestablish itself, freeing this population from a small portion of the cruel yoke of occupation,” the group added.
“There is no doubt that this change will offer the population some empowerment about their future,” they added. “We welcome this step and call upon the military and the police to prevent the settlers from scuttling this necessary and reasonable process with unrestrained violence and provocations that inflame the area.”
But the report, first published on Monday, has triggered an explosion of anger on the part of the settler movement in Hebron and the West Bank, according to settler spokesperson Noam Arnon.
“[Israeli Defense Minister] Ehud Barak wants to set facts on the ground to the next government, while compromising the residents’ security and endangering human life,” Arnon said in the online English-language edition of Yedioth Ahronoth.
`If they open it, it should be for everyone, rather than apartheid against Jews. The Arabs have access to all the routes, while the Jews live here in a ghetto of three percent of the city,” he said. “The injustice and discrimination here are intolerable.`
The plan to open Zion Route to Palestinian traffic was reportedly submitted Monday for the approval of Gadi Shamni, the Central Command chief for Israel’s army, as well as “Judea and Samaria [West Bank]” Division Commander Brigadier General Noam Tibon.
The Hebron solidarity group said the recent policy change was achieved through a persistent joint, non-violent struggle that involved the mobilization of public consciousness in Israel and internationally, diplomatic pressure on Israel, joint protests of Jews and Palestinians, appeals to the Israeli High Court, careful documentation of the injustices of occupation, constant presence in the field, and other non-violent means, the group said.
“Nonetheless, the struggle is far from over. We must take care that the indicated steps forward will indeed occur,” they said. “Even more than this, we must struggle to ensure that this step does not become simply a cosmetic change that makes the occupation seem less ugly, but that it is a first step towards its end. We must continue the joint, non-violent struggle for the end of occupation in Hebron.
“Now we know that this struggle can succeed,” the group said.
Breaking the Silence Welcomes IDF Decision to Open Shuhada Rd
Breaking the Silence cautiously welcomes the IDF`s decision to open a-Shuhada Street in H2 Hebron to Palestinian movement. Through this decision, they strengthen the rule of law in the city.
The decision states that in the first stage, the street will be opened to vehicular traffic on the road that connects Kiryat Arba to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. This first stage will serve as a test for the possibility of opening a-Shuhada Street to traffic as well, along with permits to open around 100 of the sealed businesses on the street.
The IDF`s decision comes on the heels of years of strategic work by Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, including Breaking the Silence, who have called for the enforcement of the rule of law in H2 Hebron.
The IDF`s decision is an encouraging sign of the effectiveness of our work in the city; we will con t! inue our work in Hebron and in other cities to expose the effects of Israeli military control in the occupied territories.
Acknowledging the significance of this decision, nevertheless, this is not the first time that the IDF has announced changes in its policy of restrictions on Palestinian movement on a-Shuhada Street. We see in the declaration that is before us a test for the rule of law in Hebron.
The decision will be successful only if the Israeli security forces are able to actualize the opening of the street with the assurance of secure movement for Palestinians along the route even in face of settler violence.
In addition, it is important to remember that this decision is but one step in the process of returning Palestinian life in the city to its vibrant routine.
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