For 25 years, Israel has been openly pursuing a policy of segregation in Hebron and other cities, to allow Jewish residents to settle there, according to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem).
This policy ignores the needs of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and sentences them to an unbearable reality, with the hope that they will leave their homes.
According to the report, entitled “Play the Security Card: Israeli Policy in Hebron as Means to Effect Forcibly Transfer of Local Palestinians”, all the relevant decision makers affiliated with the right and left, Supreme Court justices, senior military commanders and defense establishment officials, have effectively accepted the existence of an Israeli settlement in the city.
The separation regime is pursued so openly in public in Hebron that it exhibits aspects of ‘petty apartheid’ as well, in the form of policed, formal, public segregation of human beings based on ethnicity.
Until September 2019, the report noted that the system of travel restrictions includes 22 checkpoints and 64 physical barriers of various types, which keep Palestinians away from the major streets and the vicinity of settler homes.
The network of checkpoints and obstructions in the city affects all Palestinians living in, or accessing the area, preventing them from going about their daily lives and subjecting them to constant uncertainty.
Every simple action involves crossing a checkpoint, with soldiers deciding whom to inspect, at what pace, and whom to allow through.
The military might close one of the checkpoints, arbitrarily and without warning, which forces residents to use longer routes that are often unsuitable for the elderly or the disabled, explained B’Tselem .
“The limited movement options and having to walk long distances, sometimes along rough, steep dirt roads, has cut residents off from family and friends, and economic activity has shrunk to several grocery stores and traditional workshops.”
Population figures clearly illustrate how natural growth in Hebron has been offset by the forced departure of thousands of Palestinians. In 1997, when the Hebron Agreement was signed, about 115,000 Palestinians were living in the area under the Palestinian Authority. Today, some 166,000 people live in the same area, a 45 percent increase in population. In contrast, in 1997 the Palestinian population under Israeli control was 35,000 and is now 34,000.
B’Tselem warns that the state runs the city as though it belongs to the settlers only and ignores the needs and interests of the Palestinians whose homes are in Hebron.
“This reality can – and must – be changed,” it said.