by Melania Parzonka & Victoria Jones
For a long time, we’ve been wondering how we could use our platform to share our experience witnessing the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In light of recent events, we’ve decided to share photographic evidence we collected of life in the occupied Palestinian city of Hebron, located in the West Bank. What’s unique about the city is that an Israeli settlement has been built right in the middle of it.
Hebron is a microcosm that illustrates the reality of the occupation in Palestine. Settlers receive privileges while Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens on their own land.
In 1997, Hebron was divided into two areas: H1 under Palestinian control and H2 under Israeli control. There are about 34,000 Palestinians and 700 Israeli settlers living in H2, yet only the settlers get access to main roads.
All areas of Hebron are occupied, with nightly military patrols. As the map above demonstrates, movement in Hebron is restricted for Palestinians.
The entry to Hebron—visitors have to show their documents to the military and go through a metal gate.
Hebron is full of military checkpoints. Soldiers control access to certain parts of the city that Palestinians can’t enter.
Settlers sometimes throw things or shout at groups like ours visiting the city, so a group of IDF soldiers was assigned to escort us.
The Israeli military occupation has no legal jurisdiction over Israeli settlers in the West Bank—in other words, unlike Palestinians, Israeli settlers are exempt from military law and only subject to Israeli civil code.
In 2000, during the Second Intifada, the Israeli military imposed a months-long curfew in Hebron in response to an outbreak of violence. This curfew, which solely affected Palestinians, was only lifted every 48 hours to allow for the retrieval of food and humanitarian aid.
Today, 50% of people living in Hebron have been classified as in need.
Curfews are still being used in the West Bank in various forms—with closures of towns, or citizens being banned from travel.
Palestinians living on the restricted roads can’t exit their houses through the front door. Cages are installed on their balconies to prevent them from accessing the “forbidden” streets.
This means that in essence, the center of Hebron is like a ghost town, accessible only to a handful of settlers.
Many Palestinian shops in the area remain closed, locked in a legal conundrum where settlers try and fail to claim legal ownership of the Palestinian-owned property—to which Palestinians themselves have no physical access.
Israel controls the water supply in the area—Palestinians face obstacles to acquire sufficient amounts of water for their homes. As of 2019, when it comes to piped water supply, 44% of Palestinian households reported receiving it once a week, 33% reported receiving it once a month, and 18% reported receiving it less than that. Because of these shortages, Palestinians must request permission from Israeli authorities for water trucks to enter the area, which often encounter difficulty in transit due to the checkpoints.
In fact, the settlers live in Hebron for free—the settlements are funded by a Brooklyn-based charity called the Hebron Fund.
It is difficult to find legitimate sources with information about Hebron—the partition that has been in place for 24 years remains largely underreported. We were only able to visit the city thanks to Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran IDF soldiers who seek to expose the truth about the Israeli occupation in Palestine.
We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to travel around the West Bank and meet with local actors on the ground, who do not receive significant international attention or press coverage. We encourage our readers to amplify and learn from such sources directly:
- Addameer – an NGO in Ramallah that supports Palestinian political prisoners
- Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) – a Ramallah-based non-profit that supports Palestinian farmers and is one of the oldest Palestinian NGOs
- Friends of Freedom and Justice Bil’in – a non-profit headed by Iyad Burnat, an activist and filmmaker from the village of Bil’in located near the West Bank Barrier
- B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories based in Jerusalem
- The Palestinian Museum – a space that exhibits and engages with Palestinian history and culture
Melania Parzonka and Victoria Jones are the co-founders of INTERZINE.