“He’s Arab, it’s forbidden for him to be here” – an everyday tale from Hebron

A settler boy on his horse points at Badia Dwaik: “He’s an Arab.” [Credit: Mondoweiss]

The excellent Mondoweiss website recently ran a story about my friend Badia Dwaik, a Hebron activist with the nonviolence resistance group Youth Against Settlements. The story illuminates the power imbalance and racial discrimination that determine daily life in Hebron for Palestinians.

The Mondoweiss team witnessed an encounter on Hebron’s Shuhada Street – once the beating heart of Palestinian life, now a lonely strip, most of which is closed to Palestinians but open for Jewish settlers – in which a teenage settler boy riding a horse sees Badia on the street. The boy calls out to a nearby Israeli soldier, in Hebrew: “Hoo aravi, asoor lo lehiyot po.” (‘He’s Arab, it’s forbidden for him to be here.’)

In the central H2 area of Hebron, which is under Israeli military control, around 500 illegal Israeli-Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians. In the name of security, the Israeli army openly purses of policy of preventing ordinary Palestinian life in proximity to the Jewish settlements, many of which are on Shuhada Street. The result is that thousands of Palestinian businesses have closed, and hundreds of families have been forced out of the area. The policy was introduced in the mid-nineties after a Jewish settler opened fire in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, killing 29 Palestinian Muslims and wounding 125 more during Friday prayers.

In the video, after the boy has complained to the soldiers they come and tell Badia to move back to the checkpoint at the start of the street. He stands his ground, telling the soldiers he is not breaking the military law, but eventually agrees to move.

As Mondoweiss notes,

‘The irrationality of the odd event [we] witnessed that day in Hebron was in fact the backdrop the boy emerged from, the backdrop of an utterly distorted system. A system can become so distorted that meanness itself takes over; injustice itself takes over. People are human, but if you keep them in a system that is absurd, the framework of life becomes so distorted that they cannot avoid doing harm…  This is true of all people, and all distorted systems. It has nothing to do with being a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian. The person has no channel and no outlet for fairness, for simple human back-and-forth, when the system is unjust and absurd. An unjust system backed by one-sided force is like a foolish boy on a horse. Something childish driven by something powerful.’

Despite all this, Badia says he feels sorry for the settler boy who is growing up being taught to hate. “He learns it from his parents. It does not come from his mind. It comes from the environment around him.”

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1 Comment

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One response to ““He’s Arab, it’s forbidden for him to be here” – an everyday tale from Hebron

  1. Good story.. Hannah Arendt’s descirption of the banality of evil speakes of the meanness which becomes systematic and the leading norm. Clear similiarites between her understanding and description of the banality of evil and the current rule in th occuptied territory.
    Keep on writing!

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