A few hundred ultra-extremist settlers are rapidly overtaking more Palestinian land, a process that has been slowly underway for years.
Along with southern Nablus, the Hebron area houses some of the most violent of the settlers with reports of attacks on person and property coming in daily. These reports are in addition to the acts of the Israeli army that is on the ground for the protection of the settlers.
Palestinians are literally terrorized by settlers in Hebron, particularly in the Old City. Despite the illegality of settlers and settlements under international law, the Israeli government supports them while at times publically condemning some of their most outrageous violations.
The rightful owners of property in the city are being pushed out as the attacks by settlers are now increasing daily into what some report looks like “a real war.” The Palestinian citizens are, however, unable to fight back on that level due to the lack of equipment and the presence of the Israeli army.
Appeals have gone out to protect Palestinian residents over the past few weeks, but what has come back is additional protection for the settlers.
What Palestinians are doing in response is taking on as many nonviolent resistance activities as possible. In addition to drawing media attention, speaking out and attempting to hold their ground in their homes, a major campaign to boycott Israeli goods is underway. Similar boycotts take place throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, however the difficulties are the periodic Israeli bans on imports or the destruction of agricultural and production facilities. Residents of the Gaza Strip for example, when imports are allowed to trickle in, are slapped with Israeli goods.
The invitation came from the People”s Committee to Boycott Israeli Goods, which operates under the umbrella of the National Committee in the province with volunteers from Agricultural Relief, the Union of Palestinian Working Women’s Committees, and the Association of Palestinian Farmers in cooperation and coordination with the Palestinian People’s Party.
Presenting local, Arab and foreign alternatives to Israeli products, the leftist PPP organized a massive campaign in the streets and markets of Hebron today to raise awareness of steps that citizens can take to fight the takeover.
Fifty volunteers carried banners through the city, entering shops, restaurants, cafes and banks on Sunday to introduce the public to the idea. In-depth discussions were part of the day along with strategic planning sessions.
The campaign is encouraging the strengthening of national industries which it says will “inevitably lead to the provision of job opportunities for thousands of workers who live in worsening conditions of unemployment.”
Coordinator of the People”s Committee to Boycott Israeli Goods, Khaled Mansour, said that the campaign in Hebron is a continuation of those which are underway in cities, towns and refugee camps throughout the West Bank. “This is a weapon of popular resistance, strengthening by the day. This will become a way of life in facing the occupiers of our homeland and to abort their plans to accelerate the entire takeover of Palestinian land.”
President of the Federation of Women’s Committees of Palestinian Workers, Afaf Gattasha, said of the role of Palestinian women in the campaign, “Women are engaged in the Palestinian national struggle side by side with men. Today they are called upon to play a bigger role in the success of the boycott campaign. The fact that women in Palestinian society in general are in charge of the purchase of most household needs is crucial.”
Gattasha issued an appeal to all women, particularly housewives, to make sure the products they buy are not Israeli: “All of the shekels paid for the price of Israeli goods go into the price of the bullets that kill children, women and the elders of Palestine.”
For his part, Central Committee member and Secretary of the PPP in the Hebron Governorate, Fahmi Shaheen, said that his party has decided to “engage in a grass-roots campaign to boycott Israeli goods because we believe in this approach of the popular resistance. There is a need to activate all the energies of the people and direct them to the struggle to defeat the occupation.”
Shaheen noted that the city of Hebron and the governorate is a major producer of national products which are high-quality alternatives to Israeli goods. “The goods produced in the settlements are part of the raping of Palestinian land. The settlers are working hard for the expulsion and displacement of the rightful owners and when we buy their products we are aiding in our own expulsion.”
Director of the Farmers Association of the Hebron Governorate, Jaber Tmezi, is also the Coordinator of the Popular Campaign to Resist the Wall and Settlements. He said on Sunday, “The province is adopting one of the many weapons of the people throughout the world to struggle against being conquered by their enemies. The Palestinian people have used this in the fight many times. It is certain that this weapon will have a dramatic impact on the occupiers who will soon see that occupation does not return a profit.”
Seminars and workshops will continue throughout the southern West Bank province, with specific attention paid to schools, mosques and universities. Educational materials and posters will also be disseminated throughout the area with the aim of creating a theme of “national culture.”
Boycott organizers said today that they were hopeful.