16 August 2007

Hebron: Israeli Military Shuts Down Palestinian Business in Old City Market

The article that follows my write up was taken from the ISM website. I picked this because I know the shop owner, Abu Hatim.

One day in mid-July I decided to shadow some of the people working with the Christian Peacemakers Team(CPT). I wanted to see how they handle situations, deal with problems, and to get their perspective on the situation as most of them have spent more than just a few months in Hebron and most were over the age of 50. Indeed I found them all to be quite inspiring. Some were former school teachers and nurses, most were parents whose children are grown now, and some were married to wonderful spouses that encouraged them to continue helping Palestinians. (If you would like more information on CPT and what they do please check out link on this page in the right-hand column.)

On this particular day of shadowing CPT we sat watch outside of Abu Hatim's shop because at that time he had just re-opened it and was being threatened by the soldiers that they were going to shut him down. The shops along this particular area of the old city were shut down for quite some time due to the location being directly behind the settlement, even though Palestinians had their businesses there for many, many years before the settlement existed. Abu Hatim invited us in for tea, something that is very common in Palestine and something that I miss greatly. Such hospitality is lacking here in the U.S.

There was not much for sale in his store. Some items consisted of plastic kitchen ware, candy, and garbage bags. Tall kitchen garbage bags to be exact. I mention this because these types of bags were very difficult to find in Hebron. I wanted to buy the entire roll and was willing to pay whatever he wanted. He gave them to me. He did not charge me. I didn't know how to accept but he would not let me refuse so I purchased some other items that I didn't need which came to maybe 10 shekels or $2.50 USD. Imagine that kind of generosity in times of extreme poverty and occupation. It's really unimaginable to me even though it did happened. He was just very appreciative that we were looking after him, but really he did much more for me.

I had a feeling that something like this in the article below would eventually happen to him. It really makes me sad and it really depicts the injustices that happen on a daily basis every day in Hebron as well as throughout all of Palestine.

Hebron: Israeli Military Shuts Down Palestinian Business in Old City Market
August 12th, 2007 | Posted in Reports, Hebron Region, Photos

Hebron – 10/8/2007

Early on the morning of the 9th of August inside Hebron’s old ministry square, Abu Hatim Jaudat Hasula’s hardware store was locked up and welded shut by the Israeli occupation forces. The 64-year-old shopkeeper had dared to defy both the Israeli occupation forces’ illegitimate threats and the appeasing surrender of other local shop-owners that had many other Palestinians shut down business and leave the area.

The occupation forces turned up with the proper papers but without any warning. Within 30 minutes, they closed up the shop, still filled with Abu Hatim’s belongings and goods, and then welded the hinges, thus leaving the large metal gates bolted up. Until further orders are produced, the army has declared that the shop will be locked down for two months.

The Israeli occupation forces justified their decision to close down these shops by claiming that they were trying to prevent Palestinians from blowing holes in the backs of their shops and entering a nearby rabbinical school. Neither 64 year old Abu Hatim nor his fellow shopkeepers have ever attempted to do anything even remotely related to this mentioned security threat.

In the past few weeks, many Human Rights Workers (HRWs) have spent the mornings in the old city market to support the local shop-owners in opening for business.

Every single day the occupation forces try to make Abu Hatim close his shop by phoning him and then by showing up at the shop. Yet until this morning the soldiers’ legal papers had been missing. Several shops have already closed including the 4 neighboring shops on Abu Hatim’s side of the market.

HRWs and the Christian Peacemaker Teams had been cooperating in order to support Abu Hatim’s shop and thus a large group of internationals were present soon after the rumors of the military action spread through Hebron.

Around 9:30 am, the soldiers began to leave the area, having successfully welded shut all 5 of the old shops on one side of the market, including Abu Hatim’s hardware store.

With the soldiers pulling out one Swedish HRW commented on the morning’s military action: “It’s typical to see the few real attempts to fight the occupation end in paper work and threats. The army knows how this will kill the little business that still is left in the old city and pacify the Palestinians.”

Leaving the market one of the military APCs turned around revealing a newly sprayed political statement on the side of the jeep to the entire market. Rumors have suggested that either HRWs or TIPH are responsible for the ‘Free Palestine’ graffiti on the army vehicle.

Abu Hatim has lost his only source of income, first and foremost directly by having his shop welded shut, but also because he will lose the subsidy the PA gives to business owners in economically unstable areas.

Day by day, business diminishes in the old city, among other places in the old market opposite Shuhada Street. Watching the progress of the Israeli occupation forces, one easily sees a similar future to the old city market as the one Shuhada Street is facing now, completely deserted and almost exclusively open to Israeli settlers.

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