As a part of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, I joined a coalition of over 100 Palestinians, Israelis, and Jews from the U.S. and Canada to rehabilitate a dirt road in the South Hebron Hills that would give Palestinians in the area greater access to basic resources they need to live. When we started this project in early May, a range of Israeli police and military agencies responded with force, employing methods of crowd dispersal to arrest 17 people and injure dozens of others. As I heard the blasts of sound grenades going off and saw heavily armed police specifically target people of color in our group, the scene felt, in some ways, familiar. Back in the U.S., I had seen police responding to peaceful protests with disproportionate force and racist violence, too.
This road and its surrounding areas in the South Hebron Hills are considered part of Area C, the sections of the West Bank that are under Israeli military rule. Palestinian communities in Area C are deliberately divided from one another by the building of settlements and the declaration of vast areas of land as firing zones for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Palestinians in these areas also face extreme levels of displacement and violence, both from the residents of settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law, and the Israeli state that protects and serves these settlers. Palestinians are deprived of the right to move freely on their own land. Their children cannot safely commute to school, and ambulances often cannot get to and from their villages when an elder becomes sick. Practically any attempts to build infrastructure, such as schools, greenhouses, libraries, or homes face the threat of demolition. Under these circumstances, mere existence is resistance to Israel’s occupation.