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High Court Petition: Unauthorized signs obliterate Palestinian identity from Hebron

0 Comments 01 August 2017

PRESS RELEASE | AUGUST 1 2017

High Court Petition: Unauthorized signs posted by settlers on Shuhada Street obliterate Palestinian identity from Hebron

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“And Abraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented; and he was gathered to his kin. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the Cave of the Machpelah”- Genesis 25 8-9

Rabbis for Human Rights and Palestinian residents of Hebron submitted today a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice demanding the removal or replacement of signs posted by the “Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron” on Shuhada Street. The signs, some of which have been placed on Palestinian owned houses and shops erase Palestinian identity from the city and attempt to replace it with a radical narrative, pushing out of the city the rest of the Jewish people.

Rabbis for Human Rights and the Palestinian group Youth Against Settlements petitioned today (Tuesday, August 1st) to Israel’s High Court of Justice demanding the unauthorized and illegal signs issued by the “Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron” be removed from Shuhada Street. The petition was filed by attorney Yair Nehorai, director of the legal department of Rabbis for Human Rights.

The petitioners request an order nisi from the court instructing the respondents— the Civil Administration and the army Central Command in the West Bank— to allow for the placing of additional signs on Shudada street and/or the removal of the illegal signs that were placed there. In addition, the petitioners request an intermediary order demanding the respondents prevent the “Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron” from making changes and finishing their signage project until the hearing.

The petition states:

“In a systematic, deliberate manner, the “Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron” erases Palestinian cultural identity from Hebron’s Shuhada Street and replaces it with a narrative consistent with the position of its members. This has been accomplished through exploitation of the painful reality where most of the local Palestinian population has fled their homes as a result of severe restrictions imposed on them by the Israeli security forces.”

Attorney Yair Nehorai, director of the legal department of Rabbis for Human Rights, writes:

“While the respondents do not permit the petitioners to access the street and make changes in the public sphere, the ‘Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron,’ under the auspices of the respondents, are permitted to do as they please in the area, erase Palestinian identity, and dictate their own personal narrative without accountability and without answering to anyone.”

“The settlers are trying to use the signs to change the identity of Hebron, erase Palestinian history and pretend we do not exist,” said Issa Amro, founder and chairman of Youth Against Settlements and a resident of Hebron. “The name of the neighborhood in which I was born was changed from the Arabic name Bab el-Khan to the Hebrew name, Emek Hebron. The final intention of all this is to pressure Palestinian families to leave their homes and to make it look as though Hebron is a part of Israel.”

Background to the Petition:

Over the past two years, the “Committee for the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron” has been posting signs in Hebrew and English on Shuhada and other streets in Hebron where the majority of residents are Palestinian. This has been done without any authorization from the Hebron municipality or the military authorities. The signs are objectionable for several reasons: they present the settlers’ narrative; change the name of the streets from Arabic to Hebrew names; are exclusively in English and Hebrew; have been imposed on Palestinian shops and other private Palestinian property; and were hung following the unauthorized removal of the original Arabic signs.

This sign exchange activity, apparently carried out by elements within the Hebron settler community, violates the cultural and social rights of the Palestinians, is illegal, and has been done without the approval of the authorities. However, the activity was carried out under the auspices of the military forces. The army, by allowing a small and extreme group to use coercive and contemptuous tactics, therefore has increased responsibility for what has happened. Not only did the army refuse to act against these illegal signs themselves, but, as the controlling force responsible for the area that is accountable to Israeli and international law, it has also forbidden Israeli and Palestinian activists from doing the work themselves. In addition, the replacing of the signage imposes a radical worldview on the public sphere in Hebron, and drives the entire Jewish people out of the city.

On April 3 2017, Rabbis for Human Rights, together with the Palestinian group Youth Against Settlements, petitioned the army to provide them with security as they sought to remove objectionable signs placed on private Palestinian property or on streets where only Palestinians live. The army refused to provide this protection, citing security reasons.

The position of Rabbis for Human Rights is that the objectionable signs in Hebron constitute a violation of social, property and cultural rights, as well as contempt towards the Palestinian population. Imagine how we would respond if Jewish shops in France were forced to display signs expressing the Palestinian narrative; imagine how a Palestinian merchant or tenant feels when they sees this work forced on their property or on their street every day. How far away is this despicable activity from the commandment:

 “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were a stranger in the land of Egypt” -Genesis 22:22.

UPDATE: The court has ordered the State to respond to our claims by September 1.

Full petition [Hebrew]

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