Friday, 10 July 2009

Old Gestures - New Meanings?

One thing that struck me immediately when I arrived in Hebron, is the Graffiti everywhere in H2.

You find it on the door of Qurtoba School (the Hebrew writing above the Star of David meaning "revenge"),

the Muslim cemeteries,

on the welded iron doors in Shuhada, providing an absurdly matching background for grimly gesturing settlers, feeling provoked by the tours of international visitors, led down the street by the veteran Israeli soldiers of "Breaking the Silence".

On the door of a Palestinian home on Shuhada Street,

on the door of a Palestinian home behind Qurtoba School.

I am not sure whether being German and being aware of our historical responsibility is part of feeling extremely expelled by this all to familiar looking Star of David Graffitis. They are a visual manifest of the nightmarish atmosphere in the Israeli controlled part of Hebron.

How cynical is it that the same symbol which was used in Nazi Germany (and sadly enough still finds its place in Neonazi activities today) to mark buildings housing Jewish shops and family homes, is now being used by Jews to mark Palestinian homes. The Meaning then was to claim this property should belong to "German" Germans or that this Jewish family should be removed from a German neighbourhood. Removal meaning deportation, deportation most likely meaning death.

In Hebron, these are symbols of a claim to buildings, historical sites, religious sites, olive trees, they are a claim to the soil. The similarity in both cases is, they mean oppression and hate.
While outside Israel there is a discourse about not drawing any comparisons between the holocaust and current happenings in the world, there seems to be very little hesitation to provoke such associations inside Israel (as recently demonstrated by the Israeli Prime Minister himself) and most certainly not in the Jewish community in Hebron.

I remember walking up the street in the Wadi al Hussein with my team mates on the afternoon of Purim, when a car coming from Quiriat Arba settlement was passing by. The female driver, impressively dressed in a purple wig and colourful make-up, briefly stopped the car when being more or less at eye level with us. She pulled down the window, yelled out "Nazis go home" and drove on, cheered by her equally costumed company. The szene was so bizarre, we couldn´t help but laughing, little comforted by the fact that we had already learned that pretty much every International in town (besides the settlers themselves) was labeled as a Nazi. It almost felt like an initiation ceremony.

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