Posted by: Lister | August 2, 2007

Shopping for peace

Shopkeepers to join W. Bank struggle:

For 13 years, Hebron’s Old City has been so carved up by fences, concrete barriers and Israeli army checkpoints that most of its shops have closed. Starting today, the new Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is waging a campaign to get them reopened.

[…] Under the slogan “This City Is Yours,” the government is promising $200 a month for six months to any Old City merchant willing to navigate the maze of security obstacles, reopen his shop and keep it open, in the hope that customers will follow and help revive a historic district that now resembles a ghost town.

[…] “Steadfastness is a form of resistance,” said Riyad Maliki, Fayyad’s minister of information. “When kids go to school despite the roadblocks, that’s resistance. When people brave the soldiers to open their shops, that’s resistance: peaceful, civic resistance.”

“We have opted to take that path: resistance with results,” he added. “We believe that approach can deliver the end of occupation.”

Let’s hope so.

[…] But Palestinian critics of Fayyad say he risks deep popular disenchantment with his nonviolent program unless negotiations lead quickly to a timetable for Israeli withdrawal.

“If Israel stays and continues to allow expansion of Jewish settlements, then these peaceful initiatives by our government will appear inadequate,” said Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Cabinet official. “If the government appears irrelevant in the face of the occupation, it will rapidly lose public support.”

The stakes are evident in Hebron’s Old City.

City officials say measures by the Israeli army to keep Hebron’s 150,000 Palestinian residents physically separated from about 700 Jewish settlers in the historic center have forced the closure of more than 1,800 Palestinian shops, about three-fourths of those that once operated in the Old City.

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