Chloe Skinner recently returned from Hebron, where she worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams as part of a protective presence, promoting human rights and nonviolence.

Chloe Skinner

Chloe Skinner spoke at the Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony in London on 12 November 2017.

This is what Chloe said at the ceremony:

I want to begin by remembering Hadeel Hashlamoon, an 18- year-old Palestinian woman shot dead by occupying Israeli forces in her home town of Hebron in September 2015.

It was as Hadeel was passing one of the many checkpoints in occupied Hebron that Israeli soldiers shot ten bullets into her body. While soldiers restricted Palestinian medical teams from helping Hadeel, she was dragged - still alive, severely wounded - like a sack of rubbish, away from the range of the camera - which recorded Israeli settlers, laughing at and photographing Hadeel.

Left bleeding at the checkpoint like this for approximately 40 minutes - to which I can testify, having dropped my own camera lens into her blood after her death - she was finally taken to hospital by Israeli medics, where she died.

Israeli forces claim that Hadeel was carrying a knife, under the burqa that appears to have precipitated the fatal suspicion of the also teen Israeli conscripts. While the presence of a knife is disputed, one witness explains, “She didn’t try to attack the soldiers. She was frozen. She simply took the bullets. She didn’t scream, nothing.”

Behind every death, is a story of life, hidden in the militarist narratives such as those that describe Hadeel’s death as ‘the neutralisation of a threat’.

Hadeel’s parents described her as quiet and an enthusiast of literary Arabic, working with children in her local mosque. Hadeel’s mother said, “I would like to ask the soldier, face to face, ‘What did she do to you for you to spray her with bullets?’”

Those teens who shot her of course had stories, interests, childhoods, families, and doubtless a history of indoctrination into separation, fear and control. And so, I want also name here the loss precipitated in the act of killing. As one Israeli soldier explained to me, it was when he killed, that he felt a part of his soul die.

Hadeel’s death tells the story of occupied Hebron, the story of dehumanisation and separation, fear and domination, that lies at the heart of the myth of redemptive violence. Kill the ‘other’, save your selves. In this city of fragmentation, where Palestinian children’s walk to school is marred with teargas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and the threat of arrest, there are countless stories like Hadeel's, and here I remember Tariq, Bayan, Fadel, Hashem and Dania - just a few of the many Palestinians killed in the month following Hadeel’s death.

Hebron is a dystopia in which I have witnessed one ethnic group having a celebratory tea party, attended by children, next to the body of a murdered teenager of the other group - here I refer to 18-year-old Fadel Quwasmeh. The maddening horror of such violence can render Hebron ‘another planet’, ‘another galaxy’, in our imagination - that can so usefully distance us from our complicity, responsibility and agency.

But Hebron isn't all that far away. Hebron has not slipped through the cracks of ‘normality’ into a distant violent oblivion, but perhaps holds an awful mirror to show us exactly the ‘normailites’ that we have created, over and over again, across time and space.

Hebron is built on histories and presents of fear, racism, the intersection of gender and militarism, the military-industrial complex and ultimately patterns of division, dehumanisation and domination. We, humanity, made it what is, by both our action and inaction. We can name, mourn and remember here, the Holocaust, colonialism, the arms trade, Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism and misinformation of mainstream media as just some of the structures that have produced Hebron’s harsh realities. Indeed, our own government profits from and subsidises the sale of weaponry that Israel proudly claims has been ‘comprehensively field-tested’.

As I witnessed the horrors of occupation in Hebron, a deep part of me knew that I was staring into humanity’s collective shadow self. Everything that can be wrong with humanity, as Ben Ehrenreich powerfully phrased it; “boiled down under tremendous pressure until reduced into a thick and noxious paste.” This is the chaos not-always-so-hidden under the floorboards of our selves, our society, our human family. Hadeel’s death, and every other act of violence, is not a ‘freak’ event, not a disruption to the ‘normal state of being’, but is part of a much larger fabric of violence created by humans ourselves.

And so, I want to repent for, and mourn our collective complicity in militarised violence, and the inequality which both upholds and is reinforced by it.

And conclude with hope.

Inasmuch as the violence we remember today is routinely performed and upheld by humans, it is not a ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable' condition. If we have woven this tapestry we can begin to envision a new landscape, and one stitch at a time, create a new pattern. A pattern of peace, real peace, just peace, where every life is valued, remembered and cherished. We are each a thread in this tapestry, we are each a piece in this mosaic, let us remember, and let us be encouraged, and let us build a new world.

We have a capacity for peace, just as we have a capacity for violence. Let us choose peace.