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They offered the family a blank check to leave their home to the bulldozers. Muneera and Hani refused and now all they can see is concrete. They tell us the story in a lovely living room, insisting on serving us sweet tea despite their own Ramadan fast. The children, just back from the school day smile shyly and stroke their mothers head. All are gracious, welcoming and friendly if weary from futile repetition of their tale.
The story made international news, although not necessarily front page, as it seemed to encapsulate the insidious nature of the wall that Israel is building inside the West Bank. The village is Ma’sha, well within the 1967 armistice (or green) line, already encroached upon for years by the cancerous growth of the Elqana settlement.
The original route that the wall was to take went along the existing fence of the settlement, between it and the Palestinian village. This would consolidate the land theft through which Elqana was established and add 5,500 out of 6,000 dunams of Ma’sha’s farmland, greenhouses and olive groves to the `Israeli’ side of the fence.
This was not enough for the colonial appetite and the settlers demanded the barrier be rerouted further away from their red roofed houses onto Muneera and Hani’s land.
The animal shed next to the house was slated for demolition. In reality the entire house was in immediate danger as anything within 60 meters of the new wall is considered a military zone. The family would be isolated from the village and all services available to them, schools, hospital, mosques, shops, between the wall and the hostile neighbors to their back. Three times a day they along with their five children would theoretically be permitted to enter Mas’ha through one of the brightly colored glorified cattle gates that have become common fixtures throughout the West Bank.
This is not the exception but the norm for the wall which isolates 14,000 Palestinians in the northern west bank alone overall between the wall and the green line, with no rights to Israeli public services and no access to Palestinian ones. This number will be 90,000 (outside of east Jerusalem) if completed as planned. The finished section in the north cuts 20,000 villagers off from their agricultural lands, effectively starving them off of their lands destroying hundreds of thousands of mature olive trees. The story of Ma’sha is in no way unique.
Now, said the occupational authorities, how about that move?
The family stays. A peace camp is built at the path of construction in the spring,manned by a constant presence of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals. In late July it is destroyed by the army and moves into the family’s yard.
Almost 40 internationals, Palestinians and Israelis are arrested in one day trying to prevent the demolition of the animal shed. The scene is often the height of absurdity. Have any goats ever had such tremendous photo ops, A.P cameramen crawling in the muck snapping away. Reuters filming Swedes chaining themselves to the gate , facing the chickens unblinking stares. The following day 26 Israelis are dragged away from the site after throwing themselves onto the bulldozer.
It is early August and still the family stays. The animal’s home is demolished, the humans remain.
An October visit reveals the vindictive and punitive nature of the occupation. In front of the home a wall has indeed been erected. As far as the eye can see, in this area, the barrier consists of a network of motion sensor fences, ditches and barbed wire. But 6o meters wide, just in front of the house is a concrete wall, like the one around Attica prison, like the one around Qalqiliya. 20 meters high every window opens onto gray concrete. The sky is almost invisible, the village cannot be seen even from the roof.
So if you won’t leave you will be erased from sight and from memory. And this apparently senseless and spiteful act is much more than this for everything has its purpose.
This wall, like the checkpoints, curfews, arbitrary imprisonments, and roadblocks are designed for a single purpose. To make the Palestinians leave their homes. Where these methods do not suffice particularly vicious settlers can fill the gap such as in the case of the near ethnic cleansing of the village of Yanoon by the terrorism of the lunatics from Itimar.
Crystallized to a single family, a single case, you see what happens when everything is taken away and still people refuse and resist. They stand alone, encircled by armed men, penned like animals, staring at concrete punished eternally for the intransigence of attempting to hang onto the piece of homeland that is left to them.
JULIANA FREDMAN is a film maker working on a documentary about Health care under occupation in the West Bank. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org