The hulking Separation Wall cuts Abu Nidal off from his Palestinian Village. He lives in the home he built in 1974. Israel began to build a settlement on the land just four years later and, since, has steadily surrounded Abu Nidal’s small house with towering barriers and illegal housing projects. At one point he had a cafeteria on the road. Israel demolished it. He had a storage facility for his farming equipment. Israel destroyed it 10 times. He had a green house. Israel bulldozed it.
I visited Abu Nidal with one of Grassroots International’s partners, the Stop the Wall Campaign. His story remains with me, feeding outrage at the atrocities he endures and hope for the ongoing resistance to land grabs.
Somehow through perseverance, international activism, media attention and sheer good luck, Abu Nidal was able to keep his home and some of his fields and to stay on his land even as the Wall snaked through his property. In fact, he managed to negotiate a door in the wall that juts up sky-high directly at his front door. That’s where he met with us and served us tea and coffee.
Abu Nidal told us that at one point international solidarity activists set up tents to stop Israel’s demolitions of Abu Nidal’s land and property. Israel arrested all of them. Soldiers said to Abu Nidal, “Everyone you were resting your hopes on has been arrested, now what will you do now?”
That kind of harassment happened regularly, he told us.
He said: Once an Israeli intelligence office said to me as they were bulldozing my greenhouses, ‘Why are you not upset? Why are you not showing any emotions?’ I replied ‘You see a bulldozer on my land, I see something else. This bulldozer is bulldozing the State of Israel and not my house. As long as you don’t compensate me, we belong to each other.’ The officer said, ‘Who told you this?’ I said, ‘the land. You don’t belong here so you don’t understand this language.’
For Abu Nidal (and every other Palestinian farmer we met) the connection to the land means everything. It is a connection they will maintain despite humiliation, violence from settlers and the continued destruction of their homes.
Through the building of the Wall, settlements, Israeli-only roads and other infrastructure, Israel has illegally annexed nearly half of the land of the West Bank. Israel is in the process of annexing the Jordan Valley. But they have not been able to annex Abu Nidal’s spirit or commitment to his farm.