Before the Nakba (the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during and following 1948), the current residents of al Walaja lived in the land that Zionist forces would occupy in 1948. After 1948, a small percentage of those that were expelled moved to present-day al Walaja. Today, several thousand residents are surrounded by the settlements of Battir, Gilo and Har Gilo.

In 2006, the Occupation authorities announced their plan to encircle al Walaja with the Wall, which will surround the village on all sides. Access to this ghetto is to be through a single tunnel controlled by Occupation forces.

Protests have been staged in response to the erratic demolition and Wall construction, and when work began again on the Wall in 2010, residents quickly organized protests, successfully blocking bulldozers and slowing construction work for three months. However, they faced serious violence. Beatings were severe and common, and there were incidents of mass detentions. In one demonstration some twenty people were detained and dozens more beaten by batons and sticks.

Abu Nidal is a farmer from al Walaja in his late 60s and lives near the edge of the village. The current path of the Wall runs just meters from his house, isolating much of his land. Abu Nidal spoke about the Wall, its effects on his family, and the prospects for the future:

"The goal of the Wall is to steal the largest possible amount of Palestinian land. Put down the Wall and all the land behind its path becomes theirs to do what they want. What is our fate inside the Wall? We are put into a prison. There is one gate to enter, with jeeps and border police repressing the entire village. If they close the gate, it is our death. The Wall is, step by step, eliminating the Palestinian people, cutting the way to any future. This is the goal of the Wall.

"All of my land is outside the Wall. The graves of my mother and father, and grandmother are a part of our land. The Wall came and cut the land in half and destroyed it. Nothing remains around the house; there is no space. Furthermore, it is forbidden to build 150, or 100, or 50 meters from the Wall. The Wall is 25 meters from my house. There is no hope for me to build on my house, there is no land to live off of. I planted olive trees there, and they were uprooted. What remains of the trees are beyond the Wall. The economy was destroyed. I have goats that we raised on the land beyond the Wall […] I was raising bees too, but they were also destroyed.

"The Wall comes 6 meters on part of my land […] The plans were that it was to run on the side of my land, but I found them working in the middle of it. We started fighting and arguing, and the Border Police brought me down there and arrested me, and after a few hours released me. […] They changed the plans of the Wall made in the court, brought the Border Police here, with the army, and took the land.

"The connection with the Palestinian world is supposed to be through a gate. Sometimes it will be closed, sometimes it will be open. You will have present your identity card, and those that live in al Walaja can enter, and those that don’t are prohibited from entering. They have done this [system] in a number of places – this is a prison.

"There is no work in al Walaja. I have four sons, and I am old but I should work, but there is no work. You work in the Palestinian Authority areas for 50 shekels a day. My son has two boys – how are they supposed to live on 40, 50 shekels a day? And there is never any work; maybe you work two, three days a month."

According to Abu Nidal, the damage done during the Nakba still affects the village’s ability to organize:

"This is not the original al Walaja. The original al Walaja was lost in 1948. The old village and its inhabitants, 90% of them immigrated, some to Jordan, some outside. There was a small number spread in the West Bank. In al Walaja there are 1,500 citizens, and 500 come from another area, from Jerusalem and from other areas. 25,000 original inhabitants of al Walaja, who had homes and land, are in Jordan. Here there is a small number, with limited energy. Also, there are people who work in Israel and have work permits. If they are grabbed (by soldiers) at protests, they will take their permits and their children will go hungry. This is one of the means of pressure.

"Anyone that says 'no' to the Occupation, they will not give him a permit. Not a work permit, not even a medical permit to go the hospital. I have to go court, because of the Wall and because of the graves or my mother and father. They didn’t give me a permit to go to court! It’s forbidden; anyone who says, “we don’t want the Occupation” is forbidden."

Revoking permits are not the only way that Occupation forces put pressure on people from al Walaja, and a variety of means are used, some of which intensify if construction of the Wall is ongoing:

"Right now there isn’t any work (on the Wall) because the court. Continually the army is here […] when there is work (on the Wall) they come during the day and during the night. Anytime they want; sometimes they come at midnight. They turn on the siren to upset the people continually. All of Palestine, not only us.

"Every demonstration they arrest people. They make them pay fines, and impose [conditions on them]. [For example] they can’t get closer than 200 meters to the Wall. If someone’s house is 20 meters from the Wall, they have to leave their house. This happens for a time, until you pay a fine. Some people have to pay 1,000 or 3,000 shekels."

Occupation forces also exploit the municipal boundaries, imposed by the Israeli municipality in an effort to expropriate Palestinian land and include settlements within the Jerusalem borders, to put pressure on the people of al Walaja:

"The area that we are in is a part of al Walaja. But when they took over Jerusalem in 1967, they considered part of al Walaja ‘Israel’. Previously they have taken people, sleeping, from their homes and imprisoned them [on the pretext that] “they are citizens of the West Bank, [but] are in Israel”, if the person has a West Bank ID. [For example] he is living in his house, his ID is West Bank (not Jerusalem), in the area claimed by Israel in al Walaja.

"[Also], homes have been demolished, and 50 homes still have heavy fines put on them by the Jerusalem Municipality. And there are 40 homes threatened with demolition, which has been delayed for two years.

"40 houses have demolition orders on them, and [the owners] have to pay serious fines. They have to take out loans, and some are supposed to pay 200,000 NIS, 15,000 NIS, 70,000 NIS. Every month they pay 500, 600 NIS. There is no way they can go to Israel and pay, because they have West Bank IDs."

Finally, Abu Nidal referred to the latest uprisings in the Arab world and the ongoing frustrations with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which faced further criticism when al Jazeera released the “Palestine Papers” after this interview was conducted. He expresses concerns as well as a vision for a way forward shared by many ordinary Palestinians:

"The forms of resistance? We go and cry, scream “Israel! We don’t want the Wall” and they beat us, spray gas on us, imprison us. They make us pay fines; its not their concern if people eat.

"We need to be thinking and aware. [Now] people are afraid. If we remain afraid of the Occupation, and silent about everything that is happening, calling things political solutions while they are political conspiracies, as Palestinians we will lose our country. What happened in Tunisia needs to happen here. We need to launch a new Intifada and resist the Occupation. It is the right of all people to uproot Occupation, […] We need to become revolutionaries again and liberate our country.

"The people will explode - it comes automatically. Hopefully it happens here. All those conspiring and holding negotiations, sometimes direct, indirect, sometimes with America, they come and go and negotiate, and every hour they think about negotiating…we have a crisis with the leadership; our leadership is traitorous and not sincere with its people. The Palestinian leadership is betraying (Palestinians) and protects Israel. The settler is protected in the street, [but] the Palestinian, when he enters a settlement, is he protected? They (the PNA) pursue any one who even thinks of resisting the Occupation, and arrest him. We don’t have a leadership."




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