Mas’ha, West Bank — While the world’s attention was focused on the Gaza pullout, resistance to the Israeli Occupation Wall continued. The Aamer’s, a Palestinian family from the town of Mas’ha, recently collaborated with US, Palestinian, International and Israeli artists and activists to paint a mural of hope and resilience on the 280 feet long by 24 feet high Occupation Wall that faces their front door.
Surrounded on the other three sides with a military fence and a Jewish-Israeli settlement, the family has lived in this virtual prison for two years. The Wall was built to cut the Aamer family off from their fields and village as a form of punishment for their refusing a blank check from the Israeli army to move from their land in order to make way for the security Wall to protect the settlement.
The only entrance and departure is a small gate with a padlock. If they need to bring their donkey and cart out, they need to wait for an Israeli soldier to open the main entrance that is utilized by Israeli army vehicles and cuts through the front yard where the Aamer greenhouse used to be. Over the initial months, the family had to ask the Israeli army to unlock the small gate every time they wanted to leave or enter their home. The army eventually granted the family one key with which they may lock themselves in or out.
On 22 August 2005, the Israeli commander of the Salfit region threatened to take away the key if the US, Palestinian and Israeli artists did not cease painting immediately and vacate the premises. He considered the mural of trees, flowers and birds a “provocation” to the Gaza settlers being relocated to the West Bank.
In the summer of 2004, Break the Silence Mural Project (San Francisco, California) collaborated with the Aamer family and their children to paint 240 ft. of brightly colored rolling green hills, flowers, suns and a soaring phoenix on the imposing Wall. The International Women’s Peace Service and many Palestinian, Israeli, and International activists and artists, supported this project. The mural project offered the Aamer family a gesture of control over the environment of occupation that literally imprisons them. Hani Aamer, father of the family with five children, said, “When you come here to paint with the children like this, it makes them feel that they can live.”
Many Palestinian, international and Israeli artists and activist joined with Aamer family and friends to complete the mural this week. Both Sunday and Monday, the Israeli army prevented the artists from working and forced them to leave the Aamer’s home. ‘After today’s threats against the limited existing mobility of the Aamer family, Break the Silence will be unable to complete the mural, or hold the dedication ceremony, planned for Tuesday, August 23.
The Aamer Family’s refusal to move continues to be a powerful act of resistance, which has attracted the support and solidarity of Israeli and international activists. Nonviolent, grassroots protests against the wall have been organized by the Palestinian Popular Committees since construction began. Peace camps have been set up at a number of locations along the wall, including near the Aamer family home.
While the world is distracted by the withdrawal from Gaza, the Israeli Apartheid Wall continues to claim land and cut across homes and villages in the West Bank. The Gaza withdrawal has become another excuse to prevent resistance to this injustice.
This article was adapted from a 22 August 2005 press release from the Break the Silence Mural Project.