Last Friday, as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Israel’s wall through the West Bank is a violation of international law, I stood with other Palestinian women in the olive groves of the village of Az Zawiya, protesting the destruction of our land. Throughout the West Bank, thousands of Palestinian women are peacefully protesting against the wall that the Israeli government claims aims to protect its citizens against terrorism.
In 2002 women from Salfit, the region where Az Zawiya is located, formed a group named “Women Against the Wall,” in order to coordinate women’s efforts against the wall. The Salfit region is heavily scarred by Israeli settlements. The wall is being built to surround those settlements and to seize much of Salfit’s agricultural land. In Az Zawiya it is cutting off 80% of the village’s agricultural land.
Because the wall is cutting deep into Palestinian territory, separating Palestinians from their land, and trapping villages in isolated enclaves, we call it the “Apartheid Wall.”
Our ancestors have owned and tended this land for generations, but now the Israeli army is uprooting the trees that are our livelihood, stealing our land, destroying our houses, and killing our people. We are only defending our land and dignity, but they call us terrorists, and claim it is their right to defend the security of the settlers who have stolen our land to build their colonies.
Come and see Munira Amer’s house in the village of Mas’ha, four miles from the West Bank’s pre-1967 border with Israel. The Apartheid Wall has separated her house from the entire village, isolating it behind a 25 foot high cement wall, with a gate that only opens for one hour twice a day.
Also in Mas’ha, Um Ahmed and her family have lost more than 200 olive trees, together with land that they cultivated for their food.
In Az Zawiya a month ago, a mother named Hanan gave birth to a stillborn child shortly after being overcome by teargas during a protest against the wall. 45-year-old Aisha told me that her two brothers lay unconscious for two days after being tear gassed. Nonetheless, she said, “I am determined to go to my land everyday and I will replant it two, three, and four times, and I will not give it up even if I am to be buried on it.”
Palestinian women are deeply rooted in their land, and work hard to support our families. Women suffer greatly when families lose their land, often the primary source of income. We raise olive trees as if they are our children. When we lose them, we grieve deeply. This grief affects everyone in the household. The husband takes out his anger on his wife, and she in turn takes her anger out on her children. Thus the house becomes full of anger, instead of love.
Palestinian children no longer live happy childhoods. Whenever they play, they divide themselves into two groups, the Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian children, and the “Israelis” begin to shoot the Palestinians.
When our children paint, they paint Israeli occupation soldiers shooting Palestinian children throwing stones, or playing in the streets. Many Palestinian children don’t sleep, because the image of soldiers chases them even in their dreams. They wake crying in terror.
Each of us has our own way of expressing anger and rejection of the occupation’s oppression and humiliation. As women we are trying to find a peaceful way. We carry out demonstrations to show the whole world that we reject Israeli violence and racism. We believe that the justice of our cause, and our determination, are stronger than any Israeli weapon, and that Palestinian women are capable of accomplishing the impossible for a better life.
A wall that plants more seeds of hatred will not bring peace and security; only an end to the occupation and the realization of justice will accomplish that. The International Court of Justice’s decision that the Wall must be removed increases our hope that justice will win in the end, and it strengthens our determination to continue protesting.
From the olive groves of Az Zawiya, we call on all Americans who love justice and peace to help us to implement the ICJ decision and remove the wall. Please pressure the Bush Administration to discontinue its financial assistance to Israel, because this aid is supporting an illegal and immoral Apartheid Wall.
Fatima Khaldi, from the Salfit region in the West Bank, is a founder and organizer of Women Against the Wall.