The Saga of Abdul Halim

July 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

We recently posted the introduction to photojournalist William Parry’s new book Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestine, as well as a selection of images. Below please find one final excerpt from the book, detailing the struggle of a Palestinian man named Abdul Halim whose home in Nazlit Issa in the northwestern West Bank was commandeered as a base for the Israeli army while his territorial holdings were truncated by the West Bank Wall. Following the excerpt are 9 images of Abdul Halim, his home and village, and the Wall.

All photographs by William Parry.

(Click here to view an interview with Parry on Rattansi & Ridley.)

***

If you were Abdul Halim, with a wife and children dependent on you, what would you do? You’re building a large, new home for the family – your sons are nearing that age when they will marry and they will share the house and start their own families. As the house nears completion, Israeli soldiers recognise its strategic position and decide they’ll position themselves on the rooftop – and there they set up base. The commander, his soldiers and their guns say: ‘We’re going to use your rooftop whether you like it or not.’ They station themselves there for 18 months and completion of the house is postponed as it’s now effectively a military structure, replete with bullet-proof glass. Things then get even worse: the house abuts the Green Line and you receive notice that the building you have nearly completed is going to be demolished to make way for the Wall. However, the Israeli military intervenes, telling the Israeli Civil Administration folk: ‘Don’t demolish it, we’re using it.’ Civil Administration agrees to freeze the demolition order – and it remains frozen to this day.

Visiting Adbul Halim and witnessing the nightmare that he and his family are subjected to is truly Kafkaesque. How can this happen? As your eyes move up along the outside of the building, they pass an ornate plaque on the wall asking God to bless the home. Camouflage hangs over the rooftop. Surveillance cameras observe everything in the vicinity. The family can hear the soldiers laughing, talking, changing shifts, coming and going down a stairwell that the military has built at the back of his house. In the main stairwell, Abdul Halim poses next to barbed wire that blocks him from the rest of his home. The Wall, meanwhile, ploughs through his front yard and literally becomes part of the side of his house – the house and Wall are one before the Wall continues down through the village. ‘I’m happy as long as they don’t destroy the house – they can stay on the roof,’ says Adbul Halim with as much composure and sincerity as one can expect.

The Wall blocked a small but important and bustling artery between the West Bank and Israel here. Five shops that Abdul Halim owned along the Green Line were closed, and the Wall stole 42 of his 84 dunams of land, and the olive trees on them that he cultivated. Denied a permit for the first two years, he now has to produce, and regularly renew, his permit from the Israelis to tend to his olive trees on his land. When he does, he is harassed by the army and by Jewish settlers. The Wall also puts 80 km between him and his sister and daughter, who live on the Israeli side. Previously they were a 15 minute walk away.

Nazlit Issa is now a ghost town. The town’s busy past is evident by the number of shop fronts that line the main thoroughfare – all boarded up except for a shop here, a mechanic’s shop there. It’s eerily quiet and deserted. Another strangled village.

Abdul Halim has a small but colourful garden between his home and the Wall – natural camouflage. ‘It is a small way of beautifying the space,’ he says. Looking at the military camp on his roof, then to the Wall, he turns and says: ‘I don’t have any other option. I have to cope and deal with it. I put all of my effort into this. I wouldn’t replace it for a castle. I want to keep my family around me.

‘When it comes to Israelis’ security, they’re deadly serious,’ Abdul Halim says. ‘But for us, look at how they treat us. If we go to our land, they harass us. The people here are defeated, there’s no resistance. They just want permits to get to work to live. That’s their priority.’

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