Munira Amer: Life Inside the Apartheid Wall
Munira Amer points at a dark grey square brick structure in her front yard: “This will be a swimming pool soon.” “It’s very small,” her friend comments. “Yes, but it’s for the small children.”
There are two children in the house – Munira’s grandsons are visiting today. Four of her six children have married and live in the village of Mas’ha, just a couple of minutes away…
… And an Apartheid Wall, an electric fence, a metal gate, another metal gate, and a whole world away.
The Amer family – Munira, her husband Hani, and their two unmarried children – live completely surrounded by Israel’s Apartheid Wall from three sides and with an illegal Israeli colony right in their backyard.
The family’s property is technically in the occupied West Bank (they pay their water and electricity bills to the Palestinian Authority) – but on the ‘Israeli’ side of the Wall. However, since the Wall here diverts from the Green Line and cuts inside the West Bank by at least 5km, this is a strip of land illegally claimed by Israel as its own.
Hani’s hometown of Kufr Qasem is only 10km away, but even though it’s on the same side of the Wall, Hani cannot visit.
For 11 years the Amer family has been forced to live with the Wall obstructing their lives. Many journalists, activists, and good-hearted people have visited over the years, numerous reports have been written; but what has actually changed for the family after more than a decade of struggle? “We are stronger now,” Munira says. “Before, we were afraid. Not anymore.” She jokes, “Sometimes we even forget what kind of neighbours we have!”
Unless, of course, those neighbours show their unwelcome presence by attacking the Amer house with stones and rubbish. It hasn’t happened for a while now, but the family is fully aware that this break from the onslaughts is only temporary.
The latest attack from the occupation army occurred 5-6 months ago, when soldiers invaded the house and took pictures of everything there was to take pictures of; they also took note of the family’s mobile phone numbers. To bug them, to listen in? “We have nothing to hide,” Munira shrugs. “They can listen if they want, and they probably do.”
Occupation soldiers first paid the Amers an uninvited visit in early 2003, to inform them that the Apartheid Wall Israel was about to start building would zigzag right through the family house. The family, however, refused to move out or to give in despite threats to demolish their house; they were then offered a blank check, but again refused to sell out. The army then warned them, “You will see what we will do to you,” and built an 8-metre-high non-transparent monster right in front of the Amer property. The rest of the Apartheid Wall in the area is metal with barbed wire, but the stretch of concrete is meant to punish the family for their steadfastness and determination not to give in.
Why didn’t the occupation put the Wall behind the Amers’ house, if it meant to protect illegal colonists, as is claimed? “Settlers don’t want the Wall to ruin their view,” Munira says. So it ruins her view instead.
When the tragedy of the bulldozers hard at work was just beginning to unravel, the occupation army did not allow anyone from Mas’ha – not even Munira’s mother – to visit the Amer house. A metal gate was installed between the house and the village, and for a long time the family could only get in and out their home twice a day. “If you come back from school or the market at 1pm, you might need to wait until 5-6pm, when a soldier would come to unlock the gate,” Munira recalls. Once her daughter had to sleep on the other side of the gate in the rain, because no soldier showed up and the gate was too high for the girl to climb. She got ill afterwards. Only later did Munira manage to secure a key so the waiting would be over. However, today the Amers still cannot leave the house empty even for an hour, or they might not be allowed back in upon return.
Munira smiles. “Over the years, we got stronger and they [the settlers, the army] got weaker.”
Her home is a place lost in the occupation’s grand scheme of the Zionist vision of ‘Palestine without the Palestinians’. Yes she is still here, and her family is still here. It’s still Palestine with Palestinians.
On the wall in Munira’s living room, there is a map of historical Palestine – Palestine 1948. Her village of Mas’ha is marked just like any other Palestinian town, with no Wall and no Apartheid in sight.