In the Salfit District of the West Bank, Palestine Monitor spoke with Hani Amer, known commonly as Abu-Nidal, a Palestinian man living within the illegal settlement Elkana, in Mas’ha Village. His home is surrounded by barbed wire and is just steps away from the separation wall and the rest of his village. Sitting outside on the porch swing with his 2-year-old grandson, Abu-Nidal spoke about his life living and resisting within the illegal settlement.
Abu-Nidal is a native of Kufr Qasim, a city 6 kilometers east of the Green Line. After 1948, approximately 70% of the town was annexed by Israel, with Palestinians having to take refuge in Mas’ha. Following the shooting of his grandfather by Israeli forces, Abu-Nidal’s family also relocated to Mas’ha.
In 1973 Abu-Nidal bought property in Mas’ha and built a home for him and his family. Abu-Nidal is father to four boys and two girls and continues to live in this house with his wife, Monira.
In 1975 the illegal settlement of Elkana was built, attracting settlers to the area. Like most settlements, Elkana began as a small outpost.
Abu-Nidal recalls how the settlers were very kind to him and his family in the beginning; “they were great, like angels”.
However, as the settlement grew and obtained power within the region the settlers became aggressive and violent towards him and his family. Him and his family felt that the environment became increasingly unsafe as settlers would threaten and intimidate them with rifles whilst often attacking the home with stones.
Abu-Nidal did not own a key to enter the settlement, but instead had to rely on Israeli forces to open the door for him. Twice a day they would let him in and out: once in the morning while he left to work, and again when he returned. This procedure became increasingly dangerous as the settlement grew. He and his children were often harassed whilst waiting for the gate to be opened for them –especially for his children coming in and out from school. As the situation worsened, many organizations put pressure on the council of Elkana to give Abu-Nidal his own key, which he finally received after many years of dependence on the Israeli military.
Abu-Nidal recalled an incident from a number of years ago where approximately eighteen settlers came to his home, all of them armed, and threatened him to leave or -as they said- they would kill him. Parts of his home have been demolished, and many of his crops burnt and land taken away to accommodate the construction of the separation wall. In most recent years it has been calmer and less incidents have occurred, but Abu-Nidal noted that “there is never peace here, you never know when something can happen”.
Abu-Nidal reached out to a number of international organizations who expressed interest in learning about his situation. Organizations like the United Nations (UN), the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), the Red Cross, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) often sent representatives to observe the situation and report back.
Abu-Nidal would also report incidents of violence to the Palestinian Authority in the hopes of receiving assistance.
Initially these organizations would support him through speaking with the local stakeholders of the settlement and putting pressure on them to intervene in order to alleviate the violence suffered by Abu-Nidal and his family.
However, over time international support began to decrease as people became less interested in his “story”. Abu-Nidal explains his life within the settlement is not a story but is his reality of living under occupation, like most Palestinians. He spoke about how organizations used his situation as an opportunity to gain sympathy through his circumstances.
Abu-Nidal has been offered financial incentive by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel to leave his land and his home and be relocated to the USA all expenses paid and including a visa. However, he declines time after time, declaring “I can go to America and not pay a single shekel, but I am not interested.”
Abu-Nidal works on his land outside the settlement, and makes his living tending to his crops and animals, he stated that numerous times the settlers have found where his land is and destroyed his crops. His motivation to stay throughout the sabotage and harassment, was that he finds solace in believing in the holiness of the land of Palestine. “Mohamed has walked on this land, Jesus has walked on this land, Mary has walked on this land,” he explained, “Allah loves this land… life here is hard, but it’s beautiful at the same time. One does not leave it.”
Palestine Monitor asked Abu-Nidal what aside from his religiosity keeps him resisting despite the daily struggle of being barricaded and constant settler aggression. He responded, “This is my land and my life. I take care of my land and my home. I work on my land with the sheep, goats, chickens and trees. I know my land,” he stated. “I understand all the money in the world, I know what it can buy, I see what people have and how they live, but I tell them I will not leave for any amount”.
Despite the hostile and life threatening living conditions, Abu-Nidal and Monira have raised a family and resisted against settler violence for over twenty years. Although all six of their children are now married and moved out, Abu-Nidal stated that he hopes his children will continue resisting and keep this home as a symbol of survival to be passed down.