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The Other Side of the Wall: A searing chronicle of unspeakable injustices

The book is an intimate diary of a courageous man who would disdain any such description of himself, after seeing the raw courage of so many Palestinians

With the United States violating international law and common decency by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and with Israel's ongoing oppression and slaughter of the Palestinians, the book, The Other Side of the Wall: An Eyewitness Account of the Occupation of Palestine, could not be more timely.

Shocking injustices

During the summer of 2014, author Richard Hardigan visited Palestine. During his time there, he witnessed shocking injustices perpetrated by heavily armed Israeli soldiers and settlers on unarmed Palestinians. He mentions one foreign activist who told him "that at his first demonstration in Palestine, in the nearby village of Ni'lin, eight people were shot with live ammunition".

It must be remembered that these were unarmed Palestinians, within their own country, shot by the occupying force.

The author describes event after event which show the complete disregard that Israeli soldiers have for the lives and safety of the Palestinian people. Gunfire, constant harassment, ongoing violations of the basic human rights of the people are all part of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Hardigan lived with Palestinians and other foreign activists during his time in Palestine, experiencing first-hand what it is to live under occupation

"It was amazing to me how all-pervasive the occupation seemed to be. How many random people had I met, who had had their lives irrevocably, some tragically, altered by it? The previous time I had taken a taxi, the driver, Aziz, told me the police had fined him 40,000 shekels and kept him under house arrest for one-and-a-half years, depriving him of his livelihood." Another gentleman, Marwan, "had shown me his deformed hands, which had been broken by soldiers during the First Intifada and which made it difficult for him to find work."

Hardigan lived with Palestinians and other foreign activists during his time in Palestine, experiencing first hand what it is to live under occupation. The heat of summer, the fear of attack at any time, the violence, the suffering, the deaths of the innocent and the grieving of their loved ones, are all brought home to the reader.

He was concerned for his own safety, even though he was doing nothing more threatening than taking photographs. "I knew that soldiers sometime shot and even killed protestors who were not engaging in any behaviour that in any way could be construed as violent, as they had done during the protest at Ofer prison just months earlier. That incident had been captured on video and captured international attention for a short time."

Palestinians' determination

Juxtaposed with these harrowing accounts, one clearly sees the determination and the resilience of the Palestinians. In one example of many, Hardigan reports being notified of a political prisoner who was being released. The excitement surrounding his release was not dimmed by the daily horrors of the occupation; over one hundred people gathered to celebrate his homecoming.

During the author's time there, three Israeli teenagers, living illegally in West Bank settlements, were kidnapped and murdered. Although Israeli authorities quickly learned that the three were dead, this information was withheld from the public to give authorities an excuse to perform house-to-house searches, and arrest hundreds of people.

Shortly thereafter, a Palestinian youth was kidnapped and burned alive, as retribution for the earlier deaths.

Another episode, not uncommon, is described, in which 15 soldiers, at midnight, entered the home of Nadeem Suleiman, demanding to be told where his guns were. The man was a school teacher; he had no guns. "The soldiers blinded and handcuffed Nadeem's twenty-year-old son and took him outside for an interrogation that lasted three hours."

They herded the rest of the family, including an eight-month-old baby and several other children, into the living room. Again they asked Nadeem about his guns.

For most people, the scenes of horror, stories of suffering and sorrow and the actual experience of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians are distant images, something seen, occasionally, on the news

"'Watch what we'll do if you don't give them to us,' an officer yelled. The children listened in terror as the soldiers proceeded to ransack the house. They ripped apart sofas and chairs, threw the contents of shelves on the floor, knocked over electrical appliances, destroyed two computers and slashed the family’s water tank on the roof.”

The other side of reality

The book details the work of many foreign activists, and the response, hardly benign, of Israeli soldiers to their presence. In many ways, the book is an intimate diary of a courageous man who would disdain any such description of himself, after seeing the raw courage of so many Palestinians.

For most people, the scenes of horror, stories of suffering and sorrow and the actual experience of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians are distant images, something seen, occasionally, on the news, but more often on social media. The Other Side of the Wall brings the reader into the reality of life as it is lived by millions of Palestinians, helping to inform, and thus motivate, the reader to take action.

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The entire book is both a depressing chronicle of unspeakable injustices, endured by millions on a daily basis, and an inspiring record of a resilient people who refuse, against incredible odds, to be beaten.

Hardigan clearly articulates what is necessary for this situation to change: "…the only way to end the occupation is for Israel’s main benefactor to stop enabling Israel. The only way that is going to happen is if enough people in the United States put pressure on the government to stop funding Israel. And the best way to bring that about is to ensure that the American public is aware of what is going on here.”

One way in which the US public can become aware of the brutal, ugly truth of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is by reading The Other Side of the Wall: An Eyewitness Account of the Occupation of Palestine. 

Factual, disturbing and well-written, this is a book for everyone who believes in human rights, international law and common decency, all of which are violated on a daily basis by Israel.

- Robert Fantina is an activist, journalist and author of numerous books. His latest is Essays on Palestine.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: A Palestinian protester sits on top of the separation wall in the West Bank on Nakba Day (AFP)