Free Xero


From the Romans to Hamas


Nablus has been living under intense economic and military siege for the last six years. It is a part of the brutal and illegal forty year occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government and armed forces.

This ancient city, which lies 55 km north of Jerusalem, was built by the Romans during their occupation of Palestine in 72CE . Surrounded by hills covered in old olive groves, it is embedded at the foot of a narrow valley, in between two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim.

The stone arches, steps and alleyways of the Old City appear so contorted and random that their layout may have been determined by the original rock formation of the valley. The spine of the city is a cobbled street that runs along the floor of the valley and has been the centre of a busy and important market since the Romans first built it.

As you walk through the souk in the Old City, the theme of occupation, alteration, repair and conflict emerge as a compelling narrative that can be read in the fragments and layers on the city walls.

The streets of Nablus are invariably twisted, dark, narrow and rather featureless on street level, except for the doors. As in many Arabic cities, the courtyards, linked rooftops and the lives of its inhabitants are hidden from view.

Today, because of the occupation and the frequent Israeli military incursions and house demolitions, the old interiors are are being exposed. Squat Roman arches and cellars, Ottoman and Mameluk halls with high vaulted ceilings, pre-christian wells and narrow winding stairs have all been destroyed by the occupying army. They lie broken and exposed, along with more contemporary coats of paint and the personal belongings of a recently evicted family.

The old walls of the medina are pitted with bullet and shell holes, sprayed with graffiti and covered with posters, cell phone ads, local events, politicians and the ubiquitous memorials to slain resistance fighters. They are everywhere, peeling and fading, elegiac fragments honouring the ultimate sacrifice of sons, friends and lovers.

Anyone who dies as a result of the occupation is considered a martyr (shaheed in Arabic). The posters and the graffiti commemorate, anniversaries of deaths, imprisonments, intifadas and uprisings.

Within the Nablus resistance there are many factions, some of whom have been outlawed by western governments. Hamas, the democratically elected governing party, as well as the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been declared terrorist organisations in Canada for maintaining their right to use arms to resist foreign occupation (a right guaranteed by the UN Charter).

The western debate over the occupation usually focuses on suicide bombers. We tend to ignore the incredible inequity of power in the conflict. The American-funded Israeli military is using jet fighters, missiles, helicopters and tanks in densely populated residential neighbourhoods of Palestine, an impoverished country with very few military or economic resources.

More than three times as many Palestinian civilians have died than Israelis since 2000 and thousands of Palestinians languish in Israeli jails. Many of the dead and imprisoned are democratically elected leaders, and many of the prisoners do not have any legal representation and no formal charges have been laid against them.

There are three refugee camps in Nablus, Al Ein, Askar and Balata, which are home to 40,000 people exiled from their villages by Israeli ethnic cleansing over the last 60 years. They suffer from extreme poverty and overcrowding but are also known for their persistent and courageous stand against the occupation.

Consequently there are regular military incursions into the camps, as well as the Old City, usually during the night. Israeli forces blast their way through the densely built streets and "mouse-hole" their way from house to house, setting up snipers and often locking the whole family in one small room. The soldiers usually depart in the early morning - leaving behind a ruin of damaged houses, destroyed plumbing and electrical infrastructure, injury and death, grief and trauma. But also a fierce and abiding commitment to resistance in all it's many forms.

The photographs in "THE WALLS OF NABLUS: From the Romans to Hamas" are a response to the reality of the siege, of the incursions, of the occupation. They document memorials of slain resistance fighters, anniversaries of imprisonment, deaths, intifadas and places of conflict. They document the ongoing struggle against the occupation through peaceful and armed means. would like to thank Eyad and Wendy for translating the graffiti from Arabic.