Wael Zuaiter lived in Nablus, in the house which is now the Project Hope office. Naila, Wael's sister, is our landlady living in the top floor apartment. Adel Zuaiter, Wael's father, designed this three-storeyed house himself.
Wael Zuaiter was born on the 2nd January 1934. The house then was a place of sanctuary and serenity outside the growing tensions outside. Family and friends recall Wael was intelligent as a child and had a gentle nature.
He was only 13 years old, slightly built and rather shy, when he joined with his school mates in a mass demonstration against the United Nations vote to partition Palestine. Then in 1948 there was the war. The wave of violence and bloodshed swept across Palestine. Like all the schools in Palestine, lessons were suspended indefinitely as classrooms were needed as dormitories for the thousands of refugees fleeing the Israeli army.
Remembering the days of 1948 Wael could foresee the tragedy of June 1967 months beforehand. He wrote to his sister from Italy where he was now living, 'The Zionist movement wants to do with the Palestinians what the Americans did with the Indians and the Australians with the Aborigines. Every Palestinian in the world must take up the struggle against Israeli occupation of their land and, no matter what it costs, prevent Israel from destroying Arab Palestine'.
Wael decided then that he must act. So he changed his address and started weaving fine network of contacts with politicians, journalists and intellectuals that were to make him the only point of reference for any initiative regarding Palestine. His career as a spokesman for the resistance was fairly rapid. By the end of 1968 he had already laid down the foundations of an Italian Committee in Support of Palestinian People in which all the Italians left wing collaborated. The tragic Battle of Amman in 1970 which Wael witnessed personally, led to the most intensive phase of his career as an unarmed partisan. He met every journalist in Italy interested in the Arab world or the Middle East crisis and not one of them failed to be impressed by the force of his calmly reasoned arguments. He carried on a dialogue with the students movement and 20,000 of them gathered in Milan Square to listen to Abu Omar, one of Arafat's associates. It was a period of feverish activity.
During the last week of his life, Wael knew that he was to face death.
A few weeks before his death Wael confided his anxiety to a friend; ' If I remain they will kill me,' he said. Soon afterwards Golda Meir announced that 'the Palestinian resistance would be destroyed, wherever it was'. In the very last week of his life he wrote to Al-Fatah: 'I was thinking of leaving Rome, but now I hear that Golda Meir is threatening the Palestinians everywhere and have decided to remain.'
Rome, Monday 16th October 1972, half-past ten in the evening and Piazza Annibaliano, is almost deserted. A man in dark clothes is walking towards his apartment block, No.4. With three shots into his back Wael was executed by the Israelis. Into his prostrate body they fired another nine shots. Someone is to remember seeing the assassins calmly get into a waiting car and drive off from the scene.
Wael Zuaiter's whole 38 years of life was a dedication: the search for a solution to the tragic state of affairs imposed upon his people. It was the life of an exile – a reality with which he never became fully reconciled and which he strove with all his might to change. Wael, along with millions of other Palestinians, was forced to leave his native land; and with Palestine ever in his thoughts as a personal message of freedom and emancipation, he became a world traveler spreading his own humanitarian philosophy and expounding the rights of his people. Better than anyone else he knew how to show that the Palestinians, like all the people's of the world, desire nothing more than to live in peace, stability and security.
Information extracted from Janet Venn-Brown book: FOR A PALESTNIAN, A Memorial to Wael Zuaiter
Wael Zuaiter by Emily Jacir
Detail of Emily Jacir's mixed media installation