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Home arrow Blog arrow February 2009 arrow February 23, 2009

February 23, 2009
February 23, 2009: The Battle for Bil'in
[Bil'in, Feb. 23, 2009] For four years, the beleaguered agricultural village of Bil'in in the West Bank has resisted the route of Israel's Wall; which in Bil'in is composed of miles of electrified-barbed wire fencing that denies the landowners access to their legally owned land.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that The Fence must be moved and the stolen land restored to the Bil’in villagers; but civil and military authorities have not complied and last week, night time raids by Israel escalated.


 






 Mahmoud Zwahre, a coordinator of the Popular Committee Against The Wall, wrote:


Imagine being awakened to the sound of a stun grenade. Imagine such a grenade landing in your front yard every night. This is the reality that residents of Palestinian villages who are struggling against the apartheid wall are forced to deal with since the attack on Gaza.

These nightly invasions by the army, which terrorize villagers, are becoming ever more frequent. Invasions take place three to four times a week in the villages of Beit Likia and Bil'in. In the last week, the villages of Ma'asara, Ni’ilin and Jayus too have joined the list, as troops have been harassing those who participate and organize the village protests.


Around 12:30 at night the solders [knocked on] the door of my house [demanding] I open the door; more than 10 solders entered my house without my permission…they pushed me out side in the cold weather with very light clothes…they told me that they are going to arrest me and they [bound] me …I'm on the ground on my knees at that time; I thought that I'm in Guatanomo…and then they told me…we are going to arrest you next week we are going to come in more difficult way; so don't come to demonstrate, don't organize demos…While they was checking in my house they found emails for many friends from solidarity associations.


Today or tomorrow we are going to win because we have the faith.-end Mahmoud


Even with the four years of media blackout on the popular struggle, thousands of Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals have been waging a nonviolent campaign of resistance to the construction of the route of Israel's Wall in the Occupied Territories.

Palestinian farmers, mothers, children and activists have been braving teargas, beatings, bullets, arrest, and even death to rise up against the most well equipped army in the world, with nothing more than their own bodies and determination.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that The Wall is a violation of International Law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian villages and economy in order to establish more illegal settlements.


The route of The Electric Fence in Bil'in and the Israeli army prohibits the indigenous people to tend and harvest their olive groves. Over 2,003 dunums of prime agricultural land have been confiscated by The Electric Fence.

The Israelis built apartments for 750 settlers that the indigenous people are forbidden to enter.

In Billin, the Green Line is five miles from The Electric Fence and the Popular Committee in Bilin has been fighting the illegal actions of the Israeli government with demonstrations and legal actions.


The Israeli government attempts to justify their land theft by returning to the Ottoman Law that states if the landowner doesn't tend his land it can be confiscated by the State. The Israeli army and The Electric Fence have prevented the indigenous people from accessing their legally owned land, thus depriving them of food, income and human rights.

After the indigenous people of Bilin brought their case to the Israeli Municipal Court and the High Court; both courts agreed the building of the settlement dwellings was indeed illegal and ordered the construction to cease in January 2006. Construction continued and the settlers moved in and the High Court accepted these 'facts on the ground' but the indigenous people have not given up seeking justice.


 
Every Friday afternoon in Bilin after prayer at the mosque the ritual march in nonviolent solidarity to The Wall/Electric Fence unites the indigenous people, Israeli and international activists in the struggle who sing and chant slogans such as:

"The wall will fall in Bilin; the wall will fall like in Berlin."



On November 10, 2006 I was one of over 40 internationals from the UK, France, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Netherlands and the US who marched with dozens of Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and over 300 locals down the dirt road to The Wall/Electric Fence.

Soldiers hid behind trees to the right and to the left of us while over five dozen well armed soldiers stood on the other side of The Wall/Fence with one videotaping us.

I was inspired to go to Bil'in in Nov. 2005, after attending a power point lecture in Gainesville, Florida given by a Palestinian and Israeli member of Anarchists Against the Wall/AAtW.

Jonathan Pollak, said: "I was six years old at my first demonstration and active on my own at thirteen. I am 23 now. When they started to build the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank I would go a few times a week and watch them deceive the world. The Israeli government successfully marketed the Apartheid Wall as a security barrier. But it is all about segregation, separation and ethnic cleansing.

"Civilian uprising and non-violent activism is not like the Gandhi movie. It`s not carrying posters and saying we don`t like your wall, go away. We stand in front of Caterpillar`s knowing we will be shot and arrested. I was shot five times in the last two years by rubber bullets which are 1/2 inch steel bullets covered with plastic. I have been shot in the head and the more experience I have the scarier it is. One learns to recognize the ritual of it all: when the IDF will begin using the billy clubs, when the tear gas will come, when the bullets will come.....We are not a dialogue group, AAtW is an Israeli organization and we are not colonial liberators. All the strategy is done by Palestinians, we are with them seeking justice and giving support. There is no price to high to pay for freedom, equality and universal rights. Without justice there can be no peace.

"Negotiations alone will not secure freedom for the Palestinian people. During the negotiations of the so-called Oslo Peace Process from 1993-2000, Israel simply imposed its will on the Palestinians, using its overwhelming military and economic power, and US support. During seven years of supposed peace, Palestinians saw 200,000 new Israeli settlers arrive in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the same number of settlers that had arrived there in the previous 26 years.

"However, the recent grassroots struggle against Israel's Wall has demonstrated that it may be possible to counter Israel's overwhelming power, and its exploitation of negotiations, through nonviolent resistance. The Wall, is just one blatant Israeli attempt to impose its will, and has become a focus for civilian resistance.

"Although Israel marketed the Wall as a security barrier, logic suggests such a barrier would be as short and straight as possible. Instead, it snakes deep inside the West Bank, resulting in a route that is twice as long as the Green Line, the internationally recognized border. Israel chose the Wall's path in order to dispossess Palestinians of the maximum land and water, to preserve as many Israeli settlements as possible, and to unilaterally determine a border.

"In order to build the Wall Israel is uprooting tens of thousands of ancient olive trees that for many Palestinians are also the last resource to provide food for their children.

"The Palestinian aspiration for an independent state is also threatened by the Wall, as it isolates villages from their mother cities and divides the West Bank into disconnected cantons [Bantustans/ghettos]. The Israeli human rights organization B`Tselem conservatively estimates that 500,000 Palestinians are negatively impacted by the Wall.

"Faced with a history of suffering, Palestinians have no alternative but to struggle. The only question is how? Killing diminishes our humanity, and Israel's occupation, which has killed thousands of Palestinians, shouldn't be our teacher. It is time for both sides to refuse killing.

"Though Palestinians have employed nonviolence since 1929, they have seen little evidence that it will help them to achieve freedom. In 2003-2004, the West Bank village of Budrus decided to set an example for how nonviolence can defeat the Wall.

"All the people of Budrus mobilized, and were joined by Israeli and international activists. In 55 nonviolent marches, Israeli soldiers injured more than 300 people, arrested 33 and killed one, as the villagers, with their bodies alone, attempted to stop the destruction of their land. Faced with Budrus` determined protests, the Israeli government eventually moved the Wall to the Green Line. The village saved 300 acres of its land and 3000 olive trees. Children, women and old people were among the heroes of Budrus` nonviolent struggle.

"Throughout the West Bank, nine protesters were killed in marches against the Wall, thousands were injured and hundreds arrested. Hundreds of civilian protests throughout the West Bank are the reason the world learned of the injustice of the Wall. As a direct result, the International Court of Justice at the Hague ruled in 2004 that Israel's construction of the Wall violated international law.

"The village of Budrus and the International Court of Justice ruling represent victories for nonviolent resistance. Another success of the joint struggle was the connection forged between Palestinians and the Israelis who joined them in their resistance. This connection, stronger than anything that ideas could create, was unwittingly forged by the Israeli army, through their beatings, the joint arrests and the bullets. Joining Palestinians in nonviolent struggle has allowed some Israelis to voice very clearly that the struggle against occupation and for freedom is not a Palestinian struggle alone, but is their struggle as well.

"We believe that, as with Apartheid South Africa, Americans have a vital role to play in ending Israeli occupation - by speaking out, coming to Palestine as witnesses, or standing with Palestinians in nonviolent resistance.

"We are confident that Israeli occupation will one day be defeated, as were other US government supported repressive regimes - Apartheid South Africa, Pinochet`s Chile and racial segregation in the United States. There is no price too great to pay for freedom, and nothing will deter us from achieving this goal."

`


During my last trip to Bil'in, after chanting a while in front of the soldiers, Jonathan was the first down the steep rocky hill and over a metal railing to grab the roll of razor sharp barbed wire that is in front of the electrified fence in order to shake it. He was immediately joined by a few dozen locals and other AAtW who were swiftly greeted by the first of dozens of sound bombs-thick orange plastic grenades that hit the ground with a deafening sound.

I was half way down the hill when a teenager next to me threw a rock at a soldier and I know that action alone can get one killed or arrested, so I headed back up the hill before the tear gas assaulted the crowd at the barbwire. By the time I made it up the hill the first of hundreds of rubber bullets were being shot into the crowd. Only two internationals were hit and other than a few Palestinian adolescents and young boys throwing rocks all remained nonviolent. I was told that because of the large International presence no live ammo was fired; although the week before a Frenchman took a bullet in the arm while standing next to a group of children. He was back at the Friday ritual with a cast and sling on.


On June 6, 2008, Vice President of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Maried Corrigan-Maguire were both assaulted by Israeli Forces with tear gas during the Friday afternoon ritual they attended after speaking at Bil'in's third annual international conference supporting nonviolent protests against the wall and military occupation of the West Bank agricultural village.

"Around midday, the participants of the conference went to watch a football match between the villagers of Bil'in and the international participants of the conference near the wall. The football game, which coincided with the start of the European Championship tournament, was, according to Abdullah Abu Rahme, the conference moderator, a message to the world that Israel, also denies the Palestinians the right to play. Soon after the match started, Israeli troops showered the players with a number of tear gas bombs which forced them to stop the match. A number of the players and the spectators were treated for gas inhalation."[1]

According to protestors, dozens of the hundreds of demonstrators on hand were hurt by tear gas, while several were hit by gas canisters. Former Palestinian National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub and Palestinian Legislative Council Member Dr. Mustafa al-Barghouti were also hurt by tear gas. Regarding Morgantini's condition, the army said that "those who take part in such protests and violate a closed military zone order should not be surprised to see the IDF respond with tear gas."[2]


Jonatan Pollak stated that the army fired a "dazzling amount" of gas canisters, "about 30-40 per barrage."[IBID]



At the conclusion of the second annual Bil'in conference, on April 21st, 2007, Mairead Maguire, was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli Forces an hour after a press conference where she stated:


"Thanks to the media here for telling the truth…Bring this truth to whatever country you come from. Non-violence will solve the problems here in Israel and Palestine. Often, the world sees only violence. But Palestinians are a good people, working towards non-violence. This Wall must fall! It is an insult to the human family and to the world– that we are building Apartheid Walls in the 21st Century! More than forty years of Occupation and Land Appropriation."

After Maried Maquire was shot and while being carried to safety, the army continued to fire into the non-violent crowd. "The resilience was astounding. The demonstrators kept regrouping. Even Ms. Maguire, after being shot and with red, watery tear-gassed eyes– she rejoined the march.…An estimated 25 people were either hit with rubber bullets, soldier batons, or received medical care from tear gas inhalation." [4]



Máiread previously wrote: "Hope for the future depends on each of us taking nonviolence into our hearts and minds and developing new and imaginative structures which are nonviolent and life-giving for all. Some people will argue that this is too idealistic. I believe it is very realistic. I am convinced that humanity is fast evolving to this higher consciousness. For those who say it cannot be done, let us remember that humanity learned to abolish slavery. Our task now is no less than the abolition of violence and war.... We can rejoice and celebrate today because we are living in a miraculous time. Everything is changing and everything is possible.


"While Governments can make a difference, in the final analysis it is the individual – that is each one of us – that will bring the dream of a nonviolent world to reality. We, the people must think and act nonviolently. We must not get stuck in the past as to do so will destroy the imagination and creativity.


"To change our world we need a spiritual and a political evolution. The political steps are often very obvious: uphold Human rights, and International Laws, demand our Governments meet their obligations under these Laws, support and reform United Nations, etc., However, all the legislation, resolutions, and fine talk will be of no use, if we do not as men and women evolve and become transformed, so that we, the human family, achieve a more enlightened and humane way of living together, and solving conflicts." [5]



Support the Struggle with words:

Sample letters:

To Ministry of Defense

I write to you in order to protest against the nightly invasions of the villages of Bil'in, Beit Likia, Ni’ilin, Jayus and Ma'asara, committed by the Israeli army on an almost every-night basis. Such actions are in violation of international law, which hold the occupying army responsible to the welfare and safety of civilians living under its rule. You must stop these invasions at once, and prosecute whoever is responsible for them.

Sincerely,


Ministry of Defense email:


MY EMAIL which includes the Minister of Tourism:

,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,


Dear President Peres and Israeli Ministers,

I write to you as a concerned American journalist who desires SECURITY for Israel; and that requires justice and equal human rights for all the citizens of Israel Palestine.

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is binding on "all countries of the world" and EQUAL human rights are declared as UNDERSTOOD at the outset of the document as "inalienable" and therefore can not be denied by any government.

The nightly invasions of the villages of Bil'in, Beit Likia, Ni'ilin, Jayus and Ma'asara, committed by the Israeli army on an almost every-night basis are a violation of international law and Israel as the occupying power is legally, morally and ethically responsible for the welfare and safety of all civilians living under its rule.

I beseech you to stop these invasions and prosecute whoever is responsible for them:


Most Sincerely,
Eileen Fleming, Founder and Editor
http://www.wearewideawake.org/
Author "Keep Hope Alive" "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"
Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"



Contact info for more Israeli Ministers @:
http://www.gov.il/FirstGov/BottomNavEng/Contact



1. http://www.bilin-village.org/english/
2. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3552745,00.html
3. IBID
4. http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2007/04/21/april-20-bilin-protest/
5. http://www.wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=128&Itemid=105


Learn More:

http://www.bilin-village.org



 
   
 
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