We arrived early for the usual Friday demonstration in Bil’in. The ISM flat in the village was full of Palestinians villagers and Israeli and international activists busily preparing the latest of the pieces of protest display this village is so well-known around Palestine for. This time it was a series of bits of fence, to be connected by activists covered in sheets reading “the wall tears us apart” and other such slogans in English, Arabic and Hebrew.
The demonstration proceeded along an alternative route to the one the weekly marches usually take. We spotted the soldiers waiting for us on the hill opposite and many villagers laughed at our successful bit of trickery. The joy was short-lasted as the soldiers spotted us and began running across the hills. They caught up with us near the road used by the construction crews working on the annexation barrier. The commander waved around a piece of paper and declared the area a closed military zone. We demonstrators stood our ground as many more came streaming over the hill. The situation was rather tense, and after around five minutes, the soldiers began throwing sound bombs and shooting their new ‘sponge’ bullets directly at demonstrators. I saw a soldier (who I recognized as one of the group who arrested me a few weeks ago) aim his weapon right at my face. I turned and ran. He fired, and hit me in the back of the neck with a ‘sponge’ from a distance of twenty meters. Turned out that was the least of six injuries that were to occur during the demonstration. One person was hit near the eye with what was probably a rubber-coated steel bullet. Four Israeli demonstrators were arrested, two of whom were released towards the end of the demonstration.
The army continued to shoot tear gas as demonstrators, as the latter moved up and down the hills. Palestinian youth responded with stone-throwing, and Israeli media later reported that one soldier was injured by a stone.
As the demonstration was coming to an end and many demonstrators were preparing to leave, the army invaded the village. Villagers had blocked the road with rocks, a trash can and a bathtub. An army jeep bypassed the barricades and entered the village. Soldiers shot many rubber-coated steel bullets, sound bombs and tear gas. One Palestinian boy was arrested. The boy apparently had not participated in the demonstration. His mother came to one of the village’s organizers in tears later on. Her boy needs medication and she was worried he would not be given access to drugs.
Bil’in is going to lose sixty percent of its land to the annexation barrier, yet every week the army exacts another toll from the villagers. This time it’s one more useless arrest, one more mother in tears among the injured. The price of non-violent resistance is huge, but Bil’in villagers persist, week after repressive week.