A group of twenty young Palestinian women aged from 13-16 led more than 400 people in a demonstration Monday against the illegal annexation barrier being constructed across land belonging to the village of Bil’in. Local villagers were joined by a large number of activists from a range of peace organizations, including around 200 international representatives from the Women in Black and members of direct action groups The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the International Women’s Peace Service (WIPS).
This was the largest demonstration which has yet been seen in Bil’in, and the large numbers attending the action ensured that it could not be met with the violence which has often been the reaction of the IDF to village actions. However after the demonstration dispersed the few remaining demonstrators were attacked with tear gas and sound grenades.
The Peaceful demonstration confronted a line of heavily armed Israeli soldiers and demanded access to the Bil’in land being stolen and an end to the illegal occupation of the West Bank. The young women confidently approached the line of soldiers blocking the road, leading the entire group of women with chants and songs, and one of the girls read a statement the village had prepared for their guests.
“We hope you take a look around and get to know the place and people here, and see what it is we’re trying to defend. We want as many people as possible to see what’s being done to our land with their own eyes, so they can make their own conclusions about what’s going on,” the teenaged girl said through a bullhorn in her speech to the gathering of hundreds of women. “… Settlers today are beginning to withdraw from Gaza. We are happy for the Palestinians there. But as that goes on, Israel is expanding settlements on our land here in Bil’in, and those settlers leaving Gaza are being brought here. This solves nothing, but rather moves the problem from one place to another. We need real answers that provides security for us all.”
BACKGROUND ON BIL’IN
Bil’in is a West Bank village which will lose approximately 52 percent of its agricultural land in the Israeli land grab begin carried out under the guise of “security.” Without access to their land, villagers will have lost their main source of income. This is an action which is being repeated throughout the West Bank and threatens the future self sufficiency of a Palestinian State.