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Israel represses non-violent protest in occupied West Bank

Submitted by David Bloom

Every Friday for months now, the Palestinian village of Bi’lin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has been the scene of creative and organized non-violent protests against the illegal construction of Israel’s “separation wall,”which will cut off much of the village’s farmland. Hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli anarchists, and international activists have taken part in demonstrations brutally repressed by Israeli occupation forces with tear gas, live fire, rubber bullets, experimental weapons like sponge, salt, and sand bullets, and sound weapons. On Sept. 2, Israeli soldiers attacked the villagers as they left their mosque after Friday prayers with tear gas, declaring that there would be no demonstration at all. Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has ordered that the Wall be completed by the end of the year, so a crackdown on the protests is currently under way:

Military’s early strike fails to deter plans for peaceful action

ISM MEDIA GROUP — Villagers in the West Bank village of Bil’in are determined to hold a peaceful direct protest to the annexation barrier in spite of the early morning invasion by the Israeli military in which dozens of people, Israelis and internationals, were arrested.

“They’re trying to arrest everybody,” said ISM volunteer Greta Berlin. “Everybody’s in a pile. They’ve got everybody, they’re throwing them all in the paddy wagon now.”

Palestinians from all around the village have begun breaking the curfew order to protest the arrests, banging pots and pans, chanting and burning tires to send SOS signals in black smoke. More Israeli activists are currently on the way to Bil’in, though roadblocks have been set up at most all entrances to the village.

Mohammed Al Khateb, a coordinator for the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall said that villagers are going ahead with plans to demonstrate. “We will not be intimidated by this violent action,” Al Khateb said. “They cannot stop us from protesting the theft of our land.”

Al Khateb was beaten by soldiers and has suffered some injuries. Two other Palestinians also have been injured. One man has a rubber bullet lodged in his leg and another suffered injury by shrapnel from a sound grenade.

The original plan for today’s demonstration was to attempt plant olive trees along the path of Israel’s illegal annexation barrier as a symbolic gesture to the attempt to regain stolen agricultural land. So threatened was the military by a few seedlings however, that the military tried to put a stop to it by invading in the pre-dawn hours, dubbed the entire village a “closed military zone” and called a curfew. Now, villagers will simply march toward the wall construction site in defiance of the curfew order.

With today’s violence also came threats of future, more extreme brutality.

“One of the soldiers who hadn’t been here for a while because of the Gaza disengagement found me,” Al Khateb said. “He said ‘I haven’t seen you in quite a while’ and ‘some day I’m going to bash your head in.'”

Soldiers also infringed on religious freedom in the village, telling people at the mosque that afternoon prayer would not be allowed today.

It’s important to note that the curfew and “closed military zone” status were declared as Bil’in slumbered. There is no known excuse for this action other than that the military was afraid of once again being humiliated by the use of peaceful resistance to the annexation barrier being built on Bil’in land.

Today, Knesset members and representatives from the Palestinian Authority, and a record number of internationals and Israelis, had planned to attend Bil’in’s peaceful march toward the seized land. Military commanders — worried about the brutality that these representatives would witness — entered the village under the dark of night to put a stop to an event that would put the true nature of their actions on display for Israel and much of the world.

More internationals and Israelis are on their way to Bil’in to participate in the demonstration. It is entirely up to the Israeli military whether it wants to continue down this violent path and escalate the situation.