The world is paying attention to the injustices and illegality of the Israeli occupation, annexation barrier and settlement expansion thanks in large part to the steadfast resourcefulness of people in the small West Bank village of Bil’in.
After the violent military siege last Friday aimed at stopping a demonstration before it began, organizations and individuals have been flocking to Bil’in’s side. What follows are some events that have taken place this last week in relation to and what is planned for tomorrow’s demonstration.
Demonstration for Friday: At 1 p.m. on Friday, people in Bil’in plan to plant olive trees along the route of Israel’s illegal annexation barrier in protest of the confiscation of their agricultural land. It’s expected to have a record turnout.
Late night invasions: Since last Friday’s invasion, the military has stepped up nighttime raids on the village, entering homes, taking photos and interrogating people. Four jeeps full of soldiers invaded Bil’in early this morning. At around 2:30 a.m. soldiers began taking photos and interrogating villagers. One coordinator of demonstrations, Abdullah Abu Rahme was questioned in an exchange that ended with soldiers saying, “we know who you are.” Soldiers entered and searched the home of Eyad Burnat, the head of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall at around 4 a.m. He wasn’t there, and soldiers were unable to find him. Soldiers also took photos of a house used by volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement. Internationals and Palestinians in the village are expecting incursions tonight as the military continues to use violence to intimidate Palestinians to cease their use of nonviolent direct action against occupation policies.
Letter to Bil’in from Nobel laureate: In an open letter of support of the forthcoming Demonstration in Bil’in, Mairead Corrigan Maguire stated, “I write to join with you in the spirit of solidarity and friendship, and to offer my full support for your Demonstration on Friday September 9th in Bil’in. It is our duty and right, as human beings wherever we live, to speak out for human dignity, human rights and against State injustice and oppression.”
Knesset, Palestinian leaders invited: Bil’in demonstration coordinator Mohammed Al Khateb has invited members of the Knesset and parliamentary leaders of the Palestinian Authority and district council to be in Bil’in on Friday. He said some Knesset members agreed to show up. As for Palestinian leaders, Kadura Fares and Mustafa Barghouti announced they would attend, Al Khateb said.
Background: Bil’in began resisting the confiscation of their land by Mod’ain Elit settlement and the subsequent construction of the annexation barrier in February of this year. The weekly Friday demonstrations and creative nonviolent direct actions have drawn dozens of Israeli activists and international support, capturing media headlines for months.
The ritual of confrontation at the path of the construction of the Wall was shattered last Friday when the army entered the village before the Friday prayer, marching through the streets and positioning itself on three main roads. Villagers and ISM internationals followed the Israeli soldiers, yelling “Get Out, Go Away!” The soldiers immediately responded by firing sound grenades and rubber bullets at close range. Residents and internationals were confined to one block near the ISM apartment for nearly one hour, under a show of bullets and gas. About 12 people were injured, three journalists among them. Villagers were threatened by military commanders who ordered a stop of all demonstrations and that no Israeli or international human rights activists remain in the village.
Denunciation: The Israeli paper Haaretz published an editorial denouncing the military’s action, describing the protests as “legitimate and sometimes effective means of protest against the annexation of land,” the editorial states that the Israeli military is showing its “general contempt for the right to legitimate protest.” The Popular Committees against the Wall and Settlement Expansion, Gush Shalom, Taayush, the Coalition of Women for Peace, The Committee against House Demolitions and Anarchists against the Wall released a joint statement in support of Bil’in demonstrations that also criticized the overwhelming amount of violence used by the military.