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A Conference Against the Wall in Bil’in

[BILIN, West Bank] In our village of Bilin, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, we are living an important but overlooked story of the occupation. Though Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza earlier this year, they are continuing to expand their West Bank settlements.

On our village’s land, Israel is building one new settlement and expanding five others. These settlements will form a city called Modiin Illit, with tens of thousands of settlers, many times the number that were evacuated from Gaza. These settlements consume most of our area’s water. Throughout the West Bank, settlement and wall construction, arrests, killing and occupation continue.

Over one year ago the International Court of Justice handed down an advisory ruling that Israel’s construction of a wall on Palestinian land violated international law. Today, Palestinians in villages like ours are struggling to implement that decision and stop the illegal construction using nonviolence. Unfortunately the international community has done little to support us.

Our village is being strangled by Israel’s wall. Though Bilin sits two and a half miles east of the Green Line, Israel is taking roughly 60 percent of our 1,000 acres of land in order to annex the six settlements and build the wall around them. This land is also money to us – we work it. Bilin’s 1,600 residents depend on farming and harvesting olives for our livelihood. The wall will turn Bilin into an open-air prison, like Gaza.

After Israeli courts refused our appeals to prevent wall construction, we, along with Israelis and international citizens from around the world, began peacefully protesting the confiscation of our land. We chose to resist nonviolently because we are peace-loving people who are victims of the occupation. We have opened our homes to the Israelis who have joined us. They have become our partners in struggle. Together we send a strong message that we can coexist in peace and security. We welcome anyone who comes to us as a guest and who works for peace and justice for both peoples, but we will resist anyone who comes as an occupier.

We have held more than 90 peaceful demonstrations since February. We learned from the experience and advice of villages such as Budrus and Biddu, who resisted the wall nonviolently. Palestinians from other areas now call people from Bilin “Palestinian Gandhis.”

Our demonstrations aim to stop the bulldozers destroying our land, and to send a message about the wall’s impact. We’ve chained ourselves to olive trees that were being bulldozed for the wall to show that taking the life of our trees takes the life of our village. We’ve distributed letters asking the soldiers to think before they shoot at us, explaining that we are not against the Israeli people, we are against the building of the wall on our land. We refuse to be strangled by the wall in silence. In a famous Palestinian short story by Ghassan Kanafani, “Men in the Sun,” Palestinian workers suffocate inside a tanker truck. Upon discovering them, the driver screams, “Why didn’t you bang on the sides of the tank?” In Bilin, we are banging, we are screaming.

In the face of our nonviolent resistance, Israeli soldiers have attacked our peaceful protests with teargas, clubs, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition. They have injured over 400 villagers. They invade the village at night, entering homes, pulling families out and arresting people.

But a year after the International Court of Justice’s decision, wall construction Palestinian land continues. Behind the smoke screen of the Gaza withdrawal, the real story is Israel’s attempt to take control of the West Bank by building the illegal wall and settlements that threaten to destroy dozens of villages like Bilin and any hope for peace.

Bilin is banging, Bilin is screaming. Please stand with us so that we can achieve our freedom by peaceful and nonviolent means.

We invite you to participate with us in an international conference that we will hold in Bilin to address the occupation and build nonviolent resistence to it, February 20 & 21, 2006.

For more information on the conference, please write to:

Please forward this invitation widely!

Bilin’s Popular Committee
Against the Wall and settelments