by Jesse and Asa
Today the villagers of Bil’in confronted the theft of their land in yet another creative action against the annexation barrier. The villagers carried plastic and styrofoam models of settlement houses which bore the names of various settlements, and took them to the site of the demonstration. When we got to the site of fence, for some reason, the soldiers themselves demolished the main model. Some Palestinian children responded to this by symbolically stomping on its remains.
It was apparent to all that the soldiers were itching to unleash violence on us and hurt someone. As in the past the non-violence of the Palestinians was met with violence as the soldiers attacked us physically by pushing and shoving us over the rocky terrain as well as using their batons to beat and shove Palestinian, Israeli and international activists alike. After a while they used tear gas and sound bombs to try to disperse the demonstration.
The protesters held their ground and refused to be herded away and there was a kind of tug of war for the road leading up to the construction site. The soldiers would push and beat us down the road and then try to go back to their position, telling us to stay back while they continued to fire tear gas at us. But since they are on Bil’in land they had no right to be telling the villagers where to go. None the less they actually pushed us physically up the road and into the edge of the village and continued shooting into the village proper: tear gas (some of which was shot into villager’s homes) and rubber coated bullets at children some of whom replied by throwing stones to defend their homes.
The occupation forces arrested two Israeli activists and a Palestinian from the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements. One of the tactics used by the occupation forces is that they will kidnap one of the demonstrators and use them as a hostage to blackmail the villagers into returning to their homes. The demonstrators kept up the pressure until the Palestinian hostage was released, at which point the demonstrators made their way back to the village.
There was a lot of photographers there, some of whom had actually brought gas masks to wear so they would not be overwhelmed by the chemical weapons being used against the non-violent demonstration. Overall it was a very effective statement against the theft of the land that is occurring there in the name of “security” for the illegal Israeli settlements that are built within the West Bank, although it was met with high levels of violence from the Israeli occupation forces.