One of the activities of ISM is to create a physical presence of support for Palestinians resisting the occupation. The presence of international volunteers with cameras in the West Bank has a deterring effect on brutality and excess violence by the Israeli military who want to avoid the bad publicity of an international incident. It is abhorrent that the lives of international volunteers are given more value than that of Palestinians, but this unfortunately is the reality in Palestine. This is a symptom of the new anti-Semitism. Like Jews were scapegoated by the 3rd Reich, Arabs and Muslims have become the new scapegoats of the governments of the West who are incapable of doing any introspection beyond “Why do they hate us so much?”
Bil’in is a village of about 1000 people just north east of Ramallah. For the past year, the village has been resisting the seizure of their land by the Israeli government who have developed a large settlement nearby on the villager’s land. A wall is being built up around the settlement, cutting the Palestinians off from their former farm land. In response to this illegal seizure of the land (building settlements on occupied land is illegal under international law) the village has built their own “settlement” on the Israeli side of the wall. This is a one room shack built in protest.
The shack has been threatened with demolition because the Israeli government calls it “illegal” which is, of course, quite ironic. For the past few days we have been supporting the Palestinians of Bil’in by being present at their “settlement,” hoping to protect it from demolition. This is just one of the creative, non-violent methods the Palestinian resistance is using to draw attention to their cause.
I made a somewhat crude map of what is going on:
It was very heart-warming sitting around a campfire at the shack with Palestinian, Israeli and international activists singing songs, goofing off and having fun together. It could have been the opening line to some sarcastic joke, but it was real, honest and genuine and that made me very happy.
The IDF showed up a few times, we thought maybe they would try to bust up our party but they came and left rather quickly.
People have questioned what is the point of doing this? What is it accomplishing? Last night I saw for the first time what our presence accomplishes.
Abdullah is the owner of the apartment we are staying in in Bil’in and one of the ISM coordinators in Bil’in. He woke us up last night at around 2am saying there were Israeli soldiers in the village and that we needed to come out and demonstrate to them that there were people here who would hold them accountable for anything they did, that they would not be able to go around terrorizing the village and get away with it.
We walked down the street to the mosque where they had passed by earlier and littered the ground a bunch of leaflets. The leaflets said:
To the people of Bil’in:
The Israeli Defense Force who are protecting the Israeli civilians from terrorist acts are determined to prevent any act that creates obstacles to the work on the security fence.
The construction of the security fence aims to prevent terrorists from getting into Israel.
Do not participate in any acts that create obstacles for the building of the security fence.
Do not let those people (demonstrators) effect your daily life. These acts are against your interests.
The IDF will respond strongly to any act that might effect the security fence.
Someone called Abdullah on his phone and said they were heading our way. A few seconds later two humvees with approximately 6 or 7 soldiers in full riot gear pulled up. I walked straight towards them, not really having any plan of what to do or say, just knowing that I needed to confront them and show them that there were people here who were not going to let them get away with bad behavior. My heart was pounding in my chest. I was thinking “ok, this is it, this is how it ends, you are going to get shot right here and this is how you are going to die.” But you know, I would rather take 100 of their bullets right now, than die of old age later because I was afraid to stand up for what I believed in, and so I kept on walking. And of course I didn’t get shot, of course I had nothing to be afraid of because I am not Palestinian. We stood in front of them and Marcy told them in Hebrew they they should go home and that they were not welcome here. They told her to go home. It was tense for a few minutes as six unarmed women and two unarmed men stood in front of the seven or eight fully armed soldier waving their guns around. Then they left. Our first victory!