By Harrison Healy
Since January 2005, there have been regular demonstrations in Bil’in against the apartheid wall being constructed in the West Bank. The wall has divided Palestinian towns, destroyed homes, removed access to fertile land and imprisoned the Palestinian people.
The town of Biddu was one of the villages that succeeded in Its campaign to divert the route of the wall, but five Palestinians lost their lives in that campaign. Four of those killed were shot during the first demonstration, yet the town kept on fighting. Actions in villages like Budrus and Biddu also helped get many locals involved in anti-wall demonstrations in other villages. Nine Palestinians in total have been killed in anti-wall demonstrations.
There are rallies every week after Friday afternoon prayers in Bil’in, Abud and Beit Sira, and since March 4, weekly Saturday demonstrations are organised in Tulkarem, where the wall has cut off nearby villages such as Jubara. The rallies are organised by popular committees in each village and are supported by international solidarity activists and Israelis.
In Beit Sira, people have planted olive trees to replace those the army tore down and in Abud the demonstrations have involved burning army blankets used to flatten the road. In Bil’in, the villagers have organised mock lynchings on the wall, international conferences attracting hundreds of participants and soccer games across the wall. They also use mirrors to reflect messages like “Stop the wall” onto soldiers’ flack jackets.
Bil’in villagers have also constructed two outposts on the other side of the wall, facing multiple illegal Israeli settlements. The army would like to destroy these small rooms. Every night, Palestinians and international activists camp out at the outposts to have fun together and express their solidarity.
The number of villages wanting to take action is growing. The ISM, the International Women’s Peace Service and Operation Dove have all contributed to the success of the demonstrations, along with Israeli activists ho commute to the West Bank each week to support their Palestinian comrades. The impact of the Israeli presence at the demonstrations is significant – an Israeli border police officer admitted in court that police are given different shooting instructions if there are Israelis in protest crowds.
Yet injuries and deaths have still occurred and even Israelis aren’t safe from being harmed. On February 24, 17-year-old Israeli activist Matan Cohen was shot in the eye by a “rubber” bullet (metal coated with a millimetre of plastic) at a demonstration in Beit Sira. He may lose much, if not all, of his sight in that eye. Palestinian demonstrator Hussni Rayan was also shot at close range with a steel rubber coated bullet that entered 8cm into his body during the protest.
Harrison Healy is a member of the Australian socialist youth organisation Resistance. He is currently working with the ISM in Palestine.