by an ISM Media office volunteer
Today’s weekly Bil’in demonstration was themed around the boycott of Israeli products. Demonstrators carried signs calling for a boycott, and the support of Palestinian products. Packages of Israeli snacks and drinks were also attached to the placards with large X signs crossed through them.
The demonstration approached the gate in the apartheid fence, singing and chanting. As always, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals participated together. Behind the gate was stationed two Border Police jeeps upon which several Israeli soldiers stood menacingly with riot shields, swinging their solid wooden clubs at us. Some of us got the impression that they were a new unit of soldiers since we didn’t recognize any of them and they were acting extremely aggressive, in contrast to last week’s Bil’in demonstration (although Palestinians from the village later told us they were not new).
We continued to sing and chant against the Wall and the occupation, banging stones in rhythm on the metal gate. Several of the boxes and packages of Israeli products were set alight in a symbolic act of refusal to cooperate with the occupation. After this, attempts were made to open the illegal, apartheid barrier gate, even while the soldiers beat us with their clubs, causing several injuries. Palestinians, Israelis and internationals shook the gate until it swung open. Some damage was also caused to the gate as its dislocation was attempted for a short while. Throughout all this, the soldiers were becoming more and more aggressive and violent toward the demonstrators.
After the gate was swung back, the demonstration started regrouping, singing and chanting non-violently as usual. Soon after this, the soldiers threw a sound grenade at the unarmed crowd, causing it to retreat swiftly. The reaction to this from some of the village shabab (young people) was to fight back with stones, pelting the Border Police jeeps with stones as they opened up on them with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. This had the effect of making them retreat into their jeeps, and gave the Palestinian demonstrators a chance to retreat to a safe distance to avoid arrests. Israelis and internationals moved out of the way to avoid the crossfire. The activists moved in to perform a sit-in on the road when the exchange died down and the soldiers emerged from their jeeps en-mass, seemingly to makes arrests. They beat several of the demonstrators, causing many painful injuries and nearly breaking the hand of Abdullah Abu-Rahme, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee.
Three Israelis and one Palestinian (Mohammed Khatib from the Popular Committee) were arrested and released later in the day.
Photos from the AP newswire (online temporarily):