Today, August 18, the Israeli army and Border Police tried to prevent the weekly non-violent demonstration of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals in Bil’in against the illegal confiscation of their farmland by the Apartheid Wall and settlements. They used brute force to prevent the demonstration from reaching the site of the wall, despite an Israeli military court decision that people in Bil’in have the right of freedom of speech through “legitimate resistance”. In the morning of the demonstration a member of the Popular Committee of Bil’in received a call from the military threatening to use force to prevent the demonsratators from reaching the intended goal of the Wall.
Before the demonstration even began, the army and Border Police were already positioned within the village with armored Jeeps and a water canon. Bright blue water was fired from the canon at the demonstrators, totally unprovoked, as soon as they were within range of the massive white tank. Many demonstrators were soaked by the blue liquid, dying their hair, clothes and skin, and most of them reported subsequent burning and irritation of the skin that lasted into the night. Tear gas was also used against the demonstrators as soon as the water canon was engaged, so it is unclear whether the burning was from gas being absorbed into the wet skin and clothing, or whether the water itself contained a chemical. Regardless, the message from the Israeli army was clear: non-violent protest will not be tolerated and will be met by increasing displays of force.
As usual, the soldiers continued to use sound grenades, rubber bullets, and also the water canon as the protestors and journalists were retreating. There were seven people injured by rubber bullets and gas, including one photographer with Associated Press and several people had skin irritation and a hard time breathing from the tear gas.
The theme of this week’s demonstration was the continuity of the resistance in Bil’in, and the villagers and activists carried the message “You Cannot Break Our Spirit.” The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements has organized weekly demonstrations since January 2005 against the wall and against the illegal confiscation of 60% of their farmland, and will steadfastly continue with their weekly demonstrations despite the army’s apparent intent to brutally repress them. The army’s behaviour at last week’s and this week’s demonstrations clearly show that they are trying to terrorize the villagers, internationals, and Israelis into not holding this demonstration anymore.
A representative of the national Islamic forces gave a speech at the beginning of the demonstration encouraging Bil’in and their supporters to continue struggling together despite the many forces that want the joint struggle to fail. On behalf of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, members added that they hope for the speedy recovery of supporters, Lymor Goldstein and Rina Klauman, who are still in the hospital for injuries incurred from last week’s demonstration.
Lymor, an Israeli lawyer, who was shot in the neck and head by rubber-coated metal bullet at close range last Friday, underwent immediate surgery to remove the bullet and shards of his skull, which was successful. He was put back in intensive care today, however, due to a severe infection in his brain and is undergoing surgery today.
Rina, from Denmark who suffered from a severe concussion, after a soldier beat her with the butt of his gun last Friday, is still hospitalized and awaiting the results from her MRI. However, she is beginning to feel better and is finally able to walk on her own today.
For more information:
Abudullah Abu Rahma: 054 725 8210
Mohammed Khatib 054 557 3285
ISM Media Office 02 297 1824