by Tom Hayes, October 11th
I visited the village of Bil’in, close to Ramallah, on Saturday. The villagers had asked for an international presence in the village after the IOF had arrested Emad, a Palestinian cameraman who works for Reuters on Friday after the weekly demonstration against the Apartheid Wall, which will separate the villagers from a majority of their agricultural land.
A new IOF commander has taken over responsibility for the area and has threatened to renew raids on the village to arrest villagers involved in the weekly demonstrations. Previously the IOF have arrested known protesters and village youths and demanded large sums of money for their release.
We walked through the fields towards the Apartheid Wall to reach the village’s outpost on the isolated part of their land beyond the wall. Villagers keep a permanent presence at the outpost to reassert their right to access their land. We walked through the gate in the barrier (which in Bil’in consists of two fences and a security road surrounded by large rolls of razor wire) and asked the IOF soldiers to be let through onto the isolated land on the Western side of the barrier. The soldiers told us that we could come through but that Palestinans could not come through to their land during the Jewish holiday. We asked why we were treated differently and were told ‘because you are tourists…’.
As we were let through the gate the soldier told us ‘this is not Auschwitz…’. Who was he trying to convince?
We visited a villager from Bil’in who was staying at the outpost, close to several illegal Israeli Jewish-only settlements. He told us he was unable to go back to the village because he would to be allowed back to his agricultural land if he left it. He was not willing to leave the land to the settlers and the army so he planned to stay there until access to the lands beyond the wall was permitted again.
The people of Bil’in are continuing their resistance to the annexation of their land and need more international support over the coming weeks. The villagers expect disruption to access to their land throughout the Jewish holiday. Similarly, in Tel Rumeida, access to the Ibrahimi Mosque, and freedom of movement for Palestinians has been impeded to allow for hundreds of Israel visitors.
On Saturday in Tel Rumeida hundreds of Israeli visitors were allowed to march into the Palestinian controlled area. Palestinians were cleared out of the way by soldiers shooting sound bombs and tear gas.
The restrictions on movement over the holiday period are a further example of the apartheid system operated by the IOF, similar restrictions were put on Palestinians during the Passover period this year.