The Struggle Uses Images to Counter the Wall
Interview with Shai Pollak from the Nyon film festival
During an interval in the screening of Shai Carmeli Pollak’s film Bil’in Habibi (Bilin my love) at the Nyon Film Festival, we discussed the film with its creator; an activist in the Israeli group “Anarchists against the Wall.” 1
You made this film which tells of the villagers of Bil’in’s struggle against the apartheid wall that Israel has built since 2002 in the West Bank. Can you tell us about this fight?
Bil’in is a small village close to Ramallah. The decision to deprive it of its land was made in 2005 and its inhabitants joined the fight of the villages under Israeli occupation against the confiscation of their grounds and the construction of the wall (2). The participation of Israelis in such struggles started in 2003, at the village of Masha. For four months, the Israeli tent was installed on the village land that was to be confiscated and divided by the fence. Thousands of Israelis and people from all societies came. A group of activists started to meet to establish links with the popular committees; this occurred near other villages before the fight started in Bil’in itself.
Can you explain what these popular committees are?
They are democratic independent structures that link the energies of a village and organize the struggle; they make all the decisions. In Bil’in, the popular committee developed very creative forms of protest, associating direct actions and artistic initiatives. By surfing to the website of the village, you can get an idea of this rich creativity (3). The peaceful weekly demonstrations are always violently repressed by the army and the police force. It should be stressed that the villagers have never given up on non-violence and that hundreds of them have been wounded since beginning the protests. There hasn’t been a demonstration without severely wounded persons. A special feeling of unity was created: Dr. Barghouti, new Minister for the information of the Palestinian government, often takes part.
Are the popular committees related to one another?
A national committee establishes the links between the village popular committees. To date, only the village of Budrus has managed to move back the wall to the green line by their actions, without court proceedings. But I see reasons to hope because the struggle continues, there is a group of Israelis determined to support it, and that international solidarity develops. With the popular committees, we try to fight against the occupation, but also for peace, because there can not be peace as long as the occupation lasts. The Israelis who join the movement must understand that peace can not be concluded without satisfying International law, and obviously without putting an end to the occupation.
We talked to the mayor of Bil’in, who takes part in the popular committee. He explained to us the importance of extending the fight to other villages, the independent Israelis, the international solidarity activists, etc. What do you think about it?
I think that this unity is very important, it exist on all the levels and relates to all the aspects of the struggle. Let us think for example of the day of the demonstration. People decide to go from their village to the fence. In the absence of international or Israeli support, the demonstration becomes much more dangerous. Because the Israeli army changes its rules of engagement according to whether the Palestinians are alone or not; they admit this openly. They do not change their rules according to manner of protest, but because of the ethnic origin of the protestors! So, the presence of Israelis and internationals is very important.
You mentioned the court action that the people of Bil’in brought. (4)
This was not easy for Bil’in since to do so was to recognize the right of Israel to decide. In addition, the International Court of Justice declared the construction of the wall illegal, since it does not follow the green line of 1967, but Israel did not recognize this decision. The universal struggle of internationals, Palestinians, Israelis, men and women, are important, because our adversaries also have international links. For example, the settlement built on the lands of Bil’in is by three companies, one Israeli and other two Canadian. Solidarity with Bil’in must also comprise financial support for the popular Committee (www.bilin-village.org) or our group. The human relations established with people who are supposed to be enemies were as important as our participation in the fight. One cannot have normal relations because of the occupation and the occupied zones, without engaging against the occupation, colonization, and racism.
How your film was received?
Many people have said to me that I had shown them things which they did not know about, although previously they believed they know the situation. I also had calls to treat me as a traitor. Certain spectators expressed their anger to me. Others said that I should show it only to the Israeli public, for fear it might feed anti-Semitism. My answer is that if somebody is an anti-Semite, they surely do not need my film, and I am much more anxious for the future of Palestine and Israel that by anti-Semitism. The film is for the entire public and also for the Palestinians, which will learn that there is a group of Israelis that recognizes the wrongs caused by the occupation, by Zionism, and I wish to also reach an international public. Because I fear that many people are influenced by the Israeli propaganda which presents the Palestinians as terrorists. People must know who is the attacker and who is the victim. This film shows human beings, marvellous people, and what was imposed on them.
Interview by Aldjia MoulaÏ and Karl Grünberg
(1) “Anarchists against the wall”
(2) In Bil’in the wall consists of a double fence alongside a military road.
(3) Bil’in Village
(4) The villagers filed four proceedings in the Israeli courts: against the illegal construction of the wall, against illegal expropriation of their land, against the construction of a settlement on their land, and the legality of the building permits on their land.