July 20th, 2007.
Friday’s non-violent protest saw over 300 Israeli (~25), Palestinian, and international (over 100) supporters walk, unarmed as usual, from central Bil’in village towards the Israeli Apartheid Wall, which steals nearly 60% of Bil’in villagers’ vital agricultural land. Despite numerous attempts by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) at squashing the marchers demonstration, protesters re-grouped repeatedly to continue to march on Palestinian land towards the Apartheid Wall, also on and dividing Palestinian land. Marching forward, they faced repeated firing of tear gas, sound bombs, rubber and live bullets. At least 7 were injured, including regular Palestinian activist from Bil’in, Ibrahim Bournat, who was hit in the head near his eye with a rubber-coated steel bullet, resulting in a significant loss of blood, and long-time Israeli activist Jonathon Pollack, who was wounded in the arm. Wheelchair-bound, another regular Bil’in activist was hit by a tear gas canister which rebounded, landing in his lap clouding him with dangerous amounts of debilitating tear gas at close range. Paralyzed in one hand, he was able to flick away the hazardous canister but suffered further as a second rolled towards him.
The excessive firing of tear gas at the peaceful protesters inevitably results in numerous fires among the olive trees, as was the case today with at least 3 potentially serious fires and other smaller flames breaking out. Marchers rushed to extinguish the flames, using branches and their feet to beat and smother flames before they spread. Due to winds, lack of water, and the chaos of the situation, it is common for these fires to quickly escalate and burn the many olive trees spread across the arid land belonging to Bil’in villagers.
In spite of having been assaulted repeatedly with seriously debilitating tear gas, sound bombs and bullets, protesters persevered, again and again making efforts to walk on the land being held hostage by the IOF, using such non-violent tactics as singing, sit-ins, walking with arms raised to indicate they held no weapons and attempting dialog with the attacking IOF soldiers.
Although the International Court of Justice 3 years ago ruled Israel’s Apartheid Wall illegal and called for the cessation of its construction, along with reparations and compensation to Palestinians affected by it, Israel continues to build the wall, annexing more and more Palestinian land, demolishing homes, and further oppressing Palestinians in its expansionist, land-grabbing quest for “security.”
In stark contrast to recent CNN reporting on Bil’in weekly protests, it is worth highlighting the number of Palestinian and Israeli participants, as well as dedicated regular international supporters, old and young, who convene out of moral obligation and objection to this Wall and the Occupation.