On Friday, January 11th, villagers of Bil’in were joined by around 70 Israeli, international, and other Palestinian Human Rights activists in a protest against the Annexation Wall. In Bil’in, the wall is stealing more than 60% of village land, and even the Israeli Supreme Court said in a recent decision that the route of the wall was not planned for military reasons, but for land.
In that September 4th Supreme Court decision, the Wall was ordered to be taken down and the route redrawn. This was a court victory for the joint non-violent struggle, but has yet to be reflected with facts on the ground. The wall is still standing, and in fact recently settlers attempted to place new caravans on village land.
The demonstration began as a march towards the gate in the Wall, where soldiers were standing with guns drawn. At the front of the march was the banner, “LEVIEV TURNS THESE ROCKS OF APARTHEID INTO DIAMONDS” in reference to the diamond mogul Lev Leviev, protesting his extensive involvement in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Soldiers let off a barrage of flash bombs when people got close. Flash bombs are similar to sound bombs, but they explode much sooner and are made of metal instead of plastic, so they weigh a lot more. They are generally used to injure people, where as normal sounds bombs mostly disorient people. A few demonstrators were hit by the flying metal objects, but none seriously injured.
After about an hour people began to move back towards the village, the soldiers used this chance to shoot off cannister after cannister of tear gas. One man was taken away on a stretcher from his exposure to the gas. Activists stood on the opposite hill and regrouped while soldiers continued to shoot gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Twice the army drove up the street to try and grab people but were stopped by makeshift stone roadblocks people built.
Near the end of the demonstration, army snipers shot Bil’in Popular Committee member Abdullah Abu Rahme in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet. Abdullah was also one of the activists hospitalized a week ago when settlers attacked a group of Palestinians who were non-violently protesting the placement of more caravans on their land. After the soldier shot Abdullah, he tells his comrades-in-arms that he “got one in the head!” as if it were a game.