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Under attack Bil’in and the peaceful resistance of the village against the Israeli wall

Luisa Morgantini | Liberazione

19 July 2009

Israel wants to stop the non-violent struggle and the unity created amongst Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals, who since more than four years demonstrate in order to end the construction of the wall: in the last weeks the escalation of systematic arrests and kidnappings of activists in Bil’in by the Israeli soldiers.

Raids in the middle of the nights, with military vehicles crossing in the dark that illegal barrier represented by the Apartheid wall. Tens of armed soldiers laying close to the ground in order to not to be seen.

They proceed slowly, without lights, wearing dark military camouflage uniforms and black masks on their faces.

They arrive in the hearth of Bil’in crossing streets and fields. They surround houses destroying all that they meet on their path, kidnapping people, including 15 or 16 years old adolescents, confiscating documents, mobile phones and personal things of the detained persons. Also last Friday a 15-years-old boy has been abducted from his home at 3 a.m., and during the demonstration activists have been attacked with a strange sort of smelling water, probably containing chemical substances provoking blistering effects and with a suffocating smell.

This is the same scenario taking place also in other villages in the West Bank, but Bil’in has become a symbol: the village –where the shame wall confiscates 49% of lands- in the last weeks has become a theatre of a further intensification of this kind of operations, that are real war operations, perpetrated against the activists of the Popular Committee of non-violent resistance, men and women, civilians, who are resisting in a non-violent, peaceful and creative way against the wall and the occupation.

Often, the activists stand on the rooftops of the village, in order to forewarning the others of incoming of the raids that usually comprise of approximately 100 soldiers divided into groups of 20-30 men, each encircling the home of an accused stone-thrower at varying hours of the night. In the last three weeks, 17 young activists have been arrested -15 Palestinians, 1 Israeli, then released, and one American, according to what reported in a document by Miftah, the Palestinian Initiative for the promotion of Global dialogue and democracy, denouncing the escalation of violence in Bil’in.

I saw with my own eyes many and many wounded people during the demonstrations that every Friday take place near the construction site of the wall and during which the Israeli soldiers use sound bombs, tear gas canisters, and a foul-smelling chemical spray: I was many times intoxicated by those gas, while rubber-coated bullets were shot at men’s height.

On 19th April 2009, Bassem Abu Rahmah, 30 years old, a pacifist Palestinian demonstrator, was shot in the chest by an Israeli soldier with a tear gas bomb during one of Bil’in’s nonviolent Friday protests: an use clearly excessive and inhuman of the force against unarmed demonstrators.

The week after the murder of Bassem, I have been many times in Bil’in with the Popular Committee. Together we have protested and built a symbolic grave in the place where he was killed.

We did under the fire of tear gas canisters and when we finished it, putting the memorial tablet with the name of Bassem, we were so happy. What a paradox to be happy for the construction of a grave!

In their attempts to dismantle the movement, the Israeli military specifically targets the youth: from 23rd to 25th 2009, four adolescents, 16-17 years old, have been arrested and forced to release the names of peace activists and information related to Bil’in Committee. The aim is not only to arrest, kidnap and physically neutralize the activists, but also to spread terror amongst the inhabitants of the village of Bil’in, 1,800 residents, in order to stop all kind of activity of non violent resistance, that become an example also for other realities of the occupied West Bank such as Nil’in and Ma’asara, whose land continue to be confiscated by the wall.

However neither all this, nor 1,300 wounded people and 60 arrests suffered by the activists have been enough to stop their determination.

“If they want to arrest us all, they can. But our wives and children will continue the struggle” declared Abdullah Abu Rahmah, one of the coordinators of the Popular Committee of non-violent resistance of Bil’in. His daughter Luma, 7 years old, suffers of insomnia, as well as other children in Bil’in, a clear sign of the emotional and psychological despair: constantly in panic, Luma awakes in the middle of the night, sometimes in screams and tears, calling out for her father fearing that he has been abducted.

The injustices suffered by Bil’in residents and witnessed by many organizations for human rights and International and Israeli activists, are the most clear consequence of the oppression experienced by Palestinians because of the Israeli military occupation.

However their answer has become an example for all those who struggle for justice showing the way to follow and to support for the solution of the conflict.

Since 2005 residents of Bil’in responded in fact with a peaceful and non-violent resistance to the separation wall, that far from the Green line, snakes deeply inside the West Bank annexing 1,968 of 4,040 dunums of Bil’in lands, (196,68 hectares on 403,88).

Activists in Bil’in are only exerting their legitimate rights to defend their land against the arbitrariness of Israel, disregarding the International Court of Justice that five years ago condemned as illegal the construction of the wall inside the Occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), including in and around East Jerusalem, in violation of international obligations, intimating to Israel to stop the construction and to bring down the parts already built, terminating also the entire system of rigid restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank since they represent a violation of human rights.

And also the Israeli High Court of Justice declared many times illegal the route of the wall in Bil’in, inviting the Israeli Government to actuate an alternative route: this invitation has of course been ignored while the Israeli settlements of Mod’in Ilit and Mattityahu continue to grow.

For all this, their Friday demonstrations have gained the solidarity of Israeli and International activists, united in the common need of justice and against the strangulation, the occupation and the apartheid. Together they oppose to the uprooting of olive trees replaced by the foundations of the wall, blocking the bulldozers or preventing the installation of outposts of the Israeli settlements, still in expansion.

The International Community must give more force to all those Palestinians, supported by Israeli activists (who represent the honour of Israel) and Internationals in the defence of their rights, pretending from Israel the end of the raids and the immediate release of all activists arrested – included Abeed Abu Rahme- as requested by the Campaign launched by the Popular Committee of Bil’in (on the website http://www.bilin-village.org/english/activities-and-support/Campaign-to-release-Palestinian-activist-arrested-in-Bil-in the sample of letters of protest). It’s time also that the International Community demands with force and urgency to Israel to respect the International Court of Justice and to destroy the wall inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories, making reparation for all damage suffered by people affected by the wall, and to end military occupation, including all restriction of movement in the West Bank as well as the Siege that in Gaza, is collectively punishing over 1 million and a half of civilians.