International Solidarity Movement
20 April 2010
Local and international activists broadcast a message of protest against settler and military violence in Iraq Burin last Saturday 17 April, marching to the threatened farmlands that lie between the village and the illegal settlement of Bracha. The demonstration showcased the village’s spirit of resistance, refusing to waver in the face of severe military repression.
Iraq Burin, touted by proud locals as the most beautiful village in Palestine (and agreed upon by international solidarity activists present) is situated just south of Nablus city, in the northern region of the West Bank. Local protesters, joined by ISM activists, assembled under a beaming midday sun at the southern edge of the village, facing the contested farmlands that lie between the village and the illegal Israeli settlement of Bracha. It was to these lands that demonstrators would march, and stake their rightful claim to.
At 1pm the march commenced, forging a new route towards the southern peak of the mountain constituting the foundations of Iraq Burin, weaving its way through still-young olive trees, planted by local and international activists in a tree-planting action six months prior. The route was a strategic choice over the path usually taken down the steep valley opposite the village to meet with Israeli forces on the opposite hill, that gives severe disadvantage to those participating in the demonstration and tempting only diehard protesters to forge ahead. A buoyant atmosphere accompanied the lyrical and defiant chants that rung out from the crowd, featuring emotional commemorations of the village’s shahadeen (two martyrs), Ussayed and Mohammad Qaddous, who were shot dead by live ammunition from the Israeli occupation forces one month ago.
The march was obstructed by five Israeli soldiers positioned some 50 meters from the hill’s summit, flanked by two jeeps. As the march drew to a halt, and stretched out across the field to face the soldiers a further three jeeps and 20 soldiers arrived on the scene while protesters continued to chant, raising fists and flags in the air in the face of the Israeli occupation forces. After 30 minutes, the first volleys of tear gas were fired, arching high across a blue sky towards Iraq Burin village. As the village elders and children moved to the rear, and young men rushed forward to defend their lands, soldiers fired off a barrage of tear gas directly at protesters.
The demonstration ended soon after, both the military and village elders appearing cautious after the violent deaths of Mohammad and Ussayed Qaddous. Demonstrators returned to the village in high spirits however, singing, discussing ideas for next week’s round of direct action, and gulping in breaths of fresh air as the remnants of tear gas were swept off towards on the settlement on a strong southerly breeze.
The village of Iraq Burin began non-violently protesting the expansion of Israeli settlement Bracha in August 2009, in response to a sharp increase in provocative, and often violent attacks initiated by residents of the settlement. These attacks are frequently aided and abetted by the Israeli military, who in turn invade the village, firing rounds of tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition upon Palestinian civilians.