Today fifty demonstrators from Iraq Burin, together with international activists, marched in commemoration of the Nakba’s 62nd anniversary, and to protest to the illegal Israeli occupation of the village’s lands. Israeli occupation forces enacted their policy of violent “crowd dispersal” techniques in an effort to thwart the protest, proving no match for the village’s spirit of resistance.
The demonstration commenced at Iraq Burin’s southern tip, the assembled Palestinian and international protesters holding 62 black balloons to the sky in memory of the 62 years of Israeli occupation that has passed since al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”) that saw the ethnic cleansing of over 500 Palestinian villages and the founding of the Israeli state in 1948. Facing the illegal Israeli settlement of Bracha, whose residents have executed countless attacks on the residents of Iraq Burin, the demonstration set off.
Weaving a haphazard route through the valley that carves a line between Iraq Burin village and her farmland, the demonstration began its ascent of the mountain deemed off-limits by the Israeli military. For local protesters, reaching these lands represented far more than the sum of its parts – the assertion of the right to exist on their land, and the right to defend those same lands from the usurping forces of a foreign state. Further up the mountain the demonstrators forged, at each moment expecting to be met with the dull thud of sound grenades and the smoke of gas canisters propelled from the end of a soldier’s M-16 – yet pushing ahead nonetheless.
The victory of reaching the mountain’s summit – a first for the demonstration, and many of its individuals – was significant. The crowd drew to a halt 20 meters from where some 15 Israeli occupation forces were waiting and, continuing to chant and wave flags, protesters stood their ground on the soil that is rightfully theirs, but has become all but impossible to access. The first rounds of tear gas were soon fired by soldiers, causing the demonstration to spread out across the mountain. Residents observing from their vantage points in the village served as the protesters’ eyes and ears amidst the confusion, calling across the valley to alert demonstrators to the soldiers’ movements.
An additional force of soldiers soon descended to the valley, aiming to encircle and isolate the protesters on the slopes of the mountain. Most protesters managed to reach the other side of the valley before the occupation forces began firing off rounds of gas in to the village. As the young men of Iraq Burin rushed forward once again to defend their lands, the soldiers were driven back, to the calls of victory of the protesters that echoed out through the hills.
It was last year that the people of Iraq Burin began gathering to defend their village each Saturday due to the violent attacks instigated by settlers of Bracha each week, during the Jewish holiday of Shabbat. Now, with the village’s pro-active – and non-violent – resistance to the aggression, no settlers have been sighted on the land of Iraq Burin for over four Saturdays now. The result is clear evidence of popular resistance in action, and what successes it can achieve in Palestinian communities living under occupation.