The West Bank village of Bil’in, along with supporters from Israel and abroad, march on the separation wall that has illegally annexed their agricultural lands. Bil’in has become a symbol of Palestinian non-violent resistance.
By Oren Ziv/Activestills.org
Hundreds of people — Palestinians, Israelis, and foreigners — took part in a march Friday to mark 11 years since the village of Bil’in started its non-violent popular struggle against the Israeli separation barrier, which annexed parts of the village’s agricultural land.
Following afternoon prayers, the protesters marched along the same route that has been followed every Friday since 2005 — from the center of the village to the separation wall, which is built on village land. Members of Knesset Aida Touma-Suleiman and Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List (Hadash) took part in the march, along with former MK Muhammad Barakeh, who today serves as chairman of the Arab High Follow-Up Committee.
Before the weekly protest began, Bilin residents put on a theatrical production in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who after being held in administrative detention is currently at an Israeli hospital in Afula. A Palestinian protester dressed in an Israeli prison uniform was handcuffed to a bed as part of the solidarity demonstration.
Once the march reached the separation barrier, Israeli soldiers arrived to declare the protest illegal and disperse the demonstrators. All Palestinian protests are illegal in the West Bank under Israeli military law.
Abdullah Abu Rahme, one of the protest leaders in the village, addressed the soldiers in Hebrew: “This is our land. We have protested here every day for 11 years and we will protest here again today. Retreat and let us protest in peace.”
Unmoved, the troops proceeded to use stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the group of protesters. Some of the Palestinians sat in front of the soldiers while others tried to plant Palestinian flags on their military jeeps.
At one point a military commander instructed his soldiers to also target the journalists in attendance. “Throw [some] toward the photographers,” a commanders said within earshot of journalists and protesters, pointing toward a small group of photojournalists clearly marked with “PRESS” insignias and large cameras.
The protest ended without any injuries or arrests.
Residents of the village of Bil’in have been struggling for 11 years against the fence and wall Israel built on their agricultural land. Initially, the fence cut off 1,950 dunams of village land. After a drawn-out legal battle that reached Israel’s High Court of Justice, however, Israel removed the fence and built a concrete wall, with the new route returning some 600 dunams of land to the village.
On the other side of the wall is the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Ilit. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
Hundreds of people have been wounded and two residents of Bil’in ave been killed in Israeli army efforts to suppress the weekly protests over the years. Dozens more have been arrested. One Israeli soldier has been wounded in 11 years of protest — a soldier whose his eye after being hit by a stone.
The International Court of Justice ruled that the route of the separation barrier is illegal under international law because it is not built along the Green Line but rather runs deep into the occupied Palestinian territories.