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Occupation magazine - Siege, Wall, Checkpoints
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Back to Bil`in
by Eileen Fleming
November 10, 2006
(Original title: Friday Ritual in Bilin: Occupied Territory)
Bilin, West Bank-Largely unreported by the media, thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis and Internationals have been waging a major grassroots nonviolent campaign of resistance to the construction of Israel`s Wall in the Occupied Territories.
Palestinian farmers, workers, mothers, and students, together with Israeli and International volunteers, are braving teargas, beatings, bullets, arrest, and even death to rise up against the well equipped Israeli army with nothing more than their own bodies.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that The Wall is a violation of International Law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian villages and economy to make way for further Israeli illegal settlements.
My first time to Billin was in January 2005, my second trip upon the potholed unpaved roads to this agricultural village near Ramallah was November 10, 2006. Billin is one of many villages in the occupied Palestinian territories where locals, Israeli`s and Internationals have been nonviolently and creatively resisting `The Wall` which in Bilin is an electrified fence and miles of rolled barbed wire.
The electric fence and the Israeli army prevents the indigenous people to care and harvest their olive groves and 2,003 dunums of land have already been confiscated for The Wall/Fence and 750 settlers apartments have been built and are now occupied which the indigenous people are forbidden to enter.
In Billin, the Green Line is five miles from The Wall/electric fence and the Popular Committee in Bilin has been nonviolently fighting the illegal actions of the Israeli government with demonstrations and legal actions. Three court cases have been filed regarding the route of The Wall, the illegal settlements and land ownership.
The Israeli government uses the Ottoman Law that states if the landowner doesn`t tend his land it can be confiscated by the State. The Israeli army and the electrified fence have effectively prevented the indigenous people from accessing and caring for their olive tree crop, depriving them of food and income.
The indigenous people of Bilin brought their case to the Israeli Municipal Court and the High Court. Both courts agreed the building of the settlement dwellings was indeed illegal and ordered the construction to cease in January 2006. Construction continued and now that the settlers have moved in, the High Court has chosen to accept these `facts on the ground` and the colonists have been allowed to remain and the indigenous people have not recieved any compensation.
Abdullah and Mohammod, the local Coordinator`s of The Popular Committee Against The Wall in Bilin informed me that 1,700 people live there and legally own 4,000 dunums of property. The Israeli government has effectively confiscated 2,003 dunums of prime agricultural land.
Every Friday in Bilin after prayer at the mosque the ritual for the last two years is for locals, Israeli`s and Internationals to march in solidarity to The Wall/Electric Fence while singing and chanting in Arabic slogans such as:
`The wall will fall in Bilin, the wall will fall like in Berlin.`
On November 10, 2006 I was one of over 40 internationals from the UK, France, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Netherlands and the US who marched with dozens of Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and over 300 locals down the dirt road to The Wall/Electric Fence.
Soldiers hid behind trees to the right and to the left of us while over five dozen well armed soldiers stood on the other side of The Wall/Fence with one videotaping us.
In November 2005 throughout the USA two Anarchist Against the Wall/AAtW held Power Point presentations about the situation. I met one of them again during the Friday ritual of creative nonviolent resistance. Jonathan Pollak, a young Israeli stated that in 2005 that, `I was six years old at my first demonstration and active on my own at thirteen. I am 23 now. When they started to build the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank I would go a few times a week and watch them deceive the world. The Israeli government successfully marketed the Apartheid Wall as a security barrier. But it is all about segregation, separation and ethnic cleansing.
`Civilian uprising and non-violent activism is not like the Gandhi movie. It`s not carrying posters and saying we don`t like your wall, go away. We stand in front of Caterpillar`s knowing we will be shot and arrested. I was shot five times in the last two years by rubber bullets which are 1/2 inch steel bullets covered with plastic. I have been shot in the head and the more experience I have the scarier it is. One learns to recognize the ritual of it all: when the IDF will begin using the billy clubs, when the tear gas will come, when the bullets will come.....We are not a dialogue group, AAtW is an Israeli organization and we are not colonial liberators. All the strategy is done by Palestinians, we are with them seeking justice and giving support. There is no price to high to pay for freedom, equality and universal rights. Without justice there can be no peace.
`Negotiations alone will not secure freedom for the Palestinian people. During the negotiations of the so-called Oslo Peace Process from 1993-2000, Israel simply imposed its will on the Palestinians, using its overwhelming military and economic power, and US support. During seven years of supposed peace, Palestinians saw 200,000 new Israeli settlers arrive in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the same number of settlers that had arrived there in the previous 26 years.
`However, the recent grassroots struggle against Israel`s Wall has demonstrated that it may be possible to counter Israel`s overwhelming power, and its exploitation of negotiations, through nonviolent resistance. The Wall, is just one blatant Israeli attempt to impose its will, and has become a focus for civilian resistance.
`Although Israel marketed the Wall as a security barrier, logic suggests such a barrier would be as short and straight as possible. Instead, it snakes deep inside the West Bank, resulting in a route that is twice as long as the Green Line, the internationally recognized border. Israel chose the Wall`s path in order to dispossess Palestinians of the maximum land and water, to preserve as many Israeli settlements as possible, and to unilaterally determine a border.
`In order to build the Wall Israel is uprooting tens of thousands of ancient olive trees that for many Palestinians are also the last resource to provide food for their children.
`The Palestinian aspiration for an independent state is also threatened by the Wall, as it isolates villages from their mother cities and divides the West Bank into disconnected cantons [bantusans/ghettos]. The Israeli human rights organization B`Tselem conservatively estimates that 500,000 Palestinians are negatively impacted by the Wall.
`Faced with a history of suffering, Palestinians have no alternative but to struggle. The only question is how? Killing diminishes our humanity, and Israel`s occupation, which has killed thousands of Palestinians, shouldn`t be our teacher. It is time for both sides to refuse killing.
`Though Palestinians have employed nonviolence since 1929, they have seen little evidence that it will help them to achieve freedom. In 2003-2004, the West Bank village of Budrus decided to set an example for how nonviolence can defeat the Wall.
`All the people of Budrus mobilized, and were joined by Israeli and international activists. In 55 nonviolent marches, Israeli soldiers injured more than 300 people, arrested 33 and killed one, as the villagers, with their bodies alone, attempted to stop the destruction of their land. Faced with Budrus` determined protests, the Israeli government eventually moved the Wall to the Green Line. The village saved 300 acres of its land and 3000 olive trees. Children, women and old people were among the heroes of Budrus` nonviolent struggle.
`Throughout the West Bank, nine protesters were killed in marches against the Wall, thousands were injured and hundreds arrested. Hundreds of civilian protests throughout the West Bank are the reason the world learned of the injustice of the Wall. As a direct result, the International Court of Justice at the Hague ruled in 2004 that Israel`s construction of the Wall violated international law.
`The villagen of Budrus and the International Court of Justice ruling represent victories for nonviolent resistance. Another success of the joint struggle was the connection forged between Palestinians and the Israelis who joined them in their resistance. This connection, stronger than anything that ideas could create, was unwittingly forged by the Israeli army, through their beatings, the joint arrests and the bullets. Joining Palestinians in nonviolent struggle has allowed some Israelis to voice very clearly that the struggle against occupation and for freedom is not a Palestinian struggle alone, but is their struggle as well.
`We believe that, as with Apartheid South Africa, Americans have a vital role to play in ending Israeli occupation - by speaking out, coming to Palestine as witnesses, or standing with Palestinians in nonviolent resistance.
`We are confident that Israeli occupation will one day be defeated, as were other US government supported repressive regimes - Apartheid South Africa, Pinochet`s Chile and racial segregation in the United States. There is no price too great to pay for freedom, and nothing will deter us from achieving this goal.`
After chanting a while in front of the soldiers, Jonathan was the first down the steep rocky hill and over a metal railing to grab the roll of razer sharp barbed wire that is in front of the electrified fence in order to shake it. He was immediately joined by a few dozen locals and other AAtW who were swiftly greeted by the first of dozens of sound bombs-thick orange plastic grenades that hit the ground with a deafening sound.
I was half way down the hill when a teenager next to me threw a rock at a soldier and I know that action alone can get one killed or arrested, so I headed back up the hill before the tear gas assaulted the crowd at the barbwire. By the time I made it up the hill the first of hundreds of rubber bullets were being shot into the crowd. Only two internationals were hit and other than a few Palestinian adolescents and young boys throwing rocks all remained nonviolent. Because of the large International presence no live ammo was fired, although the week before a Frenchman took a bullet in the arm while standing next to a group of children. He was back at the Friday ritual with a cast and sling on.
Anarchy is best understood as Rebellion against UNJUST laws. The Yang [male positive force] of anarchy resists authority and causes disorder and is socially and politically incorrect by the norms of the status quo for it seeks the higher ground of justice.
The Yin or feminine passive force of anarchy births a new order out of the chaos and chaos is creativity in action.
Take action -- to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
The Wall Must Fall: It is Illegal
Eileen is an activist, author, poet, reporter and editor of wearewideawake.org She will be reporting from the West Bank through November 13, 2006. Her first novel `Keep Hope Alive` was released in August 2006 and 100% of royalties will go to provide olive trees for peace in Israel Palestine, through the 501 3-c Olive Trees Foundation for Peace.
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