The village that managed to unite the world behind the spirit of nonviolent Palestinian protest marks not only a decade of tear gas, night raids and tragedy, but also of co-resistance and victories in its struggle against settlements, the separation barrier and the occupation.
Anyone who has visited the West Bank village of Bil’in on a recent Friday might think, just for a second, that they were back in 2005. At first glance, it seems like nothing has changed since the days of the first protests, which began 10 years ago this month.
Now, as then, the protesters — mostly villagers, some supportive Israelis and internationals — gather in the heart of the village following the Friday noon prayers. We march and chant until we passed built-up part of the village. Now, just like then, the soldiers are waiting on the hill across the valley. They don’t waste any time shooting large volleys of tear gas in order to disperse the protest. Some of the protesters quietly break away, while village youth respond to the soldiers by throwing stones; the soldiers continue with the gas, charging toward the village in their jeeps in order to chase away the protesters. Within two hours it is all over.
But in reality, much has changed in Bil’in. Over the course of the past 10 years, hundreds of protesters have been to the village. The Israeli Defense Ministry cleared olive trees from entire tracts of land and erected the separation barrier. A petition the villagers filed in Israel’s High Court of Justice succeeded in moving the fence — and to some degree, the soldiers. Only recently did they return to the previous route of the fence — the same one the court ruled against. Hundreds have been wounded, two protesters were killed, hundreds have been arrested and imprisoned for years at a time.
Over the past 10 years the struggle has seen ups and downs. Its biggest achievement was winning back hundreds of dunams of agricultural land, a victory which made Bil’in a symbol of popular resistance to the separation fence, settlements, and military rule in the Occupied Territories across the world. A film made by one of the villagers was nominated for an Oscar. Former presidents and prime ministers from far away lands journeyed to the village. Deep friendships developed among the activists. Those who were small children at...Read More