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12 years strong: Hundreds march against Israel's wall in Bil'in

Perhaps finally learning the value of nonviolence from the villagers, the Israeli army did not disperse the weekly protest on Friday. Youth manage to pry open gate in the wall.

Some 300 people — Palestinians, Israelis and internationals — took part in a protest march Friday from the West Bank village of Bil’in to Israel’s separation barrier, built on the village’s land, to mark 12 years of continuous popular struggle against the wall, Israel’s settlements, and its military occupation of Palestine.

Unlike nearly every other Friday over the past 12 years, no soldiers came to break up the protest, an anomaly that allowed the demonstrators to march unimpeded through blooming almond trees and olive groves, all the way to the wall.

Several of the protesters climbed the wall and tore off pieces of the fencing from the top, while others pried open a heavy steel gate in the wall. On the other side of the wall is a neighborhood of the Modi’in Ilit settlement, which is built on Bil’in’s land.

Demonstrators descend from the village of Bil’in to the Israeli wall, which is built on the village’s agricultural land, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Demonstrators descend from the village of Bil’in to the Israeli wall, which is built on the village’s agricultural land, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A group of U.S. military veterans against the Israeli occupation came to the protest to stand in solidarity with the people of Bil’in, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A group of U.S. military veterans against the Israeli occupation came to the protest to stand in solidarity with the people of Bil’in, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Among the participants were Higher Arab Monitoring Committee chairman, former MK Mohammed Barakeh, and Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti. Also present was a group of U.S. military veterans who came to stand in solidarity with the village and its struggle.

The Israeli army’s decision to simply not show up at the protest deserves special note. Soldiers have been sent to the weekly protest to forcefully suppress the residents’ struggle, both when it has been entirely nonviolent and when stones have been thrown. Even after the separation wall was built and after it was moved further from the village, the soldiers continued to show up each week and attack the protest, to cross the wall and chase the protesters all the way back into the village.

The presence of the soldiers and their violence toward the legitimate protests would lead to stone throwing, which in turn escalated into harsher violence on the part of the soldiers. Israeli soldiers have killed two — completely nonviolent — Bil’in residents over the years, seriously wounded others, and arrested hundreds.

Palestinian youths climb the Israeli separation barrier in Bil’in, tearing down fencing from the top of the wall, February 17, 2017. (Faiz Abu-Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youths climb the Israeli separation barrier in Bil’in, tearing down fencing from the top of the wall, February 17, 2017. (Faiz Abu-Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

In recent months, it seems, the army finally learned the strategic advantages of nonviolence from the residents and activists of Bil’in, and stopped coming to suppress the protests. Instead, the soldiers mostly watch the protest from afar, and sometimes — like today — just don’t show up, and allow the protest to take place next to the wall. It’s not clear why they couldn’t have done that for the past decade.

The bulldozers first arrived in Bil’in in February 2005. As it was planned, the separation barrier was to steal some 1,950 dunams (480 acres) of the village’s agricultural land — almost half of Bil’in’s total land, which is the main source of income for its residents. Like in other villages that have embarked on the path of popular struggle following the suppression of the Second Intifada, Bil’in’s residents have attempted to stop the bulldozers with their bodies. From day one they invited Israeli and international activists to join their protests.

Palestinian youths climb the Israeli separation barrier in Bil’in, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youths climb the Israeli separation barrier in Bil’in, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

But the fence was built. Behind it, on land left over on the Israeli side, the Israeli government began expanding the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi’in Ilit. Two and a half years later, the High Court ruled that the fence’s route was illegal. The justices ruled that security considerations were not the primary consideration behind the barrier’s route, but rather plans to expand the nearby settlement — on Bil’in’s land. They struck down the existing, already-built route of the barrier.

But for the next four years the villagers continued to march down to the fence and protest against it, the same fence the High Court had already ruled was illegal, but which the army hadn’t bothered to move. Instead, the army continued to protect the fence.

Palestinian youths force open a gate in the Israeli separation wall, built on land belonging to the village of Bil’in, which leads to the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Ilit, also built on village land, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youths force open a gate in the Israeli separation wall, built on land belonging to the village of Bil’in, which leads to the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Ilit, also built on village land, February 17, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The barrier was only moved in 2011. Six hundred dunams (148 acres) of agricultural lands were returned to the village, but over 1,000 remain on the other side of the new barrier, where the Jewish settlement continues to expand. Bil’in’s residents continue to demand the return of all of their land.

For 12 years now the demands and aims of Bil’in’s protests have stayed the same: respect international law, implement the decision of the International Court of Justice, and take down the wall and the settlements built on the village’s land. And end the occupation.

A version of this article was also published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Firentis

      They think they are actually accomplishing something.That is so cute.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        But they are accomplishing something. 600 stolen dunams recovered, a 1000 to go. Twelve years strong. Then a whole occupation and apartheid regime. Organized state sponsored crime takes a while to reverse.
        The US Veterans’ presence is intriguing.
        Remember that harridan who used to swing down from the trees here and shriek about “the Israeli rule of law!”? What a joke.

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          They accomplished nothing. The High Court forced a change to the route of the wall. It forced the IDF to move the wall. That is rule of law.

          The US veterans presence is interesting. The airport is going to need to step up its game to keep out these troublemakers.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yeah, get the US Army to fight your made to order wars for you if you can and call their president weak when he doesn’t take the bait, and take billions in aid from them, but don’t let the US Army’s veterans through your airports for peaceful protest you don’t like.

            And in those army veterans’ country neither the army nor civilians could defy the Supreme Court for years on end. That happens in banana republics though.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Benny never stops whining about the occupation but he point blank ignores or tries to skirt around the following pertinent questions:

            1. Why has that so called peace maker Abbas refuse to sit down and even attempt to negotiate peace terms for 8 long years?

            2. How can there be peace without negotiations?

            3. How can the occupation end without peace?

            And please don’t insult people’s intelligence by your previous feeble attempt to brush over those important questions by claiming that the “negotiation terms” were unacceptable. Because that is just using different words to preconditions which Abbas tried to force through as a condition for negotiating. That is exactly the EXCUSE that he used for not negotiating. Netanyahu actually said that he is willing to negotiate without preconditions. In fact, as I mentioned before, for a brief period (10 months) he even agreed to Abbas’s precondition and he introduced a freeze on settlements. Even that did not bring Abbas/Abu Mazen to the negotiating table. But you blame Israel? What else is new? Do you even have the propensity to admit that you and your side are ever wrong?

            No! Of course you don’t!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The fake questions again.
            There’s nothing more to say about this fake issue in regards to Netanyahu’s fake offer to negotiate “without preconditions.” Netanyahu’s “settlement freeze” was hardly a freeze:

            During the November 2009 press conference, Netanyahu said the “far-reaching and painful” move would not be implemented in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which is viewed by Israel as a separate issue to be discussed in a final status agreement with the Palestinians.
            “We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital,” the premier said.
            The freeze applies only to new construction, meaning housing already underway will continue. Also, Netanyahu said, only new homes are included.
            “We will not halt existing construction and we will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential for normal life in the settlements,” he said. The freeze will also not apply to construction that has already been authorized or to work on public buildings conducive to normal life in the territories. (“normal life”!–not for Palestinians!) Some freeze!

            As for the broader picture at that time, rather than spell it all out yet again, see:
            http://www.ampalestine.org/newsroom/netanyahu-s-preconditions-make-peace-offer-unrealistic

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Good try Benny. But the bottom line is that even you admit that there were no negotiations for 8 long years. You are trying to blame Netanyahu for it because you claim that Netanyahu did not “actually” agree to Abbas’s preconditions. In fact he DID for 10 long months. He actually froze building new houses in settlements.

            But let’s for the sake of argument pretend that Netanyahu was just tricking everyone. Even then, you have no argument. You have no argument because Abbas made negotiations conditional on Israel having to meet preconditions. How was that fair? Why should Abbas be allowed to set preconditions while Israel can’t? Israel too has potential preconditions it could insist on before it would be willing to negotiate. Yet Netanyahu (who is supposedly a war monger according to you Benny) said specifically that he is willing to negotiate without preconditions. Abbas on the other hand simply refused to negotiate. So Benny, please tell us:

            1. How can there be peace without negotiations?

            2. How can the occupation end without peace?

            You are simply unable and unwilling to answer those two simple questions, Benny-leh. Yet you blame Israel for the stalemate. Go figure!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’ve identified the false premises underlying these fake questions many times. I can’t help you with your limitations.
            Netanyahu, btw, is not a warmonger he’s a prevaricator and an illusion of haggling peddler and a self-preservation artist leading Israel and Palestine to disaster. Let me modify what I just said. Netanyahu is not an Israel-other country war monger. He’s USA-other country war monger. He’s all for war when his soldiers don’t have to do the fighting.
            And a graft taker but that’s another story.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            You identified nothing which I did not easily rebuff.

            Actually you unintentionally identified where you and your kind stand.

            1. You are agsinst peace negotiations.

            2. And so long as there are no negotiations, there will not be peace.

            3. So long as there is no peace, the occupation continues.

            Ergo, you are defacto pro the occupation, Benny. I hate coming to that conclusion. It is counter intuitive. But you force my hand.

            What is not counter intuitive though is that you are against a peace deal. Anything … anything … is better than a negotiated signed peace deal eh, Benny? On that you agree with your pin up boy, idol, Abbas/Abu Mazen.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            As I said, I can’t help you with this kind of thing. You’re on your own.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            You can’t help yourself, Benny. You have a pathological aversion to facts. You live in your own bubble world where you make up your own facts or quote others who make them up.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​”or quote others who make them up.”

            I love that. It’s so cult like. It’s so impenetrable.

            “They’re all making it up! +972 Magazine is lying! There is no occupation, see!….”

            You come on this site hour after hour and deny the starkly obvious. It’s a sight to see. Really amazing the lengths to which human fanatics go to deny basic truths and kid themselves. I feel that you are not essentially different from the anorexia nervosa sufferer who rants “I am not too thin!, I am fat! I am fat! I am….” And who resorts to all sorts of subterfuges–hiding weights on herself when weighed, slipping the food under the table to the dog, etc. This in microcosm describes the settlers. Except the anorexic is not deliberately cruel to others in the service of her fanaticism. The settlers are. This is where it becomes antisocial. It’s very sick.

            Reply to Comment

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