In the village of Bil'in today, more than a hundred people, including
Palestinians, Israelis and internationals, held a nonviolent protest to
challenge the Israeli Wall and attacks, as well as to commemorate the
anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian
President, who died in 2004.
Today's protest was organized by the local Grassroots Committee Against the Wall and the Fatah Committee of Bil'in. All of the participants wore black armbands in remembrance of the more than 75 Palestinians who have been killed since last Wednesday by the Israeli army in the town of Beit Hanoun. Many wore ribbons or tape across their mouths to symbolize the silence of the international community in the face of what they call Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
The protest began in the village after Friday afternoon prayers. A youth drum corps led the way, as the march snaked its way down to the gate in the electrified fence that has been built by the Israeli military on village land. There, the protesters held a short rally and listened to a speech from a local coordinator.
At that point, the Israeli army, who had soldiers stationed in various parts of the village and throughout the village's olive groves on the other side of the Wall, began firing tear gas and sound bombs. The March continued down to the left, following the path of the partly-constructed Wall. As they marched, some demonstrators pulled down the barbed wire that had been placed there as the first phase of Wall construction.
At one point, a number of people managed to cross the barrier and made it into the olive groves on the other side, where they began to stage a sit-in and chant slogans against the Israeli occupation, Wall and violence. Israeli soldiers continued to fire multiple sound bombs and tear gas, as well as rubber bullets, injuring two protesters.
An international supporter named Paul commented to the IMEMC, "The army were not as violent as they have been in the past during the demonstration. They fired tear gas, sound bombs and they shot some rubber bullets at the demonstrators. But they didn't beat people as much as they have in the past, and the injuries of the protesters were not as severe as they have been in the past. Nobody was shot with live ammunition, like happened last week, for example. Maybe the press reports of internationals being shot led to some change in strategy on the part of the army."
He added, "But when internationals are not in the village, the army does use live ammunition when they're invading the village…It seems that when there are media in the village, the army is less violent. But when the media leaves, the army becomes more violent, and they don't seem to care about the consequences of their actions."
Another participant, an American, commented to the IMEMC, "It seems that there's a stalemate right now in this village. The Wall being completed, the massacre in Beit Hanoun, Lebanon – it just is a really hard time for the nonviolence campaign. But the action itself went really well."
This participant also pointed out that he recognized the soldiers stationed in Bil'in as wearing the uniform of the Golani unit, and that they told him they had just returned from Lebanon. The Golani unit is an elite special forces unit of the Israeli military trained for assassinations and highly-violent attacks. The American protester added, "They're here for a war. They're not prepared to meet such a nonviolent type of resistance."
Some time after the demonstration dispersed, the Israeli military invaded the village, shooting rubber bullets randomly throughout the village, injuring eight children and hitting one child in the hand with shrapnel from live ammunition. Soldiers raided the house of Ahmad Hassan and beat 3 members of his family.