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Bil'in Demonstration Concludes Conference

The final day of the conference concluded with a protest against the illegal apartheid wall in Bil’in. Just before the protest, the young Palestinians and the young internationals played a soccer game close to the apartheid wall. This match coincided with the beginning of the European cup and was played as a symbolic gesture to the world that Palestinians are barred from playing in and attending these events or having access to stadiums to prepare for such matches. The game was terminated prematurely by tear gas shot into the crowd by Israeli soldiers who were behind cement barriers and the electric fence. The crowd moved away from the soccer area trying to escape the tear gas, but suffered miserably from gas inhalation.

The protest began from the center of the village with villagers, conference participants and other Bil’in supporters walking to the wall. Among the protesters were a large number of Israel peace activists, members of the Palestinian Parliament, internationals, including a fairly large American group, a number of Japanese young people, delegations from France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Holland and of course many Bil’in villagers. All witnessed the cruel effects of the ongoing occupation.

After reaching the entrance to the wall, Palestinian Mohamed Nazal read the final statement prepared by the conference organizing committee and other peace activists participating in the Third Annual Bil’in Conference.

As this statement was being read, the Israeli Occupation Forces began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters. Most participants, including European Union Parliamentarian Luisa Morgantini and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire, suffered tear gas inhalation. Italian Judge Julio Tuscani suffered head injuries that required hospitalization when Israel troops fired tear gas canisters directly into the crowd of peaceful protestors. Other persons injured were Adbullah Abu Rahman, coordinator of the Popular Committee of Bil’in and another Bil’in villager.

Louisa Morgantini, wearing her parliamentarian sash as Italian representative to the EU Parliament stood in the front line, often with hands held up, for perhaps an hour. The crowd, tear gassed several times, dispersed and then regrouped again and again near the wall entrance.

It seemed to the MPTers that the tear gas was worse than in previous demonstrations, but an experienced Israeli activist stated that one becomes more susceptible to the fumes, the more one experiences them. She told of new tear gas machines used in a recent demonstration by Israeli forces that can fire 30 canisters of tear gas at one time. It is spectacular to see, but with horrendous consequences.

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