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Bil’in’s June 20, 2008 Demonstration

The village of Bil’in has been holding weekly non-violent demonstrations against the illegal Israeli occupation and the apartheid wall for three consecutive years. Israeli activists and other internationals support local villagers at these peaceful protests. In return, the Israeli army has used all manner of violent methods and weapons to silence the Bil’in resistance, even though Bil’in’s approach has been non-violent.

The use of disproportionate and sometimes lethal force against peaceful resistance has been perpetuated by the Israeli High Court’s decision to "legally" allow the use of live ammunition on peaceful Palestinian protestors, barring the use of live ammunition only when internationals and Israeli activists are present at protests. The Israeli army has begun using live ammunition against Palestinian protestors in Bil’in even when internationals and Israeli activists are present, violating its own racist laws.

The use of live ammunition has resulted in many serious injuries to Bil’in villagers, such as to Ibrahim Burnat who was shot with three bullets in his thigh at the June 13, 2008 protest. Burnat was hospitalized in Ramallah in critical condition. While his condition is improving, he remains hospitalized at this time.

Three MPTers went to Bil’in to participate in the June 20, 2008 demonstration. They and the other protestors carried signs and banners denouncing the use of live ammunition at these non-violent actions. They also raised posters with pictures of some of the villagers who have been wounded by the Israeli army during previous protests. The posters include the slogan, "Despite the hatred of your bullets we will uproot your wall."

The Israeli army’s initial response was to activate a loud, high-pitched shrieking sound known as “the scream” that pierces the air and hurts the ears. Following the scream, the soldiers showered the protesters with tear gas and flash bombs. A new tear gas launcher was used which fires thirty canisters in one barrage. Dozens of people were treated for tear gas inhalation.

Rubber-coated steel bullets were also fired at the peaceful protesters, resulting in a number of injuries. Heat from the Israeli weapons ignited many fires in the surrounding fields, forcing protesters already combating gas and rubber bullets to simultaneously work at putting out the fires. Several olive trees were lost to the fires.

When the army had stopped firing, the Palestinians invited internationals to sit with them for a while under an olive tree. After a time of chanting anti-occupation messages, everyone returned to the village when the local Palestinians, not the army, decided it was time to do so.

As in previous protests, the people of Bil’in sent the message that they will not be bullied by Israel's use of deadly force. Their peaceful struggle to bring about an end to the illegal settlements, the apartheid wall, and the occupation as a whole will continue.

Earlier in the day, a family, that had hosted MPTers during Bil’in’s international conference two weeks earlier, had invited the MPTers and three of their international friends to have lunch with them after the demonstration. The invitation to lunch was gladly accepted and proved to be a wonderful antidote to the distressing violence of the Israeli army during the demonstration. The family served, among other delicious dishes, the largest platter of chicken and rice their guests had ever seen.

After eating and drinking tea, the host suggested it was time for some Arabic music. The family’s oldest son brought a beautiful stringed instrument into the room and his father played lovely, soothing music. The father also talked about his own deep desire for peace for all peoples. It was a privilege and an honor to spend time with this warm and generous family.

MPTers cannot get over the amazing commitment and courage of the people of Bil’in. They continue their non-violent demonstrations week after week after week, even though some of them have been beaten and injured time after time.

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