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Chronicle of a Bil'in Demonstration

Friday May 15th an MPTer went to Bil’in to meet Brenna, MPTer fall 2008. Brenna came with a one-week Catholic Worker Peace Team – mostly people from the eastern USA. This team had tried unsuccessfully to bring badly needed medical supplies into Gaza. They were given the runaround by Egyptian border guards. The US Consulate in Cairo was also not helpful.

Every Friday for four years, Bil’in has demonstrated against the illegal apartheid wall that separates them from sixty-five percent of their land, which was confiscated for several illegal Israeli settlements. In the fall of 2007, the Israel High Court ordered that part of the confiscated land be returned to the village. To date, none has been returned.

It is important that Palestinians protest, that they continue to say no to the illegal Israeli occupation of more than forty years. The courage of the villagers of Bil’in is remarkable. Despite arrests, injuries, deaths and ongoing nightly home invasions and harassment in the village, this village has faithfully protested every Friday. Because of Bil’in, other villages in the north and south of Palestine protest against the illegal oppressive occupation. They are given confidence by the faithfulness of the small village of Bil’in.

The demonstration usually begins near the mosque after mid-day prayer. A crowd of Bil’in men and boys join the Israeli peace activists and the internationals who have been waiting for them. About 25 internationals and Israelis were part of this demonstration. The Nakba [the 1948 ethnic cleansing of the part of Palestine that is now the land of Israel – the catastrophe] is remembered this week in Palestine. Many Palestinians who were forced out of their homes then, still have the keys to these homes that are now occupied by Israelis.

Since there is a creative theme each week, this week it was the keys of the Nakba. A huge key was carried to the gate of the illegal apartheid wall [3 rows of electric fence]. The crowd usually moves toward the gate. The Israeli occupation army is on the hill beyond the electric fences. Volleys of tear gas and sound bombs are fired to disperse the crowd. The crowd moves back and then again assembles. The gathering and dispersing go on for about half an hour to an hour. Most of the action is near the gate, but Israeli soldiers are positioned along the road on the other side of the apartheid fence. At the western apartheid fence, a soldier on top of a jeep fires tear gas canisters at the people in the olive grove a distance down the hill from the gate. People suffered minor injuries and from the tear gas inhalation.

One thinks of the young Israeli soldiers who know that a Palestinian man was killed by a tear gas canister a month ago and an American man severely brain damaged a few weeks before that. What is in their hearts and minds of soldiers as week after week they shoot these canisters into a crowd?

Traveling to Bil’in the MPTer shared a van with a young man from Hong Kong and shared the return with a man from Oregon. The world is continuing to learn of the illegal apartheid occupation in Palestine. At the recent America-Israel Public Affairs Committee AIPAC [powerful US-Israeli lobby group] meeting in the USA, the director of AIPAC warned the conference of the danger of the worldwide boycott and divestment movement against Israel. http://aipac.org/about_AIPAC/Learn_About_AIPAC/2841_24635.asp

Following are several pictures, which chronicle the demonstration.

This week in Palestine is a remembrance of the 1948 Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of what is now Israel. Iyad, one of the demonstration organizers, wears a key, a symbol of the Palestinian homes that were emptied out for their Israeli occupants.

This sign is a symbol of the keys to Palestinian homes [still kept by the owners] taken by Israelis in 1948. These Palestinians went to refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon, and then scattered across the world.

Israelis and international peace activists wait for the Palestinians to begin the demonstration against the illegal Israeli annexation of Palestinian land.

Catholic Worker Peace Team lines up to walk to the illegal apartheid wall.
The Wagie [Palestinian white beard] easily acquiesces to the request of the Israeli peace activist [white bag] to chant in Hebrew. The two of them belt out a few chants in Hebrew.
Strange to say there is much about a picnic in walking in this demonstration. There is a liberating feeling.

Brenna, MPTer fall 08, today with Catholic Workers, was MPTer's buddy [affinity teams] for the demonstration.

The demonstrators move up the hill toward the gate.

With tear gas at the top of the hill, demonstrators move downhill and try to breathe again.

Volleys of tear gas are sent to the left of the demonstrators.

The gas fills the air and when the wind moves the gas eastward, everyone moves downhill.

The Catholic Worker Peace Team tries to recup from the tear gas.

Demonstrators move up away from the tear gas on the lower hill.

Tear gas makes one feel that breathing is impossible. Lemons, onions and alcohol on a piece of gauze eventually help restore a sense of being able to breathe and stop the eyes from watering.

Tear gas is everywhere at the top and sides of the hill.

A cloud of tear gas fills the air.

The Israeli occupation army is to the left of the gate on the road behind the 3 rows of electric fence. All soldiers shoot tear gas, but the most comes from those at the top of the hill in the distance behind cement slabs.

These soldiers are on the top hill behind the 3 rows of electric fence. Gauze dipped in alcohol can save one from the worse immediate effects of the tear gas.

Israeli soldiers are present on the road that leads up to the gate. Note the soldier on the jeep who is firing tear gas canasters and sound bombs in the olive groves.

The press tries to protect itself as much as possible.
Reuters Press was present at this demonstration.

Iyad may have scrapnel in his eye.

1 comment:

Carole said...

thank you for your amazing work and for the graphic stories. Carole Folsom-Hill