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Bil'in: Fifth Anniversary Demonstration against the Illegal Wall

The demonstration against the wall begins
near the mosque in Bil'in.
On the fifth anniversary of the weekly Friday demonstrations in Bil'in against the encroaching illegal apartheid wall, the Fall MPT Team joined a large crowd of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals in another non-violent demonstration against this wall.

During his visit to Bil’in on Aug 27, 2009, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Just as a simple man named Gandhi led the successful non-violent struggle in India ... simple people here in Bil’in are leading a non-violent struggle that will bring them their freedom. The South Africa experience proves that injustice can be dismantled."
On 23 June 2009, the Canadian court heard the preliminary arguments for a suit brought by Bil’in against two companies registered in Canada (Green Park International & Green Mount International). The village is seeking justice against the construction of settlements on its lands under the 2000 Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Statute.
Out of the 75 residents who were arrested in connection to demonstrations against the Wall, 27 have been were arrested after the beginning of a night raid campaign on 23 June 2009. (Notice that the court date and the night raid were on the same day.) Of those 27 arrested, 11 are under 18. Sixteen Bil’iners remain in Israeli detention, nine of whom are minors. Some of the arrestees have reported being questioned about Bil’in’s lawsuit in Canada during their interrogation.
MPTers were present on Sept. 15, 2009, during one such raid. That blog can be read at: http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/09/night-raid-in-bilin.html. Overwhelming support and outcry from the international community have contributed to what appears to be the end of the night raids (the last raid took place on Sept. 30, 2009). The aftermath of the raids has left Bil'in with large legal fees. In defiance of the pressure from Israeli authorities, the village continues to hold weekly demonstrations.
In addition to its grassroots movement, Bil'in turned to the courts in the fall of 2005. In September 2007, 2 years after they initiated legal proceedings, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that due to illegal construction in part of Modi'in Illit, unfinished housing could not be completed and that the route of the Wall be moved several hundred meters west, returning 25% of Bil’in’s lands to the village. To date, the High Court ruling has not been implemented and settlement construction continues.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Wall was contrary to international law, particularly International Humanitarian Law. The Court went on to rule that Israel's settlements are illegal under the same laws, noting that the Wall's route is intimately connected to the settlements adjacent to the Green Line, further annexing 12% of the West Bank to Israel. Despite the advisory opinion, early in 2005, Israel began constructing the separation Wall on Bil'in's land, cutting the village in half in order to place Modi'in Illit and its future growth on the "Israeli side" of the Wall.

In March 2005, Bil’in residents began to organize almost daily direct actions and demonstrations against the theft of their lands. Gaining the attention of the international community with their creativity and perseverance, Bil’in has become a symbol for popular resistance. Almost five years later, Bil’in continues to have weekly Friday protests. MPTers joined many internationals, Israelis, and Palestinians for the weekly demonstration on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009. Speakers from Palestine, Israel (including one member of the Israeli Parliament) and other countries spoke strong encouraging words.

The fifth anniversary march began with speeches by leading Palestinians.
Another speech of strong support for ending the occupation of Palestine was given by an Israeli peace activist.
Among the speakers was a member of the Israeli Knesset (in red shirt).
Palestinians led the demonstration.
Internationals and Israelis were part of the march.
The march approached the gate and the three rows of fences.
Israeli Occupation Forces stand beyond the gate
ready to volley the teargas canisters, which can be lethal.
To the upper right another row of Israeli soldiers were ready with weapons and tear gas canisters.
Tear gas was fired almost as soon as the protesters reached the wall (gate).
International and Palestinian press were present
to record the demonstration.
Huge clouds of tear gas filled the air near the fence and gradually blended into the dark rain clouds.
An international ran to escape the tear gas.

Over 300 people proceeded to the walk to the barrier fence area to demonstrate against the “wall” and stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.
One international suffered a head injury which required medical attention and stitches. A number of people suffered from tear gas inhalation. It is hoped the strong showing of international support was apparent to the Israeli officials. The presence of many internationals was visibly apparent and chanting in Hebrew and in English should have been audible to the soldiers.

Special bus stop.
This picture is an informal bus stop in the village of Bil’in. Notice the bent metal awning over the small bench. The awning is a section of a barrier gate that the villagers removed during an earlier demonstration. May all the barrier materials be recycled into positive uses some day soon.

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