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The tale of two demonstrations: Bil’in and Iraq Burin-Palestine

MPT’ers had the chance to see two nonviolent demonstrations in the occupied West Bank territories of Bil’in and Iraq Burin.

MPT arrived in Bil’in the night before the weekly Friday demonstrations. All throughout the village, there was a presence of unity and strength from the internationals; including many Israeli activists. In Bil’in weekly protests continue for the loss of almost 60% of their land for Israeli settlements and the separation wall. The morning of the demonstration, all the Bil’in locals and internationals met at the home of a Palestinian man who has been imprisoned; and was still being held without a charge or a release date. This particular man is well recognized in Bil’in as a person who upholds non-violence behavior and attitudes, and therefore is a person that Israel would rather lock away than see at weekly demonstrations.
Before making the way towards the demonstration all internationals were given a briefing session about what to expect and how to take care of oneself during a demonstration. As the procession made its way towards the heavily guarded separation wall there was a sense of pride the among the Palestinians and they were grateful not to be alone in their fight for basic human rights; such as the right to peacefully protest against land that has been illegally acquired by Israeli forces
The fearless Palestinian leader of the procession, who happens to be wheelchair bound, was followed by internationals hailing from all over the world; the United States, France, Germany, Norway, Ireland and England. Before the demonstrators made their way toward the fence, heavily armed guards illegally entered the side where the demonstration was being held and proceeded to litter the sky with tear gas. Anytime the demonstrators were able to regain their breathing and marched back, more tear gas was used to retaliate. This series of events occurred for approximately two hours, until one of the Palestinian members stated “Ok, enough for today; we have a wedding to get ready for.” MPT observed how dedicated and planned out the Bil’in community was for the demonstrations. Even before a wedding, the community will not back down from a peaceful protest.

Iraq Burin
Iraq Burin a small village south of Nablus is home to nearly 1100 people. The village is under a closed military zone, primarily meant to keep away internationals and journalist from reporting the scenes and actual events that occur during the Saturday demonstrations. Because the village is closed and internationals have a more difficult time accessing the village, Iraq Burin tends to be more violent. It has been reported that many of the tear gas canisters are shot directly at the demonstrators. Three MPT’ers were invited to the demonstration in which there would be an alternate route taken to enter the village. Since the main entrance to Iraq Burin is a closed military zone, MPT hiked nearly a mile up the valley to avoid the army and to enter the village. There MPT was shown where to meet the demonstrators and begin the procession to the demonstration site. Geographically the protests take place behind the village on the slope of a rough and dangerous terrain. They army stands on the top of the hill and waits for the young shabob[1] to aggravate them before showering the protesters with tear gas. Two MPT members agreed to enter the demonstration site to gather more information and witness how the Israeli military acts more aggressively when the international presence is weakened by a blocked military entrance into the village. In the attached video, one MPT member documented how the soldiers do not waste any time administering tear gas directly towards the demonstrators, once the first stone had been cast. The materials used are quite different; a stone sent in the direction of fully protected and armed soldiers, or high velocity metal canisters sent in the direction of people armed with cameras and peace signs.

[1] Shabob: A group of young Palestinian boys

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