Friday MPT participated in the nonviolent demonstration against the apartheid Wall in Bil’in for the second week in a row. We were privileged to meet not only some of the brave Palestinians we observed in the film Bil’in Hababti but also many astounding internationals who attend each week to support Bil’in’s struggle for freedom and justice.
We met a young man who is paralyzed after being shot at a demonstration some years ago and now attends the weekly demonstrations in a wheelchair, wearing a gas mask and sometimes filming the action. We met members of the families Abdullah Abu Rahmah and Adeeb Abu Rahmah, who are both in prison for their nonviolent resistance.
Palestinians opening the gate at the apartheid fence, Israeli Occupation Forces behind cement barrier
We met Khamees Agurahma, a 29 year old man who sustained a head injury from the kind of tear gas canister that killed Bassem, the man who was known as the heart and soul of Bil’in. After 8-10 days in a coma and being paralyzed for 4 months, Khamees is much better but not completely healed. He still attends the demonstrations but “stays back” now. He helps out as a caretaker of the International House that the Popular Committee of Bil’in provides for the lodging of the many internationals, a courtesy MPT accepted last week. Khamees stated this type of canister has been made illegal now. Khamees was injured Jan 23, 2009. He is Bassem’s cousin.
We met Iyad Burnat who was also in the film, participating in the demonstration with some very creative messages the Popular Committee has put together. He is the acting leader of the Committee, since the imprisonment of Abdullah Abu Rahmah and continues to play a very active role in the weekly protests. He spends a lot of time with the various internationals, explaining the various methods of Boycott, Deinvest and Sanctions, which the Popular Committee all over Palestine endorses.
We met a Norwegian parliamentarian and mayor, both in Bil’in to observe and participate. We met two young women from So Korea, a young man from Spain, two young women from Poland, all spending their vacations with International Solidarity Movement (ISM), picking olives and supporting Bil’in. The young women who provided our orientation for international “first timers” were Israelis from Tel Aviv, one a Ukrainian immigrant. There was a group of senior citizens from Oxford, England, an author of children’s books from Indiana. Women from the Netherlands encouraged us to change our government’s policies concerning Israel/Palestine and acknowledged the hypocrisy of their own country. There was a young man from Germany who works in Ramallah and his visiting mother in law.
We met Emily Schaeffer, an impressive 31 year old Human Rights attorney, who is an Israeli immigrant from Boston. She devotes most of her time to working on legal issues of Palestinians, such as the battle Bil’in has fought to get their land returned to them, and the trials of Palestinians arrested for speaking out against the wall. She is a regular visitor to Bil’in, traveling frequently from her home in Tel Aviv.
It is so encouraging to witness the persistence of the Palestinians and the support of the internationals. The atmosphere is very enthusiastic. It feels so good to be a part of that, one can forget momentarily that in spite of these positive forces for good, the Palestinians are still living in a large crowded prison.