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Occupation magazine - Activism

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Invitation to Mass Demonstration in Bil`in
Iyad Burnat
Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin
February 19th, 2010

On Friday, February 19th 2010, we shall join the weekly demonstration in Bil`in and convey a simple message to the Israeli army: you will not be able to kill the popular resistance! The wall must and will fall!


Two and a half years after an Israeli Supreme Court decision deeming the path of the Wall on the lands of Bil`in illegal, preliminary infrastructure work to reroute the barrier in accordance with the ruling has finally began. Since the ruling, the state has twice been found in contempt of the court, for not implementing the decision.

Mohammed Khatib, the coordinator of the West Bank-wide Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and a member of the the Bil`in Popular Committee, said that `There should be no doubt in anyone`s mind that the only reason that this is finally happening now are the five years of persistent struggle and the scarifies the people of my village have made. While we are happy for the lands that do return, we do not forget the lands and crops that remain isolated behind the Wall. Our struggle will continue until all of our lands are returned and the Occupation is over.

Following initial construction of Israels wall on Bilins lands in February 2005, residents organized almost daily direct actions and demonstrations against the theft of their lands. Garnering the attention of the international community with their creativity and perseverance, Bilin has become a symbol for Palestinian popular resistance. Almost five years later, Bilin continues to hold weekly Friday protests.

In addition to grassroots demonstrations and nonviolent direct actions, Bilin has held annual conferences on popular resistance since 2006 providing a forum for villagers, activists and academics to discuss strategies for the unarmed struggle against the Occupation.

Realizing the limitations of the appealing to Israeli court and the legal remedies possible to achieve through them, the village of Bilin commenced legal proceedings before the Superior Court of Quebec In July 2008. The appeal was filed against two Canadian companies, Green Park International Inc. and Green Mount International Inc., for their involvement in constructing, marketing and selling residential units in the Mattityahu East section of Modiin Illit.

As part of a recent campaign to quash grassroots resistance to the Occupation, 37 residents of Bil`in have been arrested in connection to anti-Wall protest since June last year. Among those arrested are also five members of the village`s Popular Committee, responsible for organizing the demonstrations. They have all been arrested on suspicions of incitement a blanket charge for organizing demonstrations.

On February 20th 2005 , the bulldozers began uprooting the first olive trees on the planned route of the separation barrier on the village lands of Bil`in. On the same day, the village had its first anti-wall demonstration. Since then Bil`in has been transformed from an anonymous village, known to very few, to an international symbol of popular resistance in the face of gross injustice.

The existing separation barrier in Bil`in effectively annexes to Israel some 1,950 dunums ( 195 hectares ), which represent almost 50% of the village lands all in the aim of expanding the nearby Israeli settlement of Modi`in Illit. Almost two and a half years ago, following a long legal battle, the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem ruled that the existing route of the barrier in Bil`in is illegal, since it was meant to protect future settler homes which were not built yet. The court ordered the army to come up with an alternative route. However, the court retroactively laundered a part of a settlers` residential neighborhood, which was established on Bil`in village lands without building permits and in violation of the law. Despite the ruling of the High Court of Justice, released in September 2007, it is only now that the army is expected to begin construction works on the amended rout of the barrier, which will return to the village residents some 600 dunums ( 60 hectares ) of the lands taken from them by the existing route.

The demonstrations in the village have been held since February 2005 once a week, under the leadership of the Popular Committee of Bil`in, where representatives of various parties sit. The demonstrations call for non-violence, Palestinian-Israeli-International cooperation and creative protest, but are harshly suppressed by the Israeli army and border police. In most cases, tear gas and shock grenades are being used against the protesters, but occasionally more dangerous weapons, such as rubber-coated metal bullets, are employed. In the past few months, the army has been trying to strangle the resistance and to stop the Bil`in demonstrations altogether: nearly every week, soldiers invade the village late at night, break into homes, kidnap residents from their beds and spray the yards with tear gas. Dozens of Bil`in residents, including several leaders of the non-violent struggle, were arrested and indicted.

Thanks to its long-standing struggle in the face of suppression, Bil`in has enjoyed international recognition. Leaders, Parliament members, Holocaust survivors, artists, Nobel prize laureates and activists from around the globe joined the demonstrations, declared their support for the struggle and called for an end to the suppression, for the release of the arrestees and for the dismantling of the barrier.

The army`s announcement that the work for the construction of the new route is to begin shortly is a clear achievement of the struggle, but it does not mark its end. The existing barrier will be dismantled only after the new route is complete, which will take a long time. Meanwhile suppression of the residents of Bil`in in general, and of the leaders of the popular struggle in particular, continues. We must all stand with the people of Bil`in and protest against the injustice they endure.

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