Saturday, January 28, 2006


Protest in Bil'lin

I witnessed my first demonstration at Bil'lin today. It wasn't anywhere near as big as the rally held last week in which participants estimate 2,000 people took part. This week there were probably less then 400 people. Someone said that people were probably politically exhausted. A cynical person would probably say that the factions felt there was less to gain in being there after the election.

Still it was a demonstration unlike any that I had seen before. Internationals and Israelis gathered at the ISM apartment in Bil'lin. One of the organizers of the anti-wall demonstration explained to first timers the significance of the wall and its impact on the local population. He also explained the importance of the non-violent resistance in fighting the occupation.

Much of what he said was covered in my last article on Bil'lin although an interesting statistic that I didn't know was that in the town of Bil'lin of the 1,700 villagers only 600 or so were over 18 and able to vote. The Palestinian population as a whole is incredibly young, which is a common factor amongst oppressed and underdeveloped countries where the birthrate is high and mortality rate is also significant.

We joined with the local population after the mid day prayers and marched down the road to where the wall was. From the distance we could see Israeli soldiers in front of the wall. From there people tried to run around and it became a matter of trying to pass the line of Israeli soldiers and move as far up the hill as you can.

The protesters climbed the hill with a group running up ahead to get around Army lines. The army moved to block the rest of us off as some of the children ran down the hill throwing rocks at some of the passing soldiers, causing some pursuing soldiers to seek refuge near their jeep. The kids defend there actions as legitimate under UN resolutions which allow occupied people to resist. Meanwhile even in land on the Bil'lin side of the wall the Israeli army was pushing demonstrators and restricting our movement. Many of the locals tried to argue with the soldiers asking why they couldn't move freely on their land, to which the army soldiers chose not to reply.
Instead they took photo's of demonstrators and threw tear gas at some of the young people. The tear gas quickly spread though with people such as myself who were at least 100 meter's away ended up gagging and crying like babies. Tear gas is very powerful, ironical even a few soldiers ended up in its wake. Some of the Israeli refusing (Those Israelis who refuse to serve in the occupied territories) ran up the hill onto a mound of dirt. The Army had a hard time working out how to respond as they couldn't face the backlash that hurting their own people would cause (unlike attacking the Palestinians).

They were forced back and the Israeli army were able to end the demonstration by creating a wall of tear gas between us and them that kept getting us closer to the village.

As I finish writing this blog post we have just received word that the people of Bil'lin have taken down a large section of the wall and we are going back out there tonight to make sure that there are no repercussions. I want to talk about a Fatah rally that occured today but I am running out of time. There is so much happening over here it is hard to find time to write about it.

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