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Special Reports Last Updated: Jun 9th, 2008 - 02:13:59

Tear gas and bullets in Bil'in vs international nonviolent solidarity
By Eileen Fleming
Online Journal Guest Writer

Jun 9, 2008, 00:15

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BIL'IN, West Bank -- On June 6, Vice President of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maried Corrigan-Maguire were assaulted by Israeli Forces with tear gas during the weekly Friday afternoon nonviolent protest against the wall and military occupation in Bil'in. Julio Toscano, an Italian judge, suffered head wounds when he was hit by one of the tear-gas grenades. The incidents came on the last day of Bil'in's third annual international conference supporting nonviolent protests against the wall and military occupation of the West Bank agricultural village.

"Around midday, the participants of the conference went to watch a football match between the villagers of Bil'in and the international participants of the conference near the wall. The football game, which coincided with the start of the European Championship tournament, was, according to Abdullah Abu Rahme, the conference moderator, a message to the world that Israel also denies the Palestinians the right to play. Soon after the match started, Israeli troops showered the players with a number of tear gas bombs which forced them to stop the match. A number of the players and the spectators were treated for gas inhalation. [1]

According to protestors, dozens of the hundreds of demonstrators on hand were hurt by tear gas, while several were hit by gas canisters. Former Palestinian National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub and Palestinian Legislative Council Member Dr. Mustafa al-Barghouti were also hurt by tear gas. Regarding Morgantini's condition, the army said that "those who take part in such protests and violate a closed military zone order should not be surprised to see the IDF respond with tear gas." [2]

Israeli Anarchist Against the Wall and a protest organizer, Yonatan Pollak said that the army fired a "dazzling amount" of gas canisters, "about 30-40 per barrage." [IBID]

At the conclusion of the second annual Bil'in conference, on April 21, 2007, Mairead Maguire, was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli Forces an hour after a press conference where she stated: "Thanks to the media here for telling the truth . . . Bring this truth to whatever country you come from. Non-violence will solve the problems here in Israel and Palestine. Often, the world sees only violence. But Palestinians are a good people, working towards non-violence. This Wall must fall! It is an insult to the human family and to the world� that we are building Apartheid Walls in the 21st Century! More than forty years of Occupation and Land Appropriation."

Since 2004, in Bil'in, every Friday afternoon after prayers at the mosque, unarmed Palestinian farmers, workers, mothers, students, together with Israeli and International volunteers, have been braving teargas, beatings, bullets, arrest, and even death from the well equipped Israeli army, with nothing more than their bodies.

In 2007, after Maried Maquire was shot and while being carried to safety, the army continued to fire into the non-violent crowd. "The resilience was astounding. The demonstrators kept regrouping. Even Ms. Maguire, after being shot and with red, watery tear-gassed eyes� she rejoined the march. . . . An estimated 25 people were either hit with rubber bullets, soldier batons, or received medical care from tear gas inhalation." [4]

M�iread once wrote: "Hope for the future depends on each of us taking nonviolence into our hearts and minds and developing new and imaginative structures which are nonviolent and life-giving for all. Some people will argue that this is too idealistic. I believe it is very realistic. I am convinced that humanity is fast evolving to this higher consciousness. For those who say it cannot be done, let us remember that humanity learned to abolish slavery. Our task now is no less than the abolition of violence and war. . . . We can rejoice and celebrate today because we are living in a miraculous time. Everything is changing and everything is possible.

"While governments can make a difference, in the final analysis it is the individual � that is each one of us � that will bring the dream of a nonviolent world to reality. We, the people must think and act nonviolently. We must not get stuck in the past as to do so will destroy the imagination and creativity which is so n a new future together . . .

"To change our world we need a spiritual and a political evolution. The political steps are often very obvious: uphold Human rights, and International Laws, demand our Governments meet their obligations under these Laws, support and reform United Nations, etc., However, all the legislation, resolutions, and fine talk will be of no use, if we do not as men and women evolve and become transformed, so that we, the human family, achieve a more enlightened and humane way of living together, and solving conflicts." [5]

In 2004 ,the International Court of Justice ruled that The Wall is a violation of international law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian villages and economy to make way for further Israeli illegal settlements.

Bil'in is one of many villages in the occupied Palestinian territories where locals, Israelis and Internationals have been nonviolently and creatively resisting "The Wall," which in Bil'in is an electrified fence and miles of rolled barbed wire. The electric fence and the Israeli army prevent the indigenous people from caring for and harvesting their olive groves. Two thousand-three dunums of land have already been confiscated for The Wall/Fence and over 750 settler's apartments have been built on the indigenous people's land.

In Bil'in, the Green Line is five miles from The Wall/electric fence and the Popular Committee in Bil'in has been nonviolently fighting the illegal actions of the Israeli government with nonviolent demonstrations and legal actions. At least three court cases have been filed regarding the route of The Wall, the illegal settlements and land ownership. The Israeli government uses the Ottoman Law that states if the landowner doesn't tend his land it can be confiscated by the state. The Israeli army and the electrified fence have effectively prevented the indigenous people from accessing and caring for their olive crop, depriving them of food and income.

The indigenous people of Bil'in brought their case to the Israeli Municipal Court and the High Court. Both courts agreed the building of the settlement dwellings was indeed illegal and ordered the construction to cease in January 2006. Construction continued and now that the settlers have moved in, the High Court has chosen to accept these "facts on the ground" and the colonists have been allowed to remain and the indigenous people have not received any compensation.

During one of my three visits to Bil'in since January 2006, Abdullah and Mohammod, the local coordinator's of The Popular Committee Against The Wall in Bil'in, informed me that 1,700 people live there and legally own 4,000 dunums of property. By erecting The Wall on Palestinian land, the Israeli government has effectively confiscated 2,003 dunums of prime agricultural land.

Beginning in 2004, every Friday afternoon in Bil'in, after prayer at the mosque, the ritual is for locals, Israelis and internationals to march in solidarity to The Wall/Electric Fence while singing and chanting in Arabic slogans such as: "The wall will fall in Bil'in; the wall will fall like in Berlin!"

On my last trip to Bil'in in March 2007, I was one of over 40 internationals from the UK, France, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Netherlands and the US who joined dozens of Israelis and over 300 locals on a nonviolent protest march down the dirt road to The Wall/Electric Fence. Soldiers hid behind trees to the right and to the left of us while over five dozen Israeli forces stood on the other side of The Wall/Fence and one videotaped us.

After chanting a while in front of the soldiers, Israeli activist, Yonatan PollaK, was the first down the steep rocky hill. He jumped over a metal railing to grab the roll of razor sharp barbed wire that is in front of the electrified fence, in order to shake it. He was immediately joined by dozens of locals and activists who were swiftly greeted by the first of hundreds of sound bombs.

I was half way down the hill when a teenager next to me threw a rock at a soldier and I knew that action alone can get one killed or arrested, so I headed back up the hill just before the tear gas assaulted the crowd at the barbwire. By the time I made it up the hill, the first of hundreds of rubber bullets were being shot into the crowd. Only two internationals were hit that day.

1. Bil'in, a village of Palestine

2. Top EU official hurt in Bil'in protest


4. All we had for breakfast was tear gas

5. Corrigan Maguire [free registration required]

Eileen Fleming, reporter and editor of WAWA, is the author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory," and producer of "30 Minutes With Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu."

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