Saturday, November 25, 2017

The shrinking village of Bil’in and its resistance


By Jessica Purkiss - February 11, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Bil’in] [Apartheid Wall] [popular resistance] [popular struggle] [Popular struggle committee]

Photo by Lazar Simeonov.

Bil’in is a small village near the city of Ramallah hemmed in on the west by eight Jewish settlements. As more and more of the village’s land has been confiscated over the years to make way for the flourishing settlement communities, huge chunks of Bil’in has been steadily disappearing. Today 60% of Bil’in land has been annexed for internationally deemed illegal Jewish settlements.

As the settlements expanded Israel began its construction of the Apartheid Wall on the western side of the village in April 2004, confiscating around 2300 dunums of the land of Bil'in.

After years of expansion, the original settlement that the land was confiscated to build Kiryat Sefer is now part of the Modi’in Illit block of settlements encompassing those eight settlements. Bil’in’s land has been portioned off to make space for the growing settlement community, turning the traditional agricultural village into a prison with the unemployment rate within the village rising to 60%. As a result the village of Bil’in has had to take on the relentless task of opposing the illegal confiscation of their land and the building of the settlements which threaten their very existence. At the end of  2004 the Bil’in Committee of Popular Resistance was created to organize the village resistance. This marked the beginning of the non-violent protests that have come to characterize the steadfast and enduring resistance movement in the Bil’in.

Nonviolent Resistance 

Every Friday, since the beginning of 2005, the villagers peacefully protest against the Apartheid Wall. Every week they are met with a similar reception. Despite the non-violent nature of the demonstrations the soldiers await the protestors with tear gas, rubber bullets and skunk water.

“We are always non-violent and always they try to push us. We don’t have weapons just our rights,” said Kefah Manour from the Friends of Freedom and Justice. “Each week they try and force us to respond with violence but we decided to take another way and to start non-violent resistance. We have the right to our struggle.” 

Bil’in non-violent initiatives have included the building of their own symbolic 'facts on the ground,’ such as the construction of a trailer which was destroyed by the army within hours. The villagers have also built a brick shack on their land, in keeping with Israeli construction standards which still remains. In the face of increasing violence from both settlers and the Israeli army the villagers of Bil’in has continued to respond using non-violent and symbolic means. 

The activities of Bil’in have gained international recognition. The villagers are joined every week by activists from across the globe, including Israelis who come to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

Each week they try and force us to respond with violence but we decided to take another way and to start nonviolent resistance. We have the sright to our struggle

“People from all over the world come to support our struggle. We ask them to live in our shoes, to see how it is and we hope that they go home and tell their friends, who will tell their friends,” said Kefah Manour.

The recent Oscar nominated film 'Five Broken Cameras’ documented the resistance struggles of Bil’in village, bringing the plight of the villagers to the worlds minds.

“Israel uses the media to show people they have the right to use violence. We want to use the media to show we are not violent people, we don’t have weapons— we just have cameras,” said Kafah.

Tragically the village has lost two residents, a brother and sister, in their non-violent weekly protests.  Bassem Abu Rahmah, was killed in 2009 from the impact of a fired high-velocity tear gas canister hitting his chest whilst his sister Jawaher Abu Rahmah died of tear gas inhalation on New Year’s Day in 2011. 

Victories 

In September 2007 the village was victorious after an Israeli Supreme Court Decision ordered a re-route of the Wall. The defense minister was ordered to present a new route. As a result, 1000 dunums were regained by Bil’in. 

Chief justice Dorit Beinish said, "We were not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bil’in’s lands."

 In certain places it meant the Apartheid Wall had to be knocked down. This was a celebratory occasion, proving to the villages that their weekly non-violent protests were capable of challenging the occupation. However the celebrations were curtailed as at the same time the High Court of Justice ruled that the current buildings in place were to remain, despite their illegal position on Palestinian land. 

The village of Bil’in has sowed the seed for this type of resistance, spreading to other villages across the West Bank who every week join the residents of Bil’in and protest in their own villages against the Apartheid Wall that threatens their livelihoods.  




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