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Bil‘in: Eight years fighting the Wall

Juicebox Gallery

By John Space - March 04, 2013
Section: [Main News] [IN PICTURES] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Bil’in] [Apartheid Wall] [popular resistance] [5 Broken Cameras] [tear gas]

Photos by Lazar Simeonov.

On March 1, roughly 400 Palestinians and international supporters gathered in Bil'in to mark the eighth anniversary of the popular resistance movement that has taken hold in the village.

The demonstrations are held in Bil'in in opposition to Israel's theft of land from the village by means of settlement construction and the Apartheid Wall. According to Bil'in village's website, the planned route of the Wall would have annexed nearly 60% of the village's land. 

The website adds several other grievances to the village's list of complaints, including "Armed repression during the demonstrations in Bil’in." The website states "All forms of collective punishments are punishable, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and are considered as war crimes by the UN."

Bil'in shot into the international spotlight recently, thanks to the success of the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras. The film chronicles the village's ongoing struggle through the eyes of Bil'in resident and filmmaker Emad Burnat. Over the course of filming, Israeli occupation forces destroyed five separate cameras owned by Burnat.

The village has been in the international spotlight before, thanks to successes in its struggle against the occupation. Thanks to the efforts of Bil'in's activists, the planned route of the Apartheid wall was changed, restoring over 1,000 dunums of land to the village.

In 2007, under pressure from local and international lawyers and activists, Israel's high court ruled that the route of the barrier must be changed. Occupation forces disregarded the decision and the temporary barrier closing off the confiscated land remained for three more years, until activists succeeded in pressuring Israel to actually change the barrier route in 2010. However, much of Bil'in's land remains under occupation control, and several nearby settlements have sprung up on the village's stolen land. 

Since the demonstrations began, occupation forces have murdered two people in Bil'in, both members of the Abu Rahmah family. Bassem Abu Rahmah, whose death was chronicled in 5 Broken Cameras, was killed on April 17, 2009, when occupation forces shot him in the chest at point-blank range with a high-velocity tear gas canister. His sister Jawaher died of tear-gas inhalation on New Year's Eve, 2010. 

At the eighth anniversary demonstration, five people were reported injured, including an 18-year-old medic. Dozens more suffered from tear gas inhalation, including Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative. Both men spoke to the assembled crowd at the event before being caught in an early tear gas attack by the Israeli occupation forces.

Photographer Hamde Abu Rahmah, who has attended nearly every demonstration held in Bil'in over the last eight years, said time and loss have done nothing to diminish the villager's spirits. 

"We [have been] eight years here and people never change, they keep demonstrating. You can see the children, even,  and the old people and everybody keeping the same road, because we fight the settlements and we fight the wall and the occupation," he said.

The struggle against injustice in Bil'in will continue until all stolen land is returned to the village and nothing will deter the demonstrators for fighting for freedom, Abu Rahmah said.

"We believe right is on our side. And this is illegal under international law and we have to fight it. Some people stole our land and we have to get it back. That's why the people keep hope," he said.

Abu Rahmah said the publicity the village gained from the worldwide exposure of Five Broken Cameras added new life to the struggle in Bil'in. 

"Five broken cameras was one of the most successful films about Palestine," he said. "Many people want to come and see what is Bil'in and what is going on after seeing the film. This gives us another hope, you know. We did send our message through this film. And we will keep filming, we will keep photographing, the same more and more."

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