June 11, 2010
BIL'IN, West Bank
By Eileen Fleming
Even though the mainstream media blackouts the popular struggle for justice in Bilin, thousands of Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals have been waging a nonviolent campaign of resistance to the construction of the Route of Israel's Wall in the Occupied Territories.
Palestinian farmers, mothers, children and Israeli and international activists have been braving teargas, beatings, bullets, arrest, and even death to rise up against the most moral (so they tell us) well-quipped army in the world, with nothing more than their own bodies and determination.
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 in order to establish more illegal settlements/colonies.
The Wall in Bil'in, is a 20-30 foot high wire fence surrounded with razored barbed wire and equipped electronic sensors; by which the Israeli army prohibits the indigenous people to reach, tend and harvest their olive groves.
"Financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile, the Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families' sole livelihood for generations." [Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Page 43, Jan/Feb. 2007]
In Bil'in, the Green Line is five miles from The Wall/Fence and the Popular Committee in Bilin have been fighting the illegal actions of the Israeli government with demonstrations and legal actions.
The Israeli government attempts to justify their land theft by returning to the Ottoman Law that states if the landowner doesn't tend his land it can be confiscated by the State. So, the Israeli army and The Wall/Fence have prevented the indigenous people from accessing their legally owned land, thus depriving them of food, income and human rights!
After 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 the Jewish settlers/colonists moved in and the High Court accepted these 'facts on the ground' but the indigenous people have not given up seeking justice.
On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down due to the build up of pressures exerted by the Solidarity movement demanding freedom at the time of the demise of Communism. The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolically portrayed the end of the Cold War and proved that walls cannot keep people apart. The Berlin Wall was twenty-seven miles of rolls of barbed wire augmented with a high concrete barrier and watchtowers, floodlights, and a no man's land. A few scaled over, some tunneled below and 136 East Germans died trying to cross it.
A wall twice as high and five times as long as the one that fell in Berlin, is close to completion in the West Bank.
For the last five years in Bilin, every Friday afternoon after prayers at the mosque, Palestinians and growing numbers of Israelis and Internationals have been waging a nonviolent solidarity march in resistance to the Route of the construction of Israel's Wall/Fence.
For the last five years of Friday's, locals, internationals and Israelis of conscience endure tear gas, rubber bullets, sound bombs and other means of 'crowd dispersal' inflicted upon them by Israeli forces in ever escalating force.
During my initial visit in 2006, the Israeli forces targeted only the activists who ran down the hill along side of the fence, but on my last trip in June 2009, just as the front of the crowd neared that area of descent, I saw that another gate and more barbed wire had been erected in front of it. The Israeli forces also immediately assaulted us with tear gas just as we approached.
On Nov. 4, 2009, Richard Boudreaux, correspondent for the LA Times, reported from Bilin: "Every Friday Mohammed Khatib's forces assemble for battle with the Israeli army and gather their weapons: a bullhorn, banners -- and a fierce belief that peaceful protest can bring about a Palestinian state.
"His message is a hard sell: Khatib, 35, is a modern-day Gandhi…And the risks of his activism are enormous…The Israeli army has targeted him. He was arrested, severely beaten and threatened with death during a series of midnight raids on the village this summer. He was freed on condition that he report to an Israeli police station each Friday at the hour of the weekly protest." 
Bilin's Israeli attorney, Michael Sfard [who has also represented Mordechai Vanunu, the Whistle Blower of Israel's WMD program] credits Khatib with the inspired move to erect under the cover of darkness a 10X10 brick edifice just yards from where 700 upscale Jewish only apartments were being built on Palestinian land.
During my first visit to Bilin in January 2006, Iyad Bornat, Head of the Popular Committee informed this reporter, "A few weeks ago we brought in a caravan [house trailer] on our land close to where the settler's apartments are being built. While we were inside the Israeli Forces sawed the door open and pulled us out and roughed us up. So, we brought in another caravan and during the night we built a concrete brick building within four hours to resist the wall and occupation. People come and go; they are from all over the world. They support our nonviolently resisting the wall that is clearly stealing our land. This wall and the Israeli forces are not allowing us onto our land to care for our olive trees. They confiscated our land and impose military law upon us and claim we are trespassing on our legally owned land."
Abdullah, the Coordinator of Against The Wall in Billin stated, that as of January 2006, 1,600 residents of Billin who legally own 4,000 dunums of property had 2,003 dunums of it confiscated by Israel to build the Jewish only apartments upon which Palestinians are not even allowed to approach.
During that visit I also spoke with a few of the two dozen Israelis and Internationals who were maintaining a presence for days and weeks at a stretch, such as a twenty year old from Indiana who was studying Middle East Foreign Policy in Jerusalem and had spent her weekends at the outpost in Bilin since it was constructed.
Another from New York said, "We are fighting an important struggle. If America would only learn the truth about what is happening here, they would stop their blind support of the Israeli government that denies people basic human rights."
An Israeli activist stated, "This cause is very important to me because this is the only way to struggle. This is our only chance to bring back the popular Intifada: a chance for women and children to nonviolently resist the wall and occupation."
A member of the Popular Committee in Bilin who taught Social Work and Psychology at El Quds Open University, told me that he was shot and jailed for two weeks because of his nonviolent resistant activities, "The Judge said he would investigate the soldier who shot me, but the soldier lied and denied he shot and the matter was quickly forgotten by the Israelis. Three weeks ago we could not come in here, but when the court admitted the settlement buildings were illegal we put the caravan on the property and when the IDF destroyed that, we built this room. Ever since, more and more Israelis, Lawyers, Sheiks, women and children come and stand with us in solidarity for human rights. Rachel Corrie's family has been here too."
The outpost was demolished long ago and the village has now worked their case through Municipal to the Israeli Supreme Court and both ordered Israel to stop the building, to move the fence and restore about half of the 575 acres of olive groves back to the Bilin's farmers; but construction has not ceased.
On November 6, 2009, Iyad Burnat, emailed:
Bil'in Remembers Berlin
On the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, two hundred internationals traveled from the US, UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Belgium to join the weekly peaceful demonstration in Bil'in.
Each Friday, Palestinians from the village of Bil'in are joined by hundreds of internationals and Israelis protesting the apartheid wall which annexes Palestinian land.
Iyad Bornat, said "the twelve metre polystyrene wall", which was made and carried by the residents of Bil'in, "was carried from the mosque in the centre of the village and placed on the other side of the fence, with the hope that the Israeli soldiers would remove it."
As demonstrators chanted 'We want peace, without occupation, without settlements, without the wall', four soldiers entered the no mans land between the double fence and dismantled the polystyrene wall which displayed the message "Berlin 1989, Palestine ?".
Victorious cheers from protestors were met by a bombardment of tear gas and sound bombs fired by Israeli soldiers from a military vehicle.
Local boys known as 'shabab' got close to the fence and flying the Palestinian flag were able to remove an equal amount of fence with a set of bolt cutters.
A choir of twelve traveled from Belgium to act in support of the Palestinians in this region. Undeterred by the tear gas and holding an EU flag their songs echoed through the olive tree landscape…'Tear down the wall', 'We want peace', 'Ich bin Bil'iner' were amongst the many slogans and chants…Thank you for you continued support- Iyad Burnat, Head of the Popular Committee in Bilin and a co-founder of Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bilin
After Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visited Bilin, in August, 2009, he said:
"Just as a simple man named Gandhi led the successful non-violent struggle in India and simple people such as Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela led the struggle for civil rights in the United States, simple people here in Bil’in are leading a non-violent struggle that will bring them their freedom. The South Africa experience proves that injustice can be dismantled."
The wall will fall in Bilin; like the wall fell in Berlin, but first we the people of the world must realize that we are all Palestinians!
Eileen Fleming is the Producer of "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org, Eileen is a Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com, Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory" and the soon to be released "BEYOND NUCLEAR: Some of my Experiences of Mordechai Vanunu and the Holy Land: 2005-2010" youtube.com/user/eileenfleming. Eileen is a unique leader in her state and she intends to run for a Florida Congressional seat in the future, to help speed the process of change that is so demanded today. Like many who walk in similar steps, Eileen, like other writers at Salem-News.com, is an outspoken advocate for humanity and she has no tolerance for the oppressive forces of the world.
You can send Eileen Fleming an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org