June 23, 2007 A powerful form of resistance

Dear friends and family,
I mentioned at the end of my last email that the group I truly support in Palestine is the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall (PCAW).

Bil'in is a small village in the West Bank located approximately 12 kilometers west of Ramallah and about 4 kilometres east of the 1967 Green Line. It is home to about 1600 Palestinians. The construction of the wall will result in the theft of 60% of the village's farm land upon which Modi'in Illit is being built, a new illegal Israeli settlement.

The Bil'in PCAW has made Bil'in famous for their creative and non-violent demonstrations that they have organized every Friday since January 2005. They have perservered despite the harassment of its leaders (arrests, death threats, beatings) and the certainty of tear gas (with the canisters shot directly at protestors such that they become a potential lethel weapons), rubber-coated steel bullets, sound bombs and injuries at every demonstration.

Last Friday four of us from IWPS went to Bil'in to join with about 30 other internationals, 20 Israelis and 50 villagers in marching to the wall. It was a smaller than usual demonstration, however, typical of what usually happens each week. We all gather at the mosque and after the Friday prayers march to the wall, singing and chanting. A barbed wire barrier stops the crowd about 300 yards in front of the wall and there were about 30 Israeli soldiers stationed half way inbetween the crowd and the wall. Sometimes they wait a bit and let the crowd chant, pray and sing, but this time they advanced immediately and started shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. The demonstrators retreated and then advanced again after the gas cleared. Then this dance repeated itself many times until the soldiers finally chased everyone back into the village.

Medics from the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee are always standing by to deal with the inevitable injuries, hoping that none will be too serious. (Over the course of these demonstrations there have been some fatalities and critical injuries resulting in brain damage.) Yesterday the most serious injury was a bad reaction to the tear gas and burns from where the canisters hit. One of the IWPS womyn was hit twice which caused her to believe that she was being targeted. (I agree that the chances are pretty low of being hit twice.)

Two Palestinians were arrested. As of Saturday night one is still being detained. He will probably be held a few days longer and released with no charges brought. His release is more likely because of the internationals who will monitor what happens to him.

Near the edge of the village there was a house under construction, in complete view of the demonstration and the soldiers. From the roof top of this house construction workers shouted to the demonstrators to tell them where the incoming tear gas was coming from. I couldn't believe that they scarely stopped their work throughtout the entire demonstration! (Except maybe at the height of the tear gas clouds.) They refused to let the Israeli occupation stop them living their lives. It reminded me of a beautiful quote by Edward Said that I use in my slideshows. I can't remember the exact words but he talks about the fact that Palestinians going about their everyday life, going to school, going to their jobs and raising families is the most powerful form of non-violent resistance.


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