Festivities in Bil’in Friday as the villagers celebrated that soon they will have access to some of the land which has been isolated from them for six years by the so-called ‘security fence’.
An unusual large number of estimated 2-300 people met to take part of this week’s peaceful demonstration in Bil’in. Starting at the mosque protesters marched through the village with high-spirited chants, waving flags and almost dancing through the streets to the rhythm of Palestinian tunes playing from the speakers of a truck as well as to the beats of drums played by a small group of musicians from the Freedom Theatre in Jenin.
The mood was especially cheerful at this week’s demonstration as Israeli army Tuesday began to take down the fence (a new fence a few hundred meters back have already been set up). And as the procession of demonstrators left the village, they were joined by a bulldozer intended to assist in dismantling the fence which has become the symbol of violation of freedom as it has separated the villagers from 2,300 dunums of their land.
“I’m not here because of the occupation, I’m here because of the wall and because of what it means to put a wall in front of human beings,” said Momeen Syatat, a young actor from the Freedom Theatre, who has participated regularly in the weekly demonstrations in Bil’in for the last three years. “To be against the wall is not about waving flags and wearing t-shirts (with slogans against the occupation, ed.), it’s about imagining yourself on the other side of the wall. The wall is also in the mind. If you speak to anyone here for a few minutes he’ll mention the wall five times. They (the Israeli occupational forces, ed.) kill us slowly by putting us in a cave,” he said.
The excited group of demonstrators didn’t make it to the fence though before the ‘fun’ was abruptly overshadowed by heavy amount of tear gas being torched by the Israeli soldiers from the other side of the fence followed by a rain of the foul-smelling liquid which was sprayed from the so-called ‘skunk-trucks’. Having foreseen this several of the demonstrators were wearing rain coats while others found themselves forced to strip out of their clothes after being drenched in the reeking water.
The ambulance had to make several trips to evacuate people who were surprised by the sudden and offensive use of tear gas. And the driver of the bulldozer barely made it out as it was penetrated by a tear gas canister. Live ammunition was also fired at the bulldozer, puncturing its tires and breaking the windows, leaving it in a very poor state as it attempted to retreat. Almost half of the demonstrators were Israeli activists and internationals, sending a strong signal of the amount of support the popular resistance movement in Bil’in has gathered throughout their struggle to reclaim the land. Also, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad took part of the march through the village:
“The injustice must come to an end. We must have our freedom from Israel or our vote in Israel,” said Fayyad to journalist Roee Ruttenberg.
Though the soldiers were efficient in dispersing the crowds the cheerful mood of victory remained. A group of young ‘shababs’ initiated a dabka dance in the olive fields to the great amusement of the surrounding demonstrators and members of the press who coughing and spitting from the gas, showing that the spirit of the Bil’in-villagers is far from broken and that they’ll continue their popular resistance.