Bil'in as a model of Palestinian civil disobedience
Jewish Peace News - Sept. 01, 2009
A NY Times article on August 27
discusses Bil'in, a Palestinian village that is a
frequent site of confrontations between protesting
Palestinians and the IDF over the
barrier, which has foreclosed access by villagers to
much of Bil'in's historic farmland and olive groves.
Bil'in has become a model for Palestinian civil
disobedience in the
series of high profile visits from high profile public
figures, such as Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, but
also from less obvious political players, like Richard
Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, and Jeff Skoll,
founding president of eBay, as well as from a wide
range of international state and grassroots leaders.
In recent months, Bil'in has been the subject of a
series of night raids by IDF forces bent on breaking
the back of the village's protests by arresting the
town's leaders. But villagers have not ceased waging
weekly protests in the village's streets -- and
extending their efforts to remove
barrier by taking the fight into Israeli courts, where
in 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled the route of
the barrier "highly prejudicial" to Bil'in (subsequent
Supreme Court rulings, however, have ratified the
building of new Israeli settlements on land confiscated
from Bil'in). Protests in Bil'in have often been
creative: Bil'in's children, for example, participated
in a recent "We Want to Sleep" demonstration captured
on a YouTube video <http://bit.ly/HGJWx>.
Bil'in maintains a blog on its Web site, which makes
for highly informative reading <http://bit.ly/XMuEI>.
The site, which makes mention of allied political
struggles around the world and asks site visitors to
not forget the plight of
resources and suggestions for supporters who want to
help the village defend itself against Israeli
occupation and ever encroaching land confiscation by
[Jewish Peace News (JPN) is an information service that
circulates news clippings, analyses, editorial
commentary, and action alerts concerning the
resolution to the conflict; we believe that the cause
of both peace and justice will be served when
ends the occupation, withdrawing completely from the
Palestinian territories and finding a solution to the
Palestinian refugee crisis within the framework of
In Village, Palestinians See Model for Their Cause
By Ethan Bronner
New York Times -- August 27, 2009
BILIN, West Bank - Every Friday for the past four and a
half years, several hundred demonstrators - Palestinian
villagers, foreign volunteers and Israeli activists -
have walked in unison to the Israeli barrier separating
this tiny village from the burgeoning settlement of
Modiin Illit, part of which is built on the village's
land. One hundred feet away, Israeli soldiers watch and wait.
The protesters chant and shout and, inevitably, a few
throw stones. Then just as inevitably, the soldiers
open fire with tear gas and water jets, lately
including a putrid oil-based liquid that makes the
entire area stink.
It is one of the longest-running and best organized
protest operations in the history of the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict, and it has turned this once
anonymous farming village into a symbol of Palestinian
civil disobedience, a model that many supporters of the
Palestinian cause would like to see spread and prosper.
For that reason, a group of famous left-leaning elder
statesmen, including former President Jimmy Carter -
who caused controversy by suggesting that the Israeli
occupation of the
came to Bilin on Thursday and told the local organizers
how much they admired their work and why it was vital
to keep it going.
The retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also on
the visit, said, "Just as a simple man named Gandhi led
the successful nonviolent struggle in
people such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King led
the struggle for civil rights in the
simple people here in Bilin are leading a nonviolent
struggle that will bring them their freedom."
Mr. Tutu, a South African Nobel Peace Prize winner,
spoke on rocky soil, surrounded by the remains of tear
gas canisters and in front of coils of barbed wire,
part of the barrier that
was under way.
suicide bombers from crossing into
route of the barrier - a mix of fencing, guard towers
and concrete wall - dug deep into the
places, and Palestinian anger over the barrier is as
much about lost land as about lost freedom.
Bilin lost half its land to the settlement of Modiin
Illit and the barrier and took its complaint to
it an unusual victory. It ordered the settlement to
stop building its new neighborhood and ordered the
Israeli military to move the route of the barrier back
land to the village.
"The villagers danced in the street," recalled Emily
Schaeffer, an Israeli lawyer who worked on the case for
the village. "Unfortunately, it has been two years
since the decision, and the wall has not moved."
The village is back in court trying, so far in vain, to
get the orders put into effect.
Ms. Schaeffer was explaining the case to the visitors,
who go by the name The Elders. The group was founded
two years ago by former President Nelson Mandela of
South Africa and is paid for by donors, including
Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, and Jeff
Skoll, founding president of eBay. Its goal is to
"support peace building, help address major causes of
human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity."
Both Mr. Branson and Mr. Skoll were on the visit to
Bilin, as were Mary Robinson, the former president of
Ireland; Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister
poor and women's rights. Their visit to
Palestinian territories has also included meetings with
young Israelis and young Palestinians.
Mr. Cardoso said that he had long heard about the
conflict but that seeing it on the ground had made a
lasting impression on him. The barrier, he said, serves
to imprison the Palestinians.
Like every element of the conflict here, there is no
agreement over the nature of what goes on here every
Friday. Palestinians hail the protest as nonviolent,
and it was cited recently by the Palestinian president,
Mahmoud Abbas, as a key step forward in the struggle
for a Palestinian state. Recently, one of the leaders
here, Mohammed Khatib, set up a committee of a dozen
villages to share his strategies.
But the Israelis complain that, along with protests at
here than the Palestinians and their supporters acknowledge.
"Rioters hurl rocks, Molotov cocktails and burning
tires at defense forces and the security fence," the
military said in a statement when asked why it had
taken to arresting village leaders in the middle of the
night. "Since the beginning of 2008, about 170 members
of the defense forces have been injured in these
villages," it added, including three soldiers who were
so badly hurt they could no longer serve in the army.
It also said that at Bilin itself, some $60,000 worth
of damage had been done to the barrier in the past year
and a half.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, a village teacher and one of the
organizers of the weekly protests, said he was amazed
at the military's assertions as well as at its
continuing arrests and imprisonment of village leaders.
"They want to destroy our movement because it is
nonviolent," he said. He added that some villagers
might have tried, out of frustration, to cut through
the fence since the court had ordered it moved and
nothing had happened. But that is not the essence of
the popular movement that he has helped lead.
"We need our land," he told his visitors. "It is how we
make our living. Our message to the world is that this
wall is destroying our lives, and the occupation wants
to kill our struggle."
[A version of this article appeared in print on August
28, 2009, on page A8 of the