Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Stormy Demonstration in Bil’in

Gush Shalom | Friday 27 October 2006

See photos at Dennis Fox’s site

(Thumbnail – click on image for full-size)

It was the stormiest demonstration in Bil’in for some time. Clouds of tear gas, salvoes of stun grenades were showered on the 300 demonstrators – Palestinians, Israelis and internationals – who marched again to protest against the wall in this village, as they have done every Friday for than 20 months.

The army was ready. From early morning, all the roads to the village were blocked. Yet all the demonstrators succeeded in reaching the village, some on foot, some over paths known to the experienced Palestinians. At the appointed time, the procession started on its way.

The creative abilities of the organizers, people of the village and “Anarchists against Fences”, who invent every week a new symbol for the demonstration, did not disappoint this time either. At the head of the procession, ladders were carried, with flags affixed with nails to both sides, like flowers on moving flower-beds. Marching in front were Palestinian leaders and Israeli public figures.

It was obvious that the army had decided in advance on harsh treatment. When the protesters were just approaching the fence, they were stopped by rows of Border Police behind barbed wire. When the demonstrators broke through and put the ladders to the wall, the first salvo of stun grenades and tear gas was shot at them. Within minutes, the whole area was covered by the stinging and choking gas.

For an hour, the confrontation went on, with the demonstrators shouting at the soldiers – “Soldiers go home!” “No, no to the fence!” – and the soldiers shooting grenades from time to time. The protesters retreated, choking and coughing, but returned at once. Dozens of them knocked with stones on an iron fence, a noise that could be heard for miles along the wadis. Others entered into arguments with the soldiers.

Several times, stones were thrown from the crowds towards the fence. There is a strong suspicion that this was done by undercover agents, disguised as Arabs, in order to provide the army with a pretext to shoot at the demonstrators. (This has happened several times before and has been documented on camera.)

After about an hour, the soldiers started to shoot concentrated salvoes of stun and gas grenades in all directions. The organizers of the demonstration requested the protesters to retreat towards the village – and then the soldiers started to shoot tear gas wildly. The grenades exploded in front of the protesters, behind them, on both sides and in the middle of the retreating crowd, so that there was no escape.

Several demonstrators were wounded. One was hit by a stun grenade on his face and suffered deep cuts, another was hit by a gas canister on his leg, a third was dragged by the soldiers on the rocks.

The army stated that two of its men were also wounded. No one of the demonstrators had seen that. The joke went around that the army has two soldiers, whose regular job it is to pretend to be wounded, and who go from one demonstration to the next.

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"