Here is a bit of hopeful news from Palestine. Two and a half years after the Israeli Supreme Court deemed that the section of the separation wall that cuts through the village of Bil’in was illegal, the Israeli military has begun re-routing the wall to comply with the ruling. This move will return 30 percent of Bil’in’s land to the village.
In response to the news, Mohammed Khatib, the coordinator of the West Bank-wide Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and a member of the the Bil’in Popular Committee, said:
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the only reason that this is finally happening now are the five years of persistent struggle and the sacrifices the people of my village have made. While we are happy for the lands that do return, we do not forget the lands and crops that remain isolated behind the Wall. Our struggle will continue until all of our lands are returned and the Occupation is over.
Since the wall was erected in 2005, Bil’in has been a focal point for nonviolent resistance in Palestine and garnered widespread support and positive media attention around the world. Residents from the village, along with other Israeli and international activists, participate in a weekly march to the wall every Friday. According to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee:
In addition to grassroots demonstrations and nonviolent direct actions, Bil’in has held annual conferences on popular resistance since 2006; providing a forum for villagers, activists and academics to discuss strategies for the unarmed struggle against the Occupation.
In their latest weekly protest, activists from Bil’in demonstrated their creativity by dressing and painting themselves as the native Na’vi from the film Avatar.
Israel’s response to the burgeoning nonviolent movement reveals its power. As Ben White noted last week in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor:
Israel’s escalating crackdown suggests that the movement is not only already considered a threat to Israel’s apartheid-style rule, but also has the potential to develop into something more important. In recent months, Israel has targeted leaders such as Jamal Juma, Mohammed Khatib, Mohammad Othman, and Abdullah Abu Rahme with detention without trial and trumped-up charges.
Israel, which markets itself as the region’s only democracy, has also snatched dozens of villagers in night raids over the past 18 months. Since 2005, 18 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 have been injured in antiwall protests.
To stay on top of developments in Bil’in check out the village’s website. Anna Brown also has written extensively about her personal experience in Bil’in last summer and other developments with the nonviolent campaign (archived here) for this site.