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West Bank Grassroots Campaign Against the Wall–and Israel’s Response

August 1, 2009

Bilín Protest

Bilín Protest

West Bank’s Grassroots Campaigns Against the Wall:

Israel began construction on its “security” wall in 2002. So far a little over half of it has been constructed, with the rest consisting of a “security” fence. The wall is made out of 25-foot high concrete slabs, trenches, barbed wire “buffer zones” electrified fencing, numerous watchtowers, thermal imagining cameras, sniper towers, and roads for patrol vehicles.

Israel claimed that the wall was for the security of Israel’s civilian population, but it quickly became clear that it was a means to annex Palestinian land and resources.

Only 16% of the wall is built on the internationally recognized border between Israel and the West Bank—known as the Green Line. The other 84% snakes around inside the West Bank, annexing the best agricultural land as well as land that has water and other natural resources. In some cases, the wall completely surrounds Palestinian villages—leaving them with just one gate (controlled by the Israeli military) to get in or out.

The wall has become a means by the Israeli government to steal Palestinian land and resources, divide the West Bank into ‘bantustans’—which has a devastating effect on the economy, and to unilaterally declare the future border between Israel and a Palestinian state.

To combat this, villages in the West Bank who have lost land because of the wall have organized a grassroots campaign to stop the wall. Villages like Azzun Atma, Ma’sara, Bilín, Ni’lin, Jayyus, and Khader have weekly, nonviolent protests against the theft of their land by the wall.

Israel’s reaction to these peaceful protests is teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, sound bombs, and live ammunition. This reaction has left hundreds injured and 20 killed (many in their teens).

Azzun Atma is a village near Qalqilia—and it is completely surrounded by the wall. There is one gate, controlled by the Israeli military, that allows any people or goods in or out. The wall has divided the village into two parts, and isolates many lands and water wells. Israel also demolished any houses that were built on the land Israel wanted to annex. The village will lose 4000 dunams to illegal settlements and the wall. On Fridays, the villagers and international activists march to the fence to protest the wall.

Ma’sara is a village near Bethlehem which has already lost 30% of their land because of the wall and will lost 30% more if construction on the wall is finished. In their nonviolent protests, villagers and activists march from the center of the village towards the entrance to their land that has been annexed. The Israeli soldiers close this entrance with razor wire and the demonstrators attempt to reach their land anyway. They are met with teargas, beatings and rubber coated steel bullets. Many have been arrested for participating in these protests.

Bilín is a village near Ramallah that has lost 60% of its land to illegal settlements nearby. Protests in Bilín start from the mosque in the center of the village, and then demonstrators march to the fence—the future site of the wall. They are met by teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition, sound bombs, and darban (a liquid made from chemicals which is sprayed on protestors and is designed to induce vomiting).

In April of this year, the first protestor from Bil’in, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, was killed when he was shot in the chest from 20 meters away with a high-velocity teargas canister. Since then, the Israeli military has been conducting nightly raids on the village—they have arrested over 20 boys from the village so far, many in their early teens. There are 150 more “wanted people” from the village for participating in the nonviolent demonstrations, many of them in their teens.

Ni’lin is another village near Ramallah which has organized weekly, nonviolent protests. The village has lost over 50,000 dunams since 1948 for illegal settlements and Israeli military bases. This is the most dangerous site of nonviolent protests against the wall. In Ni’lin, Israeli soldiers blockade the village before demonstrators are able to exit and reach the site of the wall.

Because of this, it becomes more like urban warfare than a peaceful protest. The soldiers invade the village and use excessive force on the protestors—teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, and regular use of live ammunition. So far, 5 people have been killed in Ni’lin while protesting the theft of their land—including a 10 year old boy.

Jayyus is a village near Qalqilia that has lost 75% of its land to the wall. Israel has imposed a permit system on the villagers to even reach their own farmland. However, these permits are rarely given, and when they are, they are given to people who are not able to do farm work. In their weekly, nonviolent demonstrations against the wall, villagers have noted that the soldiers have begun using live ammunition much more than in the past. The Israeli military has been raiding the village at night, and most recently arrested 3 teenage boys who were supposed to take their final exams (tawjeehi) the next morning—preventing them from continuing their education next year. No reason was given for their arrest.

Al Khader is village near Bethlehem which is unfortunately located mainly in Area C. In the West Bank, there are three types of “Areas”—Area A is under Palestinian Authority control, Area B is under civic responsibility, and Area C is under Israeli control. It just so happens that 91% of the village is in Area C and that land also just so happens to be the majority of their agricultural land—which is famous in the West Bank for vineyards and fruit trees. So far, the wall has taken 75% of their land in Area C—over 15,000 dunams. Israel has also ordered house demolitions for those homes located in Area C.

Some villages, such as Bilín, have sued the Israeli government for stealing their land. There has already been a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court calling the path of the wall illegal, and has demanded that the path be changed and those parts deemed illegal dismantled. So far, the Israeli government is ignoring its own justice system. The International Court of Justice has also called the wall illegal and has called on Israel to dismantle it—despite this, construction continues, land continues to be stolen, and lives continue to be lost.

Since Israel will not listen to international law or Israeli law, Palestinians must try to get the attention and support of the international community. The grassroots campaigns are Palestine’s best way of doing this. Nonviolent protests against the wall are something that no one can argue with—and they must continue. More villages around the West Bank that have been affected by the wall should join the campaign. With enough villages joining together and resisting the wall, the international community will notice and will have to do something to stop Israeli theft of Palestinian lands.

The Israeli government knows that these grassroots, nonviolent campaigns against the wall will get the attention of the international community and will show the real purpose behind the wall to the world. To combat this trend, the Israeli military has been using even more excessive force and live ammunition against peaceful protestors, a pattern which has been noticed by all of the villages. Protestors have been killed, hundreds injured, and dozens arrested. But to give into these “scare tactics” and to stop protesting would be playing into the hands of the Israeli government. In honor of those killed protesting the wall, the demonstrations must continue.

5 June 2009:
Yousef ‘Akil’ Tsadik Srour, 36
Shot in the chest with 0.22 calibre live ammunition during a demonstration against the Wall in Ni’lin.

April 17, 2009:
Basem Abu Rahme, age 29
Shot in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas projectile during a demonstration against the Wall in Bil’in.

December 28, 2008:
Mohammad Khawaja, age 20
Shot in the head with live ammunition during a demonstration in Ni’lin against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Mohammad died in the hospital on December 31, 2009.

December 28, 2008:
Arafat Khawaja, age 22
Shot in the back with live ammunition in Ni’lin during a demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza.

July 30, 2008:
Youssef Ahmed Younes Amirah, age 17
Shot in the head with rubber coated bullets during a demonstration against the Wall in Ni’lin. Youssef died of his wounds on August 4, 2008.

July 29, 2008:
Ahmed Husan Youssef Mousa, age 10
Shot dead while he and several friends tried to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village in Ni’lin.

March 2, 2008:
Mahmoud Muhammad Ahmad Masalmeh, age 15
Shot dead when trying to cut the razor wire portion of the Wall in Beit Awwa.

March 28, 2007:
Muhammad Elias Mahmoud ‘Aweideh, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Um a-Sharayet – Samiramis.

February 2, 2007:
Taha Muhammad Subhi al-Quljawi, age 16
Shot dead when he and two friends tried to cut the razor wire portion of the Wall in the Qalandiya Refugee Camp. He was wounded in the thigh and died from blood loss after remaining in the field for a long time without treatment.

May 4, 2005:
Jamal Jaber Ibrahim ‘Asi, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Beit Liqya.

May 4, 2005:
U’dai Mufid Mahmoud ‘Asi, age 14
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Beit Liqya.

February 15, 2005:
‘Alaa’ Muhammad ‘Abd a-Rahman Khalil, age 14
Shot dead while throwing stones at an Israeli vehicle driven by private security guards near the Wall in Betunya.

April 18, 2004:
Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14
Shot during a demonstration against the Wall in Deir Abu Mash’al. Islam died of his wounds April 28, 2004.

April 18, 2004:
Diaa’ A-Din ‘Abd al-Karim Ibrahim Abu ‘Eid, age 23
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

April 16, 2004:
Hussein Mahmoud ‘Awad ‘Alian, age 17
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Betunya.

February 26, 2004:
Muhammad Da’ud Saleh Badwan, age 21
Shot during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu. Muhammad died of his wounds on March 3, 2004.

February 26, 2004:
Abdal Rahman Abu ‘Eid, age 17
Died of a heart attack after teargas projectiles were shot into his home during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

February 26, 2004:
Muhammad Fadel Hashem Rian, age 25
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

February 26, 2004:
Zakaria Mahmoud ‘Eid Salem, age 28
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

**For more information about the grassroots campaign against the wall and the villages participating, follow these links:

http://www.stopthewall.org/
Website that has articles and facts about the wall

http://www.bilin-village.org/
Bilín village website

http://www.poica.org/
Monitors Israeli colonialist activities in the West Bank

http://www.apartheidmasked.org/
Exposing the real purpose behind the wall

http://www.awalls.org/
Anarchists against the wall- and Israeli activist group

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