Today we joined in the demonstrations in Bil'in. For those of you that don't know, Bil'in is a village that is being devastated by Israel's Apartheid Wall and the illegal settlements that continue to encroach on their land. The people of Bil'in are engaging in really inspiring resistance against the Wall. For more info, visit their website here.
One aspect of the resistance is a weekly demonstration that involves local Palestinians, Israeli activists (mostly from Anarchists Against the Wall) and internationals. I chose to participate in these demonstrations because the popular committees in these villages have specifically asked for international support. The demonstrations have been going on for over 5 years despite the extremely violent and at times lethal response of the Israeli army. Recently, the Israelis have increased the violence of their suppression of these demonstrations - last Friday in Ni'lin they killed a protester named Yoursif Srour who was 35 years old and had a wife and three children. He was the fifth person from Ni'lin who has been killed during demonstrations against the Wall in the village. A few months ago, they killed a young man named Bassem in Bil'in - he was killed when a high velocity tear gas canisters was fired directly at him at close range.
The Bil'in demo was particularly relevant for me right now because the village is currently suing two Canadian companies - Green Park and Green Mount - for building illegal settlements. The case begins on June 22nd in Quebec and there is currently a delegation from Bil'in traveling in Canada, talking about the case.
The demo today was pretty standard from what I've told. We gathered in the village after Friday prayers and began a march towards the wall. Before the front of the demo got to the wall, the tear gas was launched. The Israelis lobbed huge amounts of tear gas for almost an hour. Most of us left the front line after a short time because the gas was overwhelming, but several Palestinian youth stayed to confront the soldiers. It was incredible that they could withstand the gas for so long. They fought back with rocks and at times threw unexploded canisters right back at the soldiers. Eventually, the demo ended. Everyone was a bit ill from the gas and two people we injured in the onslaught, but nobody was seriously hurt.
Today at the demo there was a large Code Pink contingent from the US. Code Pink is a women's peace organization that has recently tried, and occasionally succeeded, at getting food and supplies into Gaza. For the most part, they were respectful, but at one point, several of them expressed anger at the youth throwing rocks. They insisted that they were told that this was a 'non-violent' protest and were disappointed in the violence of the rock throwers. I obviously got into an argument with them. I was not asking those women to go to the front and stand with the youth, but I was asking them to respect their choice to do so. Still, they really felt justified in judging the resistance even as these kids were being bombarded with noxious gas. I am so tired of engaging in this non-violence debate with other people who are not Palestinian. This is a Palestinian led movement and it is not our place to judge the resistance. It is definitely not our place to demand non-violence in the face of the extreme violence that the Israelis commit against Palestinians everyday. What we should have been talking about today is that launching dozens of tear gas canisters against a small group of people who are throwing some stones is a disproportionate use of force, which is against international law. Rather than judging the resistance, we should be talking about what we can do to support it - like joining in demonstrations when asked or, perhaps more importantly, working on building the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement in the places we live.
And so my concerns about the role of internationals here, myself included, continue to grow...