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Bil'in - 10 years of persistent joint struggle
mashriq / arabia / iraq | community struggles | feature Friday February 27, 2015 12:34 by Ilan Shalif - Anarchists Against the Wall; A-Infos; Ahdut ilan.shalif at gmail dot com Tel Aviv
The villagers of the Palestinian vilage of Bil'in have been struggling now for 10 years against the construction of the separation barrier and consequent expropriation of their lands. This struggle has been a non-violent one, carried out together with Jewish activists from Israel and international activists and has inspired dozens of other similar struggles in villages throughout the West Bank. Here, Israeli anarchist Ilan Shalif explains the significance of Bil'in and recounts his experiences there.The struggle in Bil'in is only one part of the fabric of struggle of more than 120 years between the indigenous people of Palestine and the Zionist settler colonialist and transfer project. The struggle in Bil'in is also the culmination of the joint popular struggle of Palestinians and young Jewish community members who "betray" their local Jewish community, which is harnessed to the Zionist project of settlement building and transfer. As partners second in importance only to the local activists, between us we have forged an unusual alliance, one that has hardly ever been seen during the half millennium of struggle between European colonialism and the other inhabitants of the world.
Bil'in - 10 years of persistent joint struggle
The struggle in Bil'in is only one part of the fabric of struggle of more than 120 years between the indigenous people of Palestine and the Zionist settler colonialist and transfer project. The struggle in Bil'in is also the culmination of the joint popular struggle of Palestinians and young Jewish community members who "betray" their local Jewish community, which is harnessed to the Zionist project of settlement building and transfer. As partners second in importance only to the local activists, between us we have forged an unusual alliance, one that has hardly ever been seen during the half millennium of struggle between European colonialism and the other inhabitants of the world.
Few know that the roots of the alliance in Bil'in are actually in Chiapas, Mexico.
The second EZLN encounter in Spain 1997, in solidarity with the struggle in Chiapas, gave birth to the People's Global Action (PGA) initiative for global struggle against neo-liberal globalization.
About a dozen Israeli activists from this initiative participated in Leiden, Netherlands, in 2002 in a conference of the European section of the PGA. At the conference there was a Palestinian-Israeli Workshop and the idea of a joint camp was contemplated.
It took about half a year and the start of the struggle against the separation fence designed to annex territory in the West Bank occupied in 1967 - mainly intended to annex part of the lands of Palestinian villages along the 1948 borders - for the idea of a joint camp to materialize on the lands of the village of Mas'ha.
It took a few more months for the common struggle to break the border of the mainstream media. It happened when, during an organized joint demonstration, activists cut a few dozen metres of the newly-built separation fence near the village of Zbuba. Not long afterwards, a participant in the initiative at a joint action at the village Mas'ha was shot in the leg with live ammunition, an act which flooded the media, causing a big scandal.
The event was covered intensively in all the channels of the media and the scandal was of such an extent that the highest commander of the Israeli army was forced to came to the hospital where Gil N. was being treated for his wounds and apologize. The rules for opening fire at demonstrators in the occupied West Bank were changed - it became forbidden to fire live ammunition at protests where there was the possibility that there were (Jewish) Iraelis among the participants.
Among the participants of the initiative - which used a different label for each action - were members of the social struggle anarchist organization, "One Struggle", unorganized anarchists and other direct action activists. The action at the Mas'ha demo that got so much publicity was labeled "Anarchists Against Fences/Walls" so the initiative adopted it as a permanent name... despite the fact that activists who considered themselves anarchists were sometimes a minority.
After a while, the joint camp in Mas'ha was dismantled. Joint struggles against the separation fence occurred in various villages along the route, with half-hearted efforts by the radical left to participate (often blocked on the way to the designated activity).
In no village did the struggle continue so consistently week after week, month after month and year after year as the struggle that started in Bil'in.
The struggle in Bil'in began a year later - after the building of the separation fence had started on the lands of Bil'in. The participation of the Anarchists Against the Fence with the activists of the villages of the region in actions against the separation fence led to the participation of the AAtW in the first demonstration in Bil'in in late summer 2004 and to the demonstration on Friday, 20 February 2005 - the first in the neverending chain of Friday demonstrations in Bil'in.
Because of intense activity in A-Infos including managing our own server (and also reporting on the joint struggle), I could not regularly participate in the
struggle of the AAtW against the separation fence or the struggle in Bil'in till the beginning of May 2005 (when the A-Infos server died). The first time I took part in the Bil'in Friday demonstration was in March 2005. In May, after being released from some of the responsibilities of A-Infos, I started to participate regularly in the activities of the AAtW in Bil'in and elsewhere.
A photo of the struggle in Bil'inAfter failed attempts over many months to prevent the Israelis from attending the Friday demonstration, a kind of routine was developed. After we had evaded the the Israeli armed forces' efforts to block us on the way to Bil'in, and after the noon prayers at the mosque ended, we walked towards the route of the fence. Not far from there, Israeli armed forces were deployed, physically blocking our progress. Often, before the soldiers took more severe measures, a pushing confrontation would develop. One Friday, I suddenly realized that in Bil'in, Palestinians could push Israeli armed forces and all that happened was that they pushed back.
Another thing that was repeated many times was the participation of delegations and activists from various regions of the West Bank in the Friday actions and demonstration in Bil'in. In some cases, it was "only" a solidarity visit, but at times, it was participation in a "lesson" that led to the start of the struggle in other villages.
MeetingsIn the early years of the struggle in Bil'in, regular meetings were held during the week to plan the weekly "show". In these years, as part of the efforts to enhance the visibility of the struggle, it included creative performance - unique to every demonstration. The documentation of these performances - such as photos and recorded videos - found their way into the Israeli and foreign media.
Media coverageOften, at the end of the demonstration photographers produced a short video clip that we brought on our way home to the offices of television company. It was not a rare thing for it to be partly aired the same evening or included in the weekend programs.
"All Quiet on the Western Front"In the early years, the public and commercial media covered the Friday demonstrations and often during the following hours too, and it became a weekly routine. The reports were frequently far from the truth, but as it is so often with media exposure, its contribution was regardless of the truth value. One Friday I could not believe the content of the news I heard: "This week, there were no confrontations during the weekly demonstration in Bil'in".
The media coverage of Bil'in and thus its contribution to the struggle was a persistent work of the activists involved. Promoting the struggle involved a yearly international conference (the local Bil'in committee insisted that at each of them there would be a speaker from the AAtW). Individuals and delegations from all over the world came and saw, and told the stories when they returned home.
The "PR" of Bil'in included tours by Bil'in activists and also by Anarchists Against the Wall to many countries of the world.
The joint struggle of the AAtW with the village activists was also "rewarded" by a recognition. The Carl von Ossietzky Medal awarded was awarded by the International League for Human Rights in 2008 to AAtW and the Bil'in Popular Committee.
Present pictureFor years now, Bil'in has no longer been the only place where Israelis participate in weekly activities. These regular activities are not restricted any more to the struggle against the separation fence or the struggles in which AAtW activists participate. Nor are they restricted to those that Israelis participate in. But, one of the main contributions of the Anarchists Against the Wall cannot be overlooked: the change in the rules of engagement with demonstrators in the occupied territories of West Bank. The regulation of shooting to kill leading activists in the demonstrations of Palestinians has been abolished. Even in
demonstrations that Israelis are not involved in it is not implemented any more. Although over the years, several protesters have been shot dead (even in joint demonstrations), the routine of live fire to disperse demonstrators - with intentional killing - has not returned.
SteadfastnessThe separation fence at the edge of the occupied territories has been completed. Tens of thousands of authorized Palestinians (mainly workers) and a similar number of illegals cross the separation fence. Even the various ways the tens of thousands of "illegal" Palestinian workers use to overcome the obstacle of the separation fence has become a routine and the ban on their crossing is not enforced. The number of Palestinian and Israeli activists participating regularly in the common struggle is diminishing. Activists of both types have either stopped completely or else channel their efforts elsewhere. But, there are also quite a few of us who have not let go. Some of the Palestinian activists suffering from restrictions or who have served terms of imprisonment and have suffered from physical violence are not deterred. Some Israeli activists cling to the joint struggle even when the glamour in the media and among the radical left is no longer there to see or hear. There are still new people who join us, and we still get moral support from former activists.
Fish don't know they're in waterThe contribution of the joint struggle in Bil'in against the occupation and dispossession is not in doubt, but how much is it significant? Just less than half the land pillaged from the village of Bil'in was returned, but there is no chance of getting back any more. Even the spread of the struggle is very limited and does not show any signs of significant achievements other than slowing down the process of transfer in "hot" locations.
But, the struggle in Bil'in is part of a firm global struggle. And even if we cannot put our fingers on it and quantify the gains, there are some glimmers of light. The number of links referring to Bil'in in the media have long since passed the million mark. Two documentaries on the struggle in Bil'in have won global coverage and one almost even won an Oscar. Also the disappointment that the popular struggle was not going to abolish the occupation has been replaced by the amazing contribution of the struggle to the worldwide Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (B.D.S.) campaign against the Israeli occupation. Many thousands of international activists who were with us (including anarchists from all over the world) for short time, have moved the battles around the world to the extent that real fear is holding the leaders of the Israel.
ContributionThe story of the potential relationship between the moving wings of the butterfly at the foot of the Himalayas and a cyclone storm halfway around the world, just focuses our understanding that we are part of a global system and the ability of so-called marginal events to shake up the whole system. So the movement of the PGA is no more with us - in the world at large or in Israel. But the "relay race" has not stopped and the torch continues to be passed on. The spirit of Chiapas (on the outskirts of Mexico) is flourishing in Rojava - the centre of a titanic struggle in the region to the east of the Mediterranean. The Anarchists Against the Wall received the torch from the local groups of the PGA of Israel and globally it helped to ignite the many torches of the
international struggle of B.D.S.
In Israel, and even all over the world, when the media want to incite against activists or just defame them, they call them "anarchists", as "communists" are not significant any more.
And the non-hierarchical manner of organizing social struggles has long since ceased to be the odd mode of Quakers and esoteric anarchists and is becoming common to all social struggles.
Final thoughtsThe joint struggle of the Anarchists Against the Wall and the village popular struggle activists, helped to focus the opinion of anarchists all over the world to see in the struggle of indigenous people against settlers and other suppressive regimes not just a "national liberation" and "self-determination" of a capitalist ruling elite which wants the privilege to rule and exploit its own people, but one of the intersectional struggles that anarchists should join in order to contribute to the education of working people and increase the prestige of anarchism.
Anarchici Contro Il Muro
Thu 23 Feb, 04:58
Palestine-Israel, The joint struggle really changed the world* 19:50 Sat 05 Sep 0 comments
The failed arrest of 12 year old child in Nabi Saleh caused a million views storm in the media. This situation and the next Friday of the joint struggle demonstrated again how the involvement of the AATW Israeli Jews prevented in the past and prevent now the extinguishing of the non armed Palestinian struggle with rivers of blood. It was one shooting of Gil Naamati in 2003 in a joint action of the anarchists AATW that caused a real wide media scandal in Israel (which forced the higher commander of the army to visit him at hospital and apologize) that resulted in the change of shooting order about dispersing non armed demonstrations in the occupied lands when Israelis are involved. In addition to our helping to distribute the news, Our main contribution is the supply of "life insurance" to the Palestinians and even to the stone throwers in the demos.... though it is not perfect and along the years about 20 were killed and many more were injured. [Italiano]
Palestine-Israel, The activists participating in the joint struggle get old... but the struggle is s... 14:10 Tue 28 Jul 0 comments
It is hard for many activists when the real meaning of the struggle are not concrete achievable gains, but a global worldwide struggle. This week, the concrete and the global merged when the struggle against the destruction of Susiya village recruited international support and forced Israel to delay or even cancel the demolition of the village. Pressure from the imperial powers on Israel was joined by European warning about approaching sanctions against the Israeli banking system for its involvement in the settlers' projects in the occupied West Bank. It seems the erosion of Israeli immunity from paying for its war crimes is collecting momentum. The Israeli media is full of news about B.D.S. - the joint struggle in which thousands of international activists participate, contributing a lot. The heroic Bil'in, Ni'lin, Nabi Saleh, Qaddum, Ma'sara, and Sheikh Jarrah keep the weekly flame from extinguishing. [Italiano]
Palestine-Israel, the joint struggle which enhance the B.D.S. suffer lately more punishments then ev... 03:57 Tue 02 Jun 0 comments
The non armed joint actions - mainly few Friday demos, do not cause the Israeli armed forces much load. However, the focusing of the media on these, and more so the international activist participating in them who enhance the international struggle when they return home, really worry the Israeli authorities. Their borders screening which succeed to prevent the entry of activists is not much effective. The Israeli ruling elite is not in panic yet, but lately they worry a lot. The president of Israel warn that the development of the B.D.S. must cause a real concern. The threat of the expulsion from the FIFA cause Israel to make concession to prevent the voting and even agreed to a special monitoring comity. The subject of the B.D.S. is more and more in the media and many of the speaker admit their fear from its intensifying. [Italiano]
Palestine-Israel, As the split in the elite, a part of which is already suffering, threatens Prime m... 22:57 Fri 22 May 0 comments
The election which was a response to rebellion in the elite - threatening to restrict his daily newspaper - resulted in a partial defeat. He is dependant now on the support of the center-right party and the orthodox parties,and now he is trying desperately to regain control. The mounting pressure on Israel threatens to take a fast escalation. It is already expressed in the threat to expel Israel from FIFA and of intervention of the Hague Court. The French initiative in the UN security council is approaching. The escalation in transfer actions - both within Israel and the West Bank is an effort to recruit at least the support of orthodox parties and the extreme right. In spite of harsher efforts to repress the Palestinian struggle - both in occupied east Jerusalem and the popular non-armed struggle the struggle continues. The very optimistic activists already feel the approaching victory. [Italiano]
Palestine-Israel, The joint struggle enhance the B.D.S. which intensify the international pressure w... 23:20 Thu 07 May 0 comments
The B.D.S. which intensify the pressure not only worry the Israeli elite - it already caused a split in it. The split expressed in the initiation of law against the Netaniahu daily caused him to dismantle his coalition and call for election. The result was even worse for him. He lost the majority of the hard core right. The 61 (versus 59) coalition was achieved only with Kakhlon center-right that already blocked the main rightist moves and some of the extreme neoliberal tendency. A new power balance in the Israeli elite may result with a near future coalition with the pseudo left party Zionist List or even entirely different coalition without Netaniahu or even without the Licud party. With this back ground, transfer of Palestinians intensify - both citizens of Israel and in the occupy west bank... And the repression and struggle continue in Bil'in, Ni'ilin, Nebi Saleh, Qadoom, Ma'asarah, Sheikh Jarrah, South Hebron Hills and sporadicly in other places. [Italiano]
Palestine-Israel, The joint struggle continues with fresh conviction that it is a fulcrum of the int... 17:56 Sat 18 Apr 0 comments
With the conviction that our main contribution is not so much in changes on the ground but in the spirit of the struggle of the participants and the fulcrum we provide to the international lever. The gradual increase in international pressure which the Israeli high court verdict is that is a criminal act for Israeli to promote causing already much of damages in the economy of occupation and concern of the Zionist-colonialist Israeli ruling Elite. We see here again how small number of activists can initiate a turn in the course of history when it is applied in the ripe cross-road. It started in a small joint camp in Masha 2003 for struggle against the separation fence, after the idea raised half a year earlier in the European People Global Action conference in Leiden - in which activists from the East of the Mediterranean region participated too. The camp initiated struggles in various villages that riped at 2005 in the Bil'in struggle... which expanded and expanded...
Palestine-Israel, The collapse of the deterrent ability of Israel in the last Gaza war is expressed ... 03:37 Wed 08 Apr 0 comments
The frustrated Israeli state force who do not dare to prevent the weekly non armed popular demonstrations - Joined and purely of Palestinians, resort to shooting on demonstrators with frequent use of live fire by snippers. In the annexed regions of Jerusalem they no more pretend it is not an occupied area and apply there the occupation procedures - both in treatment of detaining children and houses demolition. The "hot" areas of the popular non armed struggle gradually expand but still far away from a general uprising. The international popular struggle worry the Israeli elite but the damages to the Israeli economy is still in the margins. It seems the Zionist settler colonialist elite which bribed the tycoons section of the capitalist elite with extreme neo liberal measures cannot do it any more as other sections of the capitalist elite (backers of Cakhlon) rebelled.
Palestine-Israel, the joint struggle in turbulent times of the fragmentation in the Zionist rilling ... 15:22 Sun 22 Mar 0 comments
The merger between the Zionist leadership and the capitalist elite which started 1948 picked in the Tycoons dominance, at 20010. The "too successful" neo-liberalism was challenged by the social struggle, conflicts within the capitalist elite and threatened by international pressure yielded the diminishing power of the old order when the right lost its absolute power in the parliament depending now on the opponent of the milder Zionist right (Kachlon). It is not sure how fast the retreat in the neo-liberal trend and the defeat of the Tycoons combined with the international pressure will yield also retreat in the advance of the Zionist settler and transfer effort. Mean time the joint struggle continue in Bil'in, Ni'ilin, Nebi Saleh, Kadum, Ma'asarah, Southern Hebron Hills, Sheikh Jarrah, the Bedouins of the south, Dahamsh... with additional locations from time to time. [Italiano]
Palestine-Israel, The joined struggle in a decisive year* 23:42 Mon 09 Mar 0 comments
The minimal pressure of the imperial power on Israel to soften its pressures applied to the would be transfered Palestinians of the 1967 occupied areas have its results (more in the west bank than in the Gaza Ghetto). The about 100.000 Palestinians of the occupied territories are employed by Israelis. Most of the roadblocks were removed. The rebellion of the Palestinians in the west bank is channeled mostly through a small minority of activists in the joint and separate week end activities. People are like holding their breath to see if the culminated crisis in the international arena will yield a significant break throw. Mean time, the persistent week end struggles - though in a diminished intensity in Bil'in, Ma'asara, Ni'ilin, Nabi Saleh, Qaddum, South of Hebron Hills, Sheik Jarrah... with sporadic struggles in other locations. [Italiano]
Palestine-Israel, The joint struggle and the activists of the popular committees continue to contrib... 17:00 Mon 29 Dec 0 comments
The approaching victory in the struggle to block the advance of the Zionist settler colonialist project and even to force it to retreat a bit do not make the real good people to like the enrolling of history. The approaching defeat make the Israeli elite take desperate steps and do its atrocities in the open. The efforts to transfer the Bedouins within 1948 borders and villagers in 1967 occupied territories escalate. The diminishing support of Israel by the imperial power due to changes in the dynamics of the region, world public opinions and economic losses it cause gradually change the power balance within the Israeli capitalist elite that may be expressed in the coming elections. On the ground, the joint struggle in Bil'in, Ni'lin, Ma'sara, Nebi Saleh, Sheikh Jarrah, Qaddum, and South Of Hebron Hills, is gradually expanding to other locations even without the "shield" of Israeli activists. [Italiano]more >>
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