We spoke with Iyas Abu Rahmah, a 19-year-old activist, photographer and film student from the village of Bil’in. He began by speaking about his work and activism in Bil’in:



“I am a volunteer with Stop the Wall Campaign and a member of the Campaign in Bil’in. I coordinate with the youth on how to do voluntary work and a lot of other activities. The most important is for the Friday demonstrations, raising the posters and the banners, and the Palestinian flags. The second thing is that we work on the international level, […] [We also carry out] voluntary work in the village. Sometimes there is cleaning the village, with the Campaign. There are also [activities] with the Campaign in Ramallah; for example we participated in the last march, the “end the division” march, and the march in solidarity with the Egyptian people’s revolution.”



Iyas developed an interest in photography, and have become involved in documenting the weekly demonstrations:



“I began taking pictures of things on trips; I liked taking pictures of flowers and nature. After that I started using a small camera that belonged to [our] house. I would go and photograph the march and the army. After that I began volunteering with the Campaign and was guaranteed a professional camera. I started to photograph for the [weekly] report for the popular committee.



“Photography is important because it reveals the crimes of the Occupation; how they arrest [people], how they beat the youth, all of it is documented. If there were no cameras and no journalists in Bil’in, [what happens] wouldn’t be revealed and seen by the world […]”





Documentation is crucial, especially as Occupation forces continue to develop and use new (and old) weapons against demonstrators in the West Bank. Iyas explained some of the weapons that soldiers have used in Bil’in:



“There are gas bombs: they are aluminum but larger and wrapped in rubber. The can reach 1000 meters; Bassem was martyred with one of these.



“Other than the gas, there is the water, and is this is latest thing they have used. They were using (the water cannons) a long time ago, [but] they were using regular water. Then they began to use colored water, which dyed your whole body blue. Then water with gas, which made your whole face and body burn (like pepper). [There is also] the sewage smelling water [this spray induces nausea and vomiting].



“They also use […] a piece of sound equipment to repress demonstration that creates a disorienting noise in your ears.



“They also use the “tutu” type of live bullet. They are small, live bullets that are wrapped in plastic. Last week someone was injured, in his waist and his leg; he is in the hospital.”









In Bil’in, and across the West Bank, youth have played a critical role in the struggle against the Wall. Iyas explained:



“If there were no youth, they marches would end; the youth are the foundation. They participate and have a prominent role in leading the march […] they are the most important. They organize the demonstration. They also lead the demonstration, chant slogans, invite others, and travel outside [Bil’in] if there are other demonstrations, big or small.



“Now, even if no one announces the march, the youth will do it themselves; If the committee or the leadership of the village says ‘this Friday we will not have a demonstration’, it will happen by itself.”





As a consequence of their involvement, Occupation forces target youth. According to Iyas, this is not limited to the Friday demonstrations:



“All of my friends study in areas far [from Bil’in] […] If they find a checkpoint on the road, they are subjected to harassment because their identify card reads Bil’in or they are activists involved in popular work.”



One of most serious attempts to crush youth activism, and the anti-Wall movement as a whole, has been though the systematic raiding and arresting of youth and organizers. Long periods of continuing raids and arrests have been common in Bil’in, Ni’lin, Beit Ummar, Jayyus and other villages, and are currently ongoing in al Nabi Saleh, where recently Occupation forces have arrested youth and protest organizers. Iyas explained how Occupation forces employ this tactic against the youth and organizers of Bil’in:



“In the beginning of the demonstrations, they were raiding the village and trying to put a curfew on the village, damage the homes, and harass the children and terrify them. There were a lot of psychological issues, and a lot of the children were terrorized. It affected the kids psychologically […]



“Raids happen from time to time. Currently, we are facing raid and arrest operations, with army intentionally trying to raid the homes with children between the ages of 14 – 16. They are trying to make them to give confessions, and they are putting pressure on them. [These youth] participate in the demonstrations. The main thing they target is getting them to confess on the other youth.



“[Our house] has been raided 3 or 4 times. The last time they broke the door. When they raided the house it was the phase when they were targeting all the popular work, everywhere, the most important of which was focused on Bi’lin. My uncle Abduallah (Abu Rahmah) had confessions against him, and was targeted by Occupation forces, and they arrested him because he was considered number one in Bil’in in the popular committee and targeted by Occupation forces.



“They came the first time, when they raided the house, and didn’t wait for us to open the door. They broke it down themselves. They broke down the second door downstairs, and also the doors inside. At the same time, a member of the village council of Bil’in, and a member of the popular committee, Mohammed al Khatib. He came to see [what was happening], because my cousin was crying and screaming. He came that day and they started to beat him in front of the children. After that, they gave an order [to appear for questioning] for my uncle and left it for him then withdrew. They wrecked things and confiscated all the posters and flags, and all the material for the Wall actions.



“[During the raids] the army targets all the homes without exception, but there is more of a focus on the homes where youth involved with anti-Wall or popular work live.



“They target (activists) a lot; there is the activist Adeeb Abu Rahmah. The march was peaceful, and from a really short distance, they shot him in the leg with three or four rubber bullets.



“They also target the homes of [other members of the popular committee]. They targeted Abu Nizar, a member of the Campaign and the popular committee. They arrested him at his home; they even brought dogs. It happened last summer, about a year ago.”















Aside from youth and activists, Occupation forces also collectively target the village in an attempt to sow discord and undermine support for the protest. This tactic is also reoccurring, with Occupation forces attacking entire communities during demonstrations or targeting the sources of livelihood:



“They also try to prohibit the workers that work inside the Green Line by not giving them permits. The army for sure knows who participates in the demonstration and who doesn’t. But in general the violence is directed at the village of Bil’in as a whole.



Despite this, Iyas is optimistic about the future of the popular resistance in the village. Even though the Wall is to be moved in Bil’in, he believes that the demonstrations will continue:



“The rate of participation is one hundred percent. If someone doesn’t participate one Friday, they participate the next Friday. Everyone takes the place of the other; for example if you participate this Friday, but you had conditions [that made it so you couldn’t join] last week, I would go in your place. There is rotation, but all of Bil’in participates in the demonstrations, without exception.



There is still energy and activism to remove the Wall from all Palestinian land, from Bil’in.”





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