***image1***This past Friday, the weekly demonstrations in Niâlin and Bilâin were uncharacteristically quiet. Occupation forces in both locations did not prematurely attack the demonstrations, invade villages, or did they fire live ammunition and barrages of tear gas. Instead, in an attempt to create an image of restraint, soldiers invited Israeli journalists to report on protests and refrained from their typical attacks.
In Niâlin, villagers marched to the Wall without coming under fire. Youth were able to cut segments of fencing, and soldiers responded with some tear gas, but did not cross the Wall. For the duration of the day, there were no incursions into the villages and soldiers remained in their positions.
Similar scenes played out in Bilâin, where villagers and international supporters marched to the Wall and found a lack of military presence. Youth were able to enter through the gate and set fire to tires along the Wall before soldiers responded by lobbing several tear gas canisters. Four soldiers, protected by a fence and riot shields, also made themselves targets for young stone throwers in an obvious media show.
It is clear that Occupation forces are, albeit crudely, attempting to whitewash their image following the recent killings in Bilâin and Niâlin and the rapidly escalating violence against popular protests against the Wall. False restraint, however, will do little to change the growing shift in international opinion, which is moving more and more in support of the Palestinian struggle.