Last Fridayâs protests saw a level of violence and repression that has become routine across the areas resisting the Apartheid Wall. In al-Maâsara dozens of protesters marched out towards the wall in protest at the construction of the Wall and the settlements in its shadow. They found the road to be blocked by soldiers, who later struck three of the marchers.
The protests began in an orderly manner, with speeches at al-Masara emphasizing the importance of Palestinian unity. The village of Nilâin began with its usual communal prayer on the villageâs land â an act of symbolic and dignified defiance before the inevitable storm of tear gas, rubber coated bullets and sound bombs. That storm arrived again at Nilâin last Friday, as the chanting crowd â around 200-strong â was gassed, shot at and eventually forced back from Wall.
The most serious sector of violent repression in the last few weeks, however, has been Bilâin. The demonstration at Bilâin began with midday prayers and demands from the protesters to halt the Wall and the settlements, and for more resistance to Occupation plans to annex Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley. They were met at the Wall with a barrage of tear gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving three people injured.
Violent repression has not been limited to the demonstrations themselves. The village of Bilâin has recently suffered repeated invasions and several abductions and arrests. At this weekâs demonstration villagers called on human rights groups to intervene on behalf of those kidnapped by Occupation forces. Last weekâs arrests added further to what was already one of the worst and most systematic set of raids in recent memory. A total of twelve Palestinians have now been kidnapped, among them five children, in the last two weeks.
This wave of oppression comes at a time in which Bilâin and its popular protest movement has gained an increasing amount of exposure and success domestically and internationally. Naomi Klein recently visited, and Bilâin has succeeded in exposing settler-building companies, and is in the process of suing firms in the Canadian courts.
What is being witnessed in Bilâin, and across the resisting villages, is a systematic attempt to control the population and cripple the popular resistance movement â which has shown itself capable of resilient mobilization at home as well as the ability to expand the struggle abroad. It is the duty of the international community to shed light on such systematic repression in communities resisting the Wall, as well as addressing the real injustices of occupation.