Bil’in solidarity march with the Freedom Flotilla
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Bil’in solidarity march with the Freedom Flotilla

On June 4th, 2010, Israeli Occupation forces raided a solidarity march featuring a model ship of the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in Bil’in, a village in the west of Ramallah district. The Israeli forces wounded seven activists and arrested another three. Among the wounded were three journalists. Many others suffered from asphyxiation as a result of the tear gas the Occupation Forces used to disperse the crowd expressing their solidarity with the unarmed human rights activists of Turkey’s humanitarian relief fleets who were recently killed by Israeli forces in international waters outside of Gaza.

Dr. Ratib Abu Rahma, the media coordinator of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Committee in the village, described how a moment of silence was held before the solidarity march began to pay homage to those who died onboard the Freedom Flotilla. In his speech at the protest, Abu Rahma honoured the martyrs of the Freedom Flotilla and thanked all who participated in and funded the humanitarian effort, paying special thanks to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, Kuwait, Ireland, Sweden, Algeria and Greece. Abu Rahma also called for the participation of an Arab and international popular effort to create a second and greater Freedom Flotilla.

The villagers marched through the streets of Bil’in with a nine-meter model ship to demonstrate their solidarity with the efforts of the Freedom Flotilla to end the unjust Israeli siege on Gaza. In keeping with Bil’in’s weekly protests against the Apartheid Wall, the march moved towards the Wall, west of the village.

However, this week’s protest featured the raising of Palestinian flags as well as flags of 32 countries that participated in the Freedom Flotilla. The villagers’ chants reverberated throughout the village as they demanded the lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip in addition to the demonstrator’s regular chants calling for the end of Israeli Occupation and its associated regime of the Apartheid Wall and settlement growth.

When the march entered the confiscated land behind the Wall, Occupation forces fired stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas at the demo, raided the march’s model ship of the Freedom Flotilla, and chased the villages through the olive groves until they forced them back to the village. Many protestors suffered from suffocation and many were significantly wounded, including Fadi Jayyousi, a 30-year-old a cameraman of Palestine TV who was rushed to the hospital after occupation forces broke his camera and injured his entire body. Also injured was 42-year old Norwegian journalist Karina Lapua, 34- year-old Bilin Anti-Apartheid Wall Committee cameraman Haitham Al-Khatib, and 32-year-old al-Arabia TV photographer George Khoury. In addition, 22-year-old Jaber Abu-Rahma, 50-year-old Jadallah al-Khatib, and 20-year-old Suleiman Khatab sustained injuries from tear gas canisters that occupation forces shot directly at them. They also arrested three activists who were onboard the model ship: 30-year-old Huwaida Arraf, 29-year-old Ashraf Abu-Rahma, and an international activist. Moreover, significant portions of the village’s agricultural land were burned as a result of the excessive use of tear gas during the event.

In spite of occupation forces’ excessive violent suppression of popular resistance, the Bilin Anti-Apartheid Wall Committee organization of weekly protests against the oppressive machine of Israeli Occupation will continue in the village and the rest of the Palestinian villages. Weekly protests resisting the Apartheid Wall have been integrated into the regular routines of many Palestinian communities and will continue to grow into a greater movement in the struggle for the freedom of Palestinians from the tyranny of Israeli Occupation. As reflected in their demonstration of solidarity with the Freedom Flotilla, the weekly protests are not only part of a Palestinian movement, but are rather a facet of an expanding international network of activism for Palestinian rights.