Monday, May 22, 2006

Israel-Palestine: Bil'in and the joint struggle against the wall 22 May 2006

The theme of today's demo was Palestinian villages today and the Nakba of 1948. Bil'iners and members of the Anarchists Against the Wall, as well as ISM and international activists, carried signs with the names of villages affected, cut off, or encapsulated by the occupation. Notably we carried a banner showing Dir Yassin in 1948 and Bil'in in 2006 with the title 'disaster' in Arabic, English and Hebrew.
The army and police were already waiting for us as usual. Today (like the last 3 weeks) they were waiting in armoured vehicles, well secure behind the barbed wire barricade they set up since the protesters destroyed the yellow checkpoint gate at the fence route.

We started off by singing and shouting slogans at the soldiers on the fence. Then a rock was thrown at the soldiers by some of the village youths and the Israeli army threw stun and smoke grenades at the protesters, then they entered the village territory and started shooting rubber-coated bullets at the stone throwers.

This effectively split the demo in half, some wanted to follow the soldiers and make sure they stop shooting and others wanted to breach the apartheid fence. Eventually we decided to go ahead with our original plan and lay a carpet over the barbed wire and crossed over to the occupied side. We were immediately stopped with stun and smoke grenades and rubber bullets. 6 were wounded, one severely, he was shot in the forehead with a rubber-coated bullet. 15 were arrested, one of the arrestees was a 14-year-old boy. Of these, all but 2 were later released.

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Dear Friends,

Yesterday's demonstration in Bil'in exposes once again the brutality of the Israeli army and police against nonviolent demonstrators. During the past weeks we're witnessing an escalation of violence from the armed forces, as if this is a result of higher ranks' orders - to suppress any attempt of resistance during the last building stages of the annexation fence.

During a long day of injuries and arrests:

15 were detained (7 Palestinians, 5 Israelis and 3 Internationals), including a 14 year-old child. Out of these two were eventually arrested (Wajie and Kobi) while all others were released.

Wajie was detained for 8 hours and released eventually without charge at the fence area. A complaint regarding detention and treatment will be issued. Kobi is charged with assaulting a policeman and is held at the Giv'at Ze'ev station. The police refused to view the evidence which was handed to them and release him during yesterday, even though the video evidence clearly refutes the charges against him. Kobi's court hearing will be held tonight at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem/Al-Quds.

19 protestors have been injured during the demonstration by rubber-coated bullets, shock grenades, beatings and inhalation of teargas.

At least 5 of them have been hospitalized at the Ramallah hospital.

Hitham Khateeb was hit by a rubber coated bullet between the eyes. As result of the serious injury his doctors were concerned with a fracture to the skull, which was later diagnosed as a fracture to the nose-bridge. Hitham's condition is improving as of Saturday.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Israeli & Palestinian Media: Activists Protest Apartheid Wall 14 May 2006

JERUALEM, May 13, 2006 (WAFA)
200 Israeli peace activists approached the a-Ram checkpoint, along with Palestinians demonstrators, protested Saturday against the Apartheid wall being built the West Bank village of ar-Ram, north of Jerusalem. Gush shalom Israeli Peace Group said the demonstration was even stormier than usual -- contrary to the intentions of the demonstrators themselves.

The march was organised under the title: "No to Walls and Checkpoints, Yes to Negotiation and No to Unilateral Convergence." "It was carefully prepared as a non-violent protest," said the Group. "The pupils of the elementary schools in their school uniforms led the demonstration, with the smallest in front. But to no avail: the army and police had decided in advance to suppress the demonstration by force."

When the 200 Israeli peace activists approached the ar-Ram checkpoint, it was already clear that they would not be allowed to pass, it added.

Apart from the Gush Shalom activists, the action is also joined by Ta'ayush, Bat Shalom, the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, the Committee Against House Demolitions, Machsom Watch, Anarchists Against the Wall and the Alternative Information Center.

Therefore they went around the checkpoint and broke through the Apartheid Wall. Most of the demonstrators succeeded in passing quickly through the breach, but some of them remained on the Israeli side of the Wall and demonstrated there.

On the main road of ar-Ram, which is already divided by the Wall, the Israelis joined the Palestinian demonstration which was already on its way.

Right behind the massed schoolchildren, the leaders of all Palestinian parties -- From Fatah to Hamas -- had formed a line. Uri Avnery was invited to join and walked between the Hamas legislator, Muhammad Abu-Tir, and the legislator, Mustafa Barghouti, read a press by Guh shalom, next to them was the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs of the new Palestinian government, Abu Arafah.

Further on along the road, in the middle of ar-Ram, the Israeli police and army had concentrated a large force. "Rows of policemen blocked the road, with mounted policemen in front and a large number of army Hummer vehicles behind," it added.

Seeing this, the organisers diverted the schoolchildren into a side street, and the thousand demonstrators, men and women, young and old, marched on towards the improvised tribune that had been prepared in advance, still with the line of party and organization leaders in front.

When they were still about 50 meters from the police line, they were suddenly bombarded, without any provocation, with a salvo of tear gas canisters. The road was covered with clouds of gas. The demonstrators found shelter in adjoining buildings, and thus Abu-Tir and Avnery found themselves together in the guest room of one of the houses.

Some minutes later, when the gas had dispersed, the demonstration went on, but it was attacked again and again by the soldiers, Hummers and police riders. Ten activists were arrested. (Much later, the three Israeli detainees were released, but seven Palestinians remained in custody.)

The Group further said the attack lasted for two hours, until senior police officers arrived on the scene and contact was broken off.

The day before, policemen in Bil'in had shot two international activists and a foreign photographer in the head with rubber coated steel bullets. All three were hospitalised.

It is also important to note that in this demonstration a complete national unity of all Palestinian factions was achieved.

Gush shalom added that it was decided with the Mayor of ar-Ram, Sirhan Sleimi, that this event would be the start of a campaign to protest against the monstrous wall that chokes ar-Ram, cuts it off from Jerusalem and separates the pupils from their schools (three have already closed) and the workers from their places of employment.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Plestin-Israel, Bil'in, the traditional Friday joint demonstration against the separation fence and occupation. 13 May 2006

This Friday demonstration was in reference to the coming Sunday hearing of the case of the separation fence cutting the majority of the lands of the village Bil'in (not robbed yet by previous acts of Israel) at the Israeli highest court of "justice". For this demonstration arrived about 40 Israeli activists recruited by the Anarchists Against The Wall initiative' 20 international activist, people from neighboring villages and Ramalla, and 20 media workers - Israelis, Palestinians, and from other parts of the world. Together with about hundred of people of Bili'in we started at noon the march on the road to the route of the separation fence. The march was ended like in the last previous demos at the entrance to the route of the fence and the way to the olive orchards on the other side of the fence. The rode was blocked as in the last few Fridays by two tangle of barbed wire and two armored car on which stood soldiers of the border guards' with additional soldiers near by as a reserve.

About 15 minutes of chanting verbal confrontation with the soldiers and some efforts to reach them in spite of the barbed wire - with batons responses. This came to abrupt end when unruly youngster or few, threw few stones on the armed cars from the near hill... to which the soldiers responded with shower of shock grenades - mostly on the nonviolent demonstrators standing near them. As next step, the soldiers opened the block to the fence route and advanced by foot about 30 meters assaulting the near by demonstrators and the farther stone throwers. This assault resulted in injuring demonstrators of which three were rushed to hospitals.

The confrontation with "low intensity" of soldiers batons work and mutual pushing between the nonviolent demonstrators and the soldiers.... who continued in parallel the usual stones versus grenades and rubber coated bullet between the village youngsters dispersed in the near by olive orchard.

During the additional 45 minutes the demonstration continued ti it was declared finished by the local comity, the big palestinian flag carried in the demo was fastened to the metal fence bordering the route of the sophisticated separation fence - not far from the entrance to the route. Few times small contingent of soldiers were sent to confiscate it but met resistance of the demonstrators. after a protracted mutual pushing, the flag was moved by the demonstrators but the soldiers were forced to retreat to the opening of the route.

The same thing happened to another small contingent of soldiers who entered the area the demonstrators stood in, and forced to retreat by the demonstrators screams and pushing.

After the intensive confrontation of an hour, the demonstrators gradually returned to the village leaving the area for the confrontation between the stone throwers and the soldiers.

As usual most Fridays the afternoon radio news programs reported on the clashes in Bil'in demo. So was reported in the internet web pages of dailies and the main evening news program of the public TV channel.

From the web page of the Haaretz daily:
"Border Police fire on anti-fence protesters in Bil'in, wounding 3 By Michal Greenberg, Haaretz Correspondents

Three demonstrators were wounded on Friday afternoon in clashes with security officers during a protest against the separation fence in the West Bank village of Bil'in.

Border Police officers fired rubber bullets on the demonstrators, wounding a French photographer and two other members of the International Solidarity Movement.

The three international activists were evacuated, the photographer to a nearby Ramallah hospital and the other two to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.

According to reports by other demonstrators, one of the activists was hit in the head from a dangerously close range of about 15 meters.

Israeli, international and Palestinian activists protest every Friday against the route of the separation fence being constructed next to the village. Some 150 demonstrators came out for Friday's protest."

Later, the counting of injuries risen:
Abut 14 were injured among them head traumas were inflicted to two internationals, one media worker (France photographer), one Palestinian youth, and a women who live in the lone house located about 50 meters from the entrance to the route of the fence.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Palestine-Israel, Media: Bil'in story of the Jerusalem Post - the Israeli English daily* 07 May 2006

The violence typically begins as hundreds of protesters advance on lines of badly outmanned troops trying to block the way to the village's land, which lies on the other side of the fence. The pushing, shoving and shouting, along with the troops' inability to keep the protesters back, is what sets off the use of tear gas, concussion grenades, batons, rubber bullets and, in at least one lethal incident, live fire. 'The army thought there were no Israelis present, then they saw that there were. I heard the commander shout to his soldiers, "Go back to regular open-fire orders, there are Israelis here."' - anti-fence activist Jonathan Pollak From the city of Modi'in, just on the "Israel proper" side of the Green Line, the drive to Bil'in takes you past the large haredi settlement of Modi'in Illit, past the IDF checkpoint and along twisting roads that pass through a couple of other Palestinian villages before reaching this village of about 1,500 people. The Friday demonstration leaves at about 1 p.m. from the local mosque after prayers.

There are dozens of media people here from all over, including CNN and NBC, along with about 100 Palestinians and some 100 Israelis, foreigners and media. As usual, a group of youngish, exuberant Arab men are leading the chants on the march from the mosque down the road through the valley to the fence, and a smiling Asian man dressed in Buddhist robes, a regular, is beating a drum.

At the end of the road stand about 25 border policemen in riot gear, backed by another 25 or so soldiers standing in front of the gate to the fence. Beyond the fence lie the olive groves that may or may not develop into the Matityahu East neighborhood that Modi'in Illit plans to build - the reason for the demonstration - and beyond them, about 2 kilometers away, is the Israeli settlement itself.

Theoretically, the aim of the protesters is to advance through the gate to the olive groves, but with all the big media present, the demonstration turns into confrontation for confrontation's sake - a constantly repeating surge by groups of Palestinians and, to a much less frequent and forceful degree, their supporters, to get right into the young troops' faces, to rage and holler at them to "get off our land!" - to provoke a reaction. They push forward and the troops push them back.

"Where is it you want to go?" an exasperated soldier asks a few of the charging protesters, who ignore the question.

The media presence gives the demonstrators the advantage, restraining the soldiers' response. There are no batons, no fists, no loss of control. The staged quality of the protest becomes a little ridiculous at times. A Palestinian who has sat down on the ground, defying orders to disperse, is carried off holding out an olive branch to the soldiers straining under his weight, as the cameras close in. A young American woman calls out to journalists to come see how a Palestinian man of about 50 has lost consciousness after being "beaten by soldiers," as she puts it. On approach it turns out he has a medical condition; his friends are taking pills out of his pocket so he can swallow them.

"No, I was mistaken, he had some kind of attack," the American girl calls out.

With the soldiers making way for the stricken man and even offering to treat him in the army ambulance stationed at the site, the Palestinian men carry him through the gate and toward the ambulance, then turn around and carry him back.

"We'll take care of him ourselves," one of the men says defiantly. May. 4, 2006 8:46 | Updated May. 7, 2006 7:47

In the heat of the confrontation, with dozens of bodies pressed up against each other, the protesters take wooden mallets they've brought along and enthusiastically destroy the styrofoam model they've built of red-roofed settler houses. The border police commander declares the area a closed military zone and the demonstration illegal.

"I wanted to let you demonstrate, to express your opinions, that was fine with me," he says through a bullhorn. "I thought you were adults, but you're not, you don't even respect yourselves," he adds.

Standing next to a line of young border policemen who don't appear too sure of themselves, the Buddhist, Gyosei Horikoshi, 50, a Japanese man who's been in Israel since the 1991 Gulf War, beats his drum. The ground near him is smoking with spent concussion grenades fired in a futile try to disperse the protesters.

"This is a Buddhist prayer for peace," he explains. But it doesn't seem to be having a calming effect on anyone.

BEYOND THE theatrics, there is a very weighty matter at hand in Bil'in.

"That is my grandfather's grandfather's grandfather's land, those olive trees, and they won't let me go there," says Othman Mansour, at 48 the village elder on the scene.

By Israeli regulation, the farmers are supposed to be allowed to pass through the gate and tend their groves. "But that's all on paper; in reality the army doesn't let us through," says another protester.

During the close-in confrontations, one of the Palestinians demands of a soldier: "Why are you doing this? It's not for your country, it's for some contractors who are getting rich."

Under orders, the soldiers don't say a word.

Akram Hatib, 33, sitting on a low ridge of rocks, argues that Israelis "don't even know where the fence is" - they think it's being built according to security considerations alone, yet it just happens to transfer vast Palestinian agricultural lands to the western, Israeli side. "The fence is being built just so the millionaires can put more money in their pocket," insists Hatib.

The demonstration passes with relatively little violence; even Jonathan Pollak, a leader of Anarchists Against The Wall, which usually dominates the Israeli presence at the protests, says the troops have behaved "about as well as they can."

The one serious injury is to a Palestinian protester whose hand is badly bloodied by a concussion grenade - evidently fired in a flat trajectory at fairly close range, although army regulations call for them to be fired in a long-range arc. Soldiers also fire rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinian boys aiming slingshots at them from about 100 meters away - a distance, by the way, from which it is extremely hard to hit a human target, and virtually impossible if the target takes minimum safety precautions.

By the end of the afternoon, five Israelis, including Pollak, and six Palestinian protesters are arrested.

"They brought the Israelis to the police station at Givat Ze'ev and released us after we signed an agreement that we wouldn't go back to Bil'in for two weeks," says Pollak. "The Palestinians arrested were released without being taken in."

But once the confrontations subside, some of the Palestinians in Bil'in show their "war wounds" from previous protests. Hatib pulls down his shirt to show welts on his neck and shoulders. "I got these from a young woman soldier when she was beating me over the head," he says.

Mustafa Hatib, a cousin, says he once took a "baton to the balls" that laid him up for awhile. He adds that troops frequently come into the village and "go into people's houses and beat them up, out of habit."

PROTESTS LIKE the one at Bil'in on March 24 have been largely ignored here, even as the anti-fence campaign has gained considerable attention abroad. The protests, which have been going on for three and a half years, are seen as part of the intifada, part of the "terror war" - a baseless attack by Palestinians, pro-Palestinian Israelis and foreigners on the barrier that has proven its worth by deterring suicide bombers. The claim by Palestinians that the fence cuts them off from much of their farmland is seen as a negligible issue; after all, of what importance are Palestinian olive groves compared to the lives of innocent Israelis?

Invisible to most Israelis are the injuries that protesters suffer during the demonstrations - injuries like those to Matan Cohen's left eye, for example, which is discolored and cannot focus. Sitting in a Tel Aviv cafe, Cohen, 17, says he was hit by a rubber bullet fired from 25 meters away by a border policeman during the February 24 protest at Beit Sira. The border policeman was in no danger whatsoever, he adds.

A military source with long-standing, first-hand experience of the anti-fence protests insists that Cohen is doing what his colleagues have been doing throughout the campaign: defaming Israel with lies.

"[Cohen] told me he had been standing near a soldier who fired a rubber bullet that hit him in the eye, but our investigation showed there were no soldiers at all in that area who had fired rubber bullets," says the military source. "It's all lies. He was really hit by a rock coming from a slingshot fired by the Palestinians. We have soldiers who say they saw one of the Palestinian boys fire a rock that hit [Cohen] in the eye."

To this, however, Cohen replies: "No investigator from the police or the IDF ever talked to me. I have eight witnesses, including two Israeli cameramen, who saw the border policeman shoot me, and they've never been interviewed either in this so-called investigation."

There is a huge gap between what the average Israeli thinks of these protests, together with the way Israeli security officials portray them, and the reality from "the other side."

Pollak says 10 Palestinians have been killed in the anti-fence demonstrations, citing reports by Israeli media, B'tselem, Palestinian villagers he's in regular contact with and his own experience.

"I was at the demonstration in Biddu on February 26, 2004, when three Palestinians were shot to death. An elderly man there died later in the hospital from the effects of tear gas fired into his home. I was standing 10 meters from a man when he got shot in the forehead and killed. I saw limp bodies with blood all over them being carried away," says Pollak.

He says he himself has been mildly injured about 30 times, mainly by rubber bullets, but that a year ago during a demonstration in Bil'in, which has become the focus of the Friday afternoon demonstrations, he was hit in the right temple by a tear gas canister fired at him by a soldier from 20 meters away.

"I had two brain hemorrhages, I was in Tel Hashomer for three or four days, I can't remember exactly how many, and I couldn't stand up for two weeks," says Pollak, 23. Besides Matan Cohen, two other Israelis, Gil Namati and Itai Levinsky, have been shot, with Levinsky ending up losing an eye.

Besides the 10 Palestinians killed, Pollak estimates that "hundreds" of them have been severely wounded at the protests, not counting the many more who've been mildly injured.

In the face of these accusations, the military source replies: "They could just as easily say 20 dead, or 200. I don't know of one person who has been killed in these demonstrations, and if there had been, I would have known about it. We would have felt the consequences on the ground. I don't even know of any demonstrator suffering an injury that required hospitalization - except Matan Cohen, and that was because of a slingshot, not because of us. These people lie, they make this all up to besmirch the army."

The interview with the military source was arranged by the IDF Spokesman's Office. The source defended the army and made counter-accusations against the protesters with vehemence, as if he fully believed what he was saying. Yet his account - including his remarks that Cohen's eye injury at Beit Sira had been "investigated," and that no anti-fence demonstrator had ever been killed or even seriously wounded by Israeli troops - is simply untenable.

Footage filmed by members of Anarchists Against the Wall at several past demonstrations shows a soldier opening fire with an Uzi submachine gun on advancing demonstrators, with one of the protesters getting hit and having to be carried off. From short range, troops fire tear gas canisters that explode amid tightly-packed protesters, causing panic. From long range, tear gas canisters are fired at a group of wheelchair-bound protesters. Face-to-face, soldiers and border policemen beat milling protesters with batons.

In all these demonstrations, the protesters are unarmed, except for some young Palestinian boys firing slingshots at a great distance. The violence typically begins as hundreds of protesters advance on lines of badly outmanned troops trying to block the way to the village's land, which lies on the other side of the fence. The pushing, shoving and shouting, along with the troops' inability to keep the protesters back, is what sets off the use of tear gas, concussion grenades, batons, rubber bullets and, in at least one lethal incident, live fire.

Asked what serious injuries Israeli troops had suffered during the years of anti-fence protests, the military source replies that one soldier suffered "irreversible damage to his eye" from a stone fired by slingshot. Another soldier suffered two broken fingers when a Palestinian demonstrator he was carrying off bit him. Many other soldiers have been hit by rocks, he says, but the wounded eye of one and the two broken fingers of another were the only serious injuries to troops that he can recall.

The thorough imbalance of power between Israeli troops and protesters resembles not the "terror war," but the first intifada, the "war of stones," except that the protests are much, much less violent. And if the anti-fence protests are also a "propaganda war," then Israel - through its military's implausible accounts of the clashes - is definitely holding up its end.

EVEN FOR Palestinians, this issue has cooled off, at least temporarily. As the "terror war" has subsided, so has the battle over the fence, whose ranks are and always have been filled mainly by Palestinians, with Israelis and "internationals" playing a small supporting role - mainly to keep the issue in the Israeli and world media.

But in principle, the conflict over the fence is still very much alive and entirely unsettled. Villages across the West Bank - Azun, Nebi Elias, Ras a-Tira, Abud, Bitunia, Mas'ha, Kharbata, Jayyus, Beit Likiya, Biddu, Beit Sira, Bil'in and many others - are pressing their cases against the State of Israel in the Supreme Court, fighting to keep many tens of thousands of dunams of their farmland from being placed on the opposite side of the security barrier from them, where much of it stands to fall into the hands of Jewish settlements.

An outsider might look at these demonstrators and wonder why they go through it, what they have gained. After all, the only real victories won by the Palestinian villages to move the fence away from their land happened in the Supreme Court, not at the protest sites. And while the route of the fence has been curtailed, it remains a very hard, and likely permanent, fact on the ground.

Nonetheless, leaders of the movement believe the effort has been a success, even at such a high blood price. After about a year of scattered protests by individual villages, beginning with Jayyus, near Kalkilya, in September 2002, Israelis and foreigners joined in, and the campaign jelled, turning the fence into an international controversy.

"A new movement of joint Israeli-Palestinian resistance that didn't exist before came to life," says Pollak. He also thinks the protests and early media attention affected the thinking of the Supreme Court judges, noting that the court's landmark decision ordering the curtailment of the fence route came only in June 2004 - after the protests gathered steam.

One of the Palestinian leaders of the movement, Ayed Morrar, 44, of Budrus, near Bil'in, agrees that the protests influenced the Supreme Court, adding that this has convinced many Palestinians in the West Bank that non-violent protest can be effective. Calling the Palestinian boys' long-range slingshot attempts "a game" that poses no threat to the soldiers, Morrar says the unarmed protests were chosen both for moral and pragmatic reasons.

"First, we don't want anyone to be killed on our side or any side, and second, we need all the people around the world to support us, and they won't support us if we use violence," says Morrar, who has been jailed repeatedly by Israeli authorities.

Pollak maintains that Israeli troops clearly have one set of use-of-force and open-fire regulations for Israelis and foreign demonstrators, and another, much more permissive set of regulations that they use on Palestinians.

"At one demonstration in Bil'in last year, I think it was in May," Pollak says, "the army thought there were no Israelis present, then they saw that there were. I heard the commander shout to his soldiers, 'Go back to regular open-fire orders, there are Israelis here.'"

IN REPLY, the military source acknowledges that there are, in effect, different open-fire regulations against some Palestinians than there are against Israelis and foreigners, but this is because it is only Palestinians who use rocks. Israelis and foreign supporters limit themselves "to provocations, to fanning the flames of Palestinian violence," he notes.

The source lays 100 percent of the blame for the violence on the protesters: "I'm happy to say that I have never witnessed an incident in any of these protests when the violence was started by Israeli troops."

The demonstrations, he says, aim to provoke violence for the purpose of making Israel look like the bully in the media. "These are illegal demonstrations, they are held in closed military zones. Even so, our interest is that they remain peaceful, which is the opposite interest of the protesters. They always go out to confront the soldiers, to hurt them and to damage the fence, and when that happens, we stop it by force," the military source maintains, repeating his claim that all the deaths and serious injuries to Palestinian demonstrators are "made up."

Yet the footage from past anti-fence demonstrations taken by Anarchists Against the Wall tells an entirely different story. The soldier firing the Uzi that severely wounds one of the demonstrators is standing far from the action, in no danger. The crowd is unarmed.

The concussion grenades exploding among the demonstrators are not being fired in an arc, but in a flat trajectory, which makes them quite dangerous.

A slightly-built Palestinian man, seen with a few foreign supporters arguing with soldiers who will not let them pass, is soon seen again on his knees, holding his head, his face bleeding. The outraged foreigners demand to know why he was beaten. "He was resisting arrest," replies one of the soldiers.

A gathering of Palestinians in wheelchairs set out on the road that leads from Bil'in to the fence when troops fire tear gas canisters in their direction.

"This is a demonstration of handicapped people in wheelchairs!" shouts a protester through his bullhorn at the troops. "Are you crazy?"

As for the reported 10 Palestinian deaths and far more numerous severe injuries at the hands of Israeli troops, it's unclear what evidence could conceivably convince the military source that all of them weren't, as he says, "made up." The names of the dead are:
Taher Ahmed Nimr Assi, 15; Jamal Jabber Ibrahim Assi, 15; Uday Mufid Mahmoud Assi, 14; Ala Muhammad a-Rahman Khalil, 14; Islam Hashem Rizk Zaharan, 14; Diah a-din Abd el-Karim Ibrahim Abu Eid, 23; Hussein Mahmoud Awad Alian, 17; Mahmoud Daoud Salah Beduan, 21; Zakaria Fadl Hashem Rian, 25; Abd el-Rahman Abu Eid, 62. (The first nine names were documented by B'tselem; the 10th by Pollak.)

REGARDING MATAN COHEN'S eye injury, a leading Israeli pathologist hired by the boy's family says the initial results of his examination of the eye "point to a very high probability that the injury was the result of a rubber bullet."

On that day in Beit Sira, Cohen recalls, the protesters and the IDF had an agreement that the demonstration would go off without physical confrontation.

"Then at one point a border police jeep drove up in the middle of the crowd, and the troops got out and started firing in the air, shooting tear gas and concussion grenades, beating people with rifle butts and batons, and firing rubber bullets," he says.

"Some Palestinian boys starting firing slingshots at the troops from, I'd say, about 80 meters away. I saw and heard the IDF commander go up to the border police commander and tell him to order his men to stop shooting, but the border police commander told him, 'I want to hit each of these people with a rubber bullet so they'll know that there will be no demonstrations here.'

"There were four of us Israelis standing about 25 meters from the border policemen," Cohen continues. "We were telling them, 'Don't shoot, nobody is threatening you.' We were trying to calm them down. Then one of them raised his rifle and shot me."

Cohen was taken by ambulance to Tel Hashomer Hospital, where he spent two weeks undergoing two operations on his left eye. He hopes that in about six months the eye will have recovered to the point where surgeons can perform a lens transplant that could diminish the eye's impairment. The Hebrew media gave Cohen's story a lot of play.

"The only reason is because my hair is light," he says. "Palestinians get injured like I did all the time - and they get killed. But what happens to Palestinians doesn't interest Israelis, so it's as if it never happened at all."

Bil'in's beef At stake in the weekly protests at Bil'in are approximately 1,000 dunams of village olive groves that now lie on the far side of the security barrier, and on which the large haredi settlement of Modi'in Illit plans to build a 3,000-unit housing project.

The question posed by the protests isn't why Israel must build a security fence, but why the fence must run along a route that slices off so much land that has been farmed for so long by Palestinian villages. The question is all the more pressing now that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is vowing that this route is the base line for the country's permanent border.

The police National Fraud Squad is reportedly investigating how Modi'in Illit acquired the land on which Matityahu East was being constructed. The State Attorney's Office told the Supreme Court that the roughly 1,000 dunams in dispute is "state land" that includes land purchased by Israeli buyers from Bil'in villagers.

However, the villagers say that at most, eight dunams were actually sold, according to attorney Michael Sfard, who is representing Bil'in. Targets of the fraud investigation reportedly include Modi'in Illit municipal officials, settler organizations, construction companies and real estate dealers.

* A story about a demonstration of about two months ago - one of about 70 consecutive Friday demos of the joint struggle against the fence and occupation organized in Bil'in for the last 15 months, by the village comity for nonviolent struggle and the Israeli Anarchists Against The Wall initiative

Friday, May 5, 2006

Palestine-Israel, Bil'in, Friday 5-5-06, the joint struggle continue with partial nonviolence

In the late morning hours thirty Israelis arrived tin the Anarchists Against The Wall convoy. Ten international activists arrived too. and also some media teams. At the meeting place the comers met each other and activists of the village local comity for the struggle against the separation fence and robbing of most of the lands of the Bil'in villagers. Also was there the structure of this Friday demo theme. The main structure was a circular fence of barbed wire which symbolize the concentration camps the closures and encirclements of small regions of the Palestinian areas are subject to. The two hours preceding the demo were used as usual for socializing, for coordination of the various aspects of the joint struggle, for "education" of people this was their first participation in a demo in bil'in, and for debriefing reporters of various media channels - Israeli, Palestinian, and international, who came to cover our demo.

At noon, we started as usual the march from the village center on the road leading to the route of the separation fence. At the head of the march was carried the barbed wire structure and within it marched a young person with clothes of the color of the Palestinian flag, holding such a flag in his hands - symbolizing the palestinian nation jailed in the plethora of villages and regions encircle each by its own closer, road blocks getos.

After the usual march and chanting we arrived to the entrance to the route of the fence, where we found the Israeli state forces blocking the pass to the other side of the route or to route itself. Like in the two previous Friday demos, in order to restrict the physical confrontation between the state forces and the demonstrators, the blocking was done with barbered wire and two armored cars on which stood soldiers and border police.

As usual, the confrontation started with low intensity, but soon, the verbal mode expanded to egg and water throwing on the state force, who responded soon with shock grenades. This was taken as a sign by the stone throwing youth. Not like in the two previous Friday, both the intensity of stone throwing and the state force responses were a bit milder. There were wave in which stone were thrown more frequently. There were waves of shock grenades mainly and some shooting, but some demonstrators persisted and stayed near the route all the time.

At some point few officers and soldiers entered the demonstrators area near the fence route, may be to neutralize stone throwers. However, the nonviolent demonstrators encircled them and with verbal and physical pressure forced to retreat. As alternative measure - instead of intensive shooting and other radical means which are causing bad PR to the state forces when shown in the TV (like in last Friday main news program) - the armored cars which previously blocked the entrance of the fence were advanced few meters, to be used as a shield between the stone throwers and the state forces standing at the entrance to the rout.

This step decreased the amount and effects of the stone throwing that nearly stopped. It also enabled the village comity to declare the end of the demo and secure passage to the village for the demonstrators.