Jennifer Urgilez, MIFTAH, Jul 16, 2009
Five to 30 soldiers, depending on the size of the military vehicle, jump off and immediately transition into combat-mode, laying close to the ground, managing to maneuver across the land on their elbows, while signaling the army car to recede back into isolation within two to three minutes of ensuring no opposition in sight.
From here, the soldiers clandestinely begin their operation towards the village in silence, veiled by the obscurity of night. They slowly proceed without flashlights, some wearing military camouflage paint while others, black masks. The soldiers circumvent the most direct route into the heart of Bil'in, executing their mission through neglected back roads and fields, keeping a careful eye on the lookout for Palestinians, ready to drop and hide.
Often, the activists stand on their rooftops, attempting to catch the soldiers in the act and forewarning each other of the troops' coming. Upon receiving word, Abdullah Abu Rahmah and other activists immediately get in their cars and pursue the predators only to find no evidence of their nearing. Raids usually comprised of approximately 100 soldiers divided into groups of 20-30 men, each encircling the home of an accused stone-thrower at varying hours of the night, are ideal for operations in highly volatile regions, but not to detain a 16-year-old child taking part in a peaceful resistance movement.
Witnessing the injustices endured by the villagers of Bil'in as detonated tear gas bombs adorn the eastern side of the wall relates the oppression of occupation under which Palestinians are subjected. Even while its backdrop tells its tale, it was not until my interview of Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a local Bil'in villager and organizing member of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall, that this story of their subjugation to Israeli raids and arrests became known.
Cognizant of Israel's tightening grip over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, largely as a response to the Aqsa Intifada, the villagers of Bil'in have shunned away from armed struggle, and instead, banded in uniform as a peaceful, nonviolent resistance to the Separation Wall. Setting the ground for the annexation of 49% of Bil'in territory into Israel, the Separation Wall, far from the 1949 Armistice Line, snakes well into the West Bank isolating 1,968 of Bil'in's 4,040 dunums, or 486 of its 998 acres of land. The inception of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall in January of 2005 afforded activists ripe ground for the genesis of peaceful, Friday demonstrations reminiscent of Women in Black's non-violent vigils in Israel demanding the "end of the occupation." Emblematic of the overall catastrophe befallen Palestinians, activists from all walks of life - Palestinian, Israeli, and international - unite in the struggle against economic strangulation, occupation, and apartheid.
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