The Institute for Middle East Understanding

An account of life in the West Bank
Lamia Khatib, The Huffington Post, Aug 13, 2009

This article was originally published by The Huffington Post and is republished with the author's permission.

Palestinians, internationals, and Israelis attend a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil'in near Ramallah. Human rights workers from around the world and Palestine have been protesting the construction of the separation wall in Bil'in for over four years. (Jared Malsin, Maan Images)

On August 3, my husband Mohammed Khatib, and my little brother Abdullah, were taken from their beds in our West Bank village of Bil'in at 3 AM by the Israeli military. My husband is a member of the Bil'in Popular Committee, which has been leading our village's nonviolent campaign against Israel's construction of a Wall and a settlement on our land. For nearly five years, every Friday we have been joined by supporters from Israel and around the world as we attempt to march to our land on the other side of the Wall. According to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the settlement amounts to a war crime, and in 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled the Wall illegal.

In addition to years of peaceful protests, for the last four years our village has held an annual international conference on nonviolent resistance. Bil'in's struggle has become an emblematic example for Palestinians and worldwide. Last December, the Bil'in Popular Committee was awarded the 2008 Human Rights Medal by the International League of Human Rights in Germany.

Despite this, the construction of the Wall and settlements continued, and we are treated as criminals in our quest for justice. On top of tens of arrests, hundreds of protesters from Bil'in have been injured and one has been killed by the Israeli military.

Just a few days before he was arrested, Mohammed wrote this account of our life in Bil'in:


I woke up this morning to find my three year-old son, Khaled, beating me and screaming wildly. Of course I was shocked by this, so I started to comfort him and ask what was the matter... through the sobs and tears, I managed to make out a few words:

"Why are you not a good Dad... you left me to the soldiers... at the Wall... and they shot me in the leg!"

"What happened to your leg, Khaled?"

"It's better now..."

He was describing a nightmare.

My wife, Lamia, once asked me: "Why can't we live like other people?" It was a very difficult question for me to answer. All the Palestinians of my generation were born under military occupation, so this is the only life we know.

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As I write these words, it's almost midnight and we are sitting on the roof of my house, on the look-out for the Israeli army. It's been two months since the most recent wave of night raids began, with the army now employing a new strategy of arresting every villager who attends the demonstrations, in an attempt to crush our campaign of nonviolent resistance.

Up until now eleven people have been arrested, but the list of those wanted is much, much longer. So in Bi'lin, no one goes to sleep before four or five in the morning. We stay awake all night, observing the movements of the Israeli military, fearing that we may be the next person to be kidnapped and thrown in jail. Our nights have become our days, and our days have become our nights. For some it is more difficult than others because of work commitments, but we have no choice.

But it's not only the adults who stay awake. Our children can't sleep either, afraid that the army will burst into his or her room in the middle of the night. They don't knock on the door during the night raids. So imagine the horror for a child to wake up to find a stranger with a painted face pointing his gun in their face. We don't stay up so much to avoid arrest, but to avoid facing this terrible moment.

Even with all this, I know that I have a good quality of life compared to other Palestinians. I'm lucky enough to have avoided, up till now, both jail and the loss of a family member. Two out of three Palestinians you meet will have suffered one or the other, if not both.


Yesterday, I saw Mohammed and Abdullah in the Israeli military court. My brother had bruises all over from the beatings he received from the soldiers. My husband is being accused of "incitement to damage the security of the area." It is obvious that the Israeli authorities will do all that they can to prevent Palestinians and Israelis from working together towards a just peace. Mohammed may no longer be one of the "lucky" ones, but I know that he, Abdullah and I, and everyone in Bil'in, will continue our struggle for justice.

Lamia Khatib is a 27 year old Palestinian mother of of four. Lamia's husband Mohammad is secretary of the village council and a member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. They live in the West Bank village of Bil'in, which has been under Israeli military occupation for the last 42 years.

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