Violence is their friend

Fence protest

By Vic Rosenthal

Another Friday in Bil’in:

Two border policemen were lightly wounded on Friday after left-wing protesters pelted them with stones in the West Bank village of Bil’in, near Ramallah.

Some 200 Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners were gathered in the village for the weekly protest against the building of the security fence, despite the area being a closed military zone. — Jerusalem Post

Several demonstrators were injured including Mairead Corrigan, who received the Nobel Peace prize in 1976 for her activities in Northern Ireland. Tito Kayak, Puerto Rican activist involved in the Vieques protests against the US Navy, was arrested for climbing a tower where the army had placed security cameras and attaching a Palestinian flag. Bil’in is the place to be this year for everyone who is or aspires to be a human rights activist.

These protests have been ongoing since January 2005. The organizers claim that they are nonviolent, but obviously they are not. Some of the groups that have participated along with Palestinians are Gush Shalom, Anarchists Against the Wall and of course the International Solidarity Movement (the folks who were responsible for the death of Rachel Corrie).

Numerous demonstrators have been injured by rubber bullets, teargas canisters, etc. when they have attempted to damage the fence. Although protesters claim that ‘many’ Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with security forces, no deaths have been confirmed. But if there haven’t been any, it’s just a matter of time.

The route of the fence near Bil’in is about two miles from the Green Line and half a mile from the village, and the fence surrounds the settlement of Modi’in Illit which is next to the Green line. Bil’in residents cultivate land which is on the west side of the fence, and there is a gate (to which they have a key) that allows passage. Residents claim that land was confiscated in order to build the fence, and that Modi’in Illit is trying to build illegally on land that belongs to them; settlers say the land was purchased legally. A petition was filed with the High Court of Justice (Israel’s Supreme Court) by Peace Now and others in 2006, which froze construction. Another petition was been filed this this February.

There is no way that I am going to try to sort out the issues of the dispute here. The High Court has changed the route of the fence as well as ruling against settlers in the past and may well do so again. I just want to talk about the fence and the protests.

The protests are deliberately violent, in order to provoke a response from the soldiers and border police who are ordered to protect the fence. Don’t believe it? Here is an account from an eyewitness, one who is sympathetic to the Palestinian villagers’ complaint:

Veteran peace activist Uri Avnery took up a prominent position at the front, calmly delivering his message to the young soldiers a foot away from him. The press pack stood on the ridge above, filming and photographing the goings-on, and all seemed well with the world. The calm before the storm.

After quarter of an hour, a Palestinian man – egged-on by his peers – climbed up on to the gate and walked across it, tightrope style, to the cheers of the onlookers. As he attempted to repeat the trick the other way, a soldier gave him a shove, sending him tumbling down to the ground. Immediately, one of his comrades delivered a heavy blow to a soldier using a wooden club – and, in the same instant, a hail of rocks flew towards the rest of the soldiers behind the gate. And then, to quote Ice Cube, “Y’all know the rest …” — Seth Freedman, Bil’in Blues in Comment is Free (UK Guardian)

From the point of view of Israel’s enemies, violence is their friend. While the terrorist factions are firing rockets into Sderot and infiltrating bombers into Tel Aviv, the war for public opinion is being fought alongside the fence near Bil’in by violent actions which provoke violent responses, which are then broadcast around the world so that nice people who are for human rights can cluck their disapproval of the Israeli ‘stormtroopers’.

All this doesn’t change the fact that the fence prevents infiltration of murderous terrorists and must be finished. The area has been declared a closed military zone; this means that outsiders like the volunteer ‘soldiers’ of the international anti-Israel brigade of the ISM may not enter. Israel has a right to enforce this restriction and should.

Everyone is aware of the possible impropriety of the Modi’in Illit construction and the legal authorities are dealing with it. It was not necessary to create violent confrontations in order to make this happen, and indeed these confrontations are for another purpose altogether than obtaining justice for the Palestinians of Bil’in.

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