On April 21st, 2007, in the Village of Bil’in, Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Northern Ireland, was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli Forces an hour after delivering this message at a peace press conference:
“Thanks to the media here for telling the truth… Bring this truth to whatever country you come from. Non-violence will solve the problems here in Israel and Palestine. Often, the world sees only violence. But Palestinians are a good people, working towards non-violence. This Wall must fall! It is an insult to the human family and to the world that we are building Apartheid Walls in the 21st Century! More than forty years of Occupation and Land Appropriation.”
Since 2004, in Bil’in, every Friday afternoon after prayers at the mosque, Palestinian farmers, workers, mothers, and students, together with Israeli and International volunteers, have been braving teargas, beatings, bullets, arrest, and even death to rise up against the well equipped Israeli army with nothing more than their own bodies.
Last Friday afternoon after prayers at the mosque in Bil’in …
Blocking the path with armed soldiers about 100 meters before the Wall, soldiers began to fire tear gas into the crowd of 400 or so protesters. The crowd would disperse, covering their faces with bandannas and onion slices to dilute the suffocating gases. But the crowd would regroup and continue, Ghandi-style, their non-violent procession to the Apartheid structure.
Israeli forces kept this up for quite some time, but as demonstrators reached closer to their goal, the occupiers added more ingredients to their recipe– this time using rubber-coated steel bullets. Several patches of demonstrators in different parts of the olive grove were screaming in Arabic, Spanish, Hebrew, English, and others, ‘Don’t shoot! We’re non-violent!’
But the triggers of the occupier’s guns pulled anyways– the weapon of non-violence needed to be dismantled…It is illegal under Israeli military law to shoot rubber bullets from a distance under 40 meters. They are considered lethal otherwise…I saw Tomas from Denmark fall to the ground, Dawood from the UK hit on the inner thigh near his groin, Ali from Palestine hit in the leg, and tear gas canisters were oozing with white smoke from what seemed like every inch of the land. Suddenly, Ms. Maguire, the Irish Nobel Peace prize winner was shot in the leg. Two other street medics carried her to safety and the army continued to fire into the non-violent crowd.
The resilience was astounding. The demonstrators kept regrouping. Even Ms. Maguire, after being shot and with red, watery tear-gassed eyes — she rejoined the march.…An estimated 25 people were either hit with rubber bullets, soldier batons, or received medical care from tear gas inhalation.
Máiread once wrote: “Hope for the future depends on each of us taking nonviolence into our hearts and minds and developing new and imaginative structures which are nonviolent and life-giving for all. Some people will argue that this is too idealistic. I believe it is very realistic. I am convinced that humanity is fast evolving to this higher consciousness. For those who say it cannot be done, let us remember that humanity learned to abolish slavery. Our task now is no less than the abolition of violence and war…. We can rejoice and celebrate today because we are living in a miraculous time. Everything is changing and everything is possible.
While Governments can make a difference, in the final analysis it is the individual — that is each one of us — that will bring the dream of a nonviolent world to reality. We, the people must think and act nonviolently. We must not get stuck in the past as to do so will destroy the imagination and creativity which is so n a new future together…
To change our world we need a spiritual and a political evolution. The political steps are often very obvious: uphold Human rights, and International Laws, demand our Governments meet their obligations under these Laws, support and reform United Nations, etc., However, all the legislation, resolutions, and fine talk will be of no use, if we do not as men and women evolve and become transformed, so that we, the human family, achieve a more enlightened and humane way of living together, and solving conflicts.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that The Wall is a violation of International Law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian villages and economy to make way for further Israeli illegal settlements.
My first trip to Bil’in, where Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maried Maguire was shot, was in January 2006; my second time upon the potholed unpaved roads to this agricultural village near Ramallah was on November 10, 2006.
Bil’in is one of many villages in the occupied Palestinian territories where locals, Israelis and Internationals have been nonviolently and creatively resisting “The Wall” which in Bil’in is an electrified fence and miles of rolled barbed wire.
The electric fence and the Israeli army prevents the indigenous people to care and harvest their olive groves and 2,003 dunums of land have already been confiscated for The Wall/Fence and 750 settlers apartments have been built and are now occupied which the indigenous people are forbidden to enter.
In Bil’in, the Green Line is five miles from The Wall/electric fence and the Popular Committee in Bil’in has been nonviolently fighting the illegal actions of the Israeli government with nonviolent demonstrations and legal actions. Three court cases have been filed regarding the route of The Wall, the illegal settlements and land ownership. The Israeli government uses the Ottoman Law that states if the landowner doesn’t tend his land it can be confiscated by the State. The Israeli army and the electrified fence have effectively prevented the indigenous people from accessing and caring for their olive tree crop, depriving them of food and income.
The indigenous people of Bil’in brought their case to the Israeli Municipal Court and the High Court. Both courts agreed the building of the settlement dwellings was indeed illegal and ordered the construction to cease in January 2006. Construction continued and now that the settlers have moved in, the High Court has chosen to accept these “facts on the ground” and the colonists have been allowed to remain and the indigenous people have not received any compensation.
Abdullah and Mohammod, the local Coordinator’s of The Popular Committee Against The Wall in Bil’in informed me that 1,700 people live there and legally own 4,000 dunums of property. By erecting The Wall on Palestinian land, the Israeli government has effectively confiscated 2,003 dunums of prime agricultural land.
Beginning in 2004, every Friday afternoon in Bil’in after prayer at the mosque the ritual is for locals, Israelis and Internationals to march in solidarity to The Wall/Electric Fence while singing and chanting in Arabic slogans such as: “The wall will fall in Bil’in; the wall will fall like in Berlin!”
On November 10, 2006, I was one of over 40 internationals from the UK, France, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Netherlands and the US who marched with dozens of Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and over 300 locals down the dirt road to The Wall/Electric Fence. Soldiers hid behind trees to the right and to the left of us while over five dozen well armed soldiers stood on the other side of The Wall/Fence while one videotaped us. Jonathan Pollak, an Anarchist Against the Wall/AAtW, that I met during his USA speaking tour was also there.
After chanting a while in front of the soldiers, Jonathon was the first down the steep rocky hill and over a metal railing to grab the roll of razor sharp barbed wire that is in front of the electrified fence in order to shake it. He was immediately joined by a few dozen locals and other AAtW who were swiftly greeted by the first of dozens of sound bombs-thick orange plastic grenades that hit the ground with a deafening sound.
I was half way down the hill when a teenager next to me threw a rock at a soldier and I know that action alone can get one killed or arrested, so I headed back up the hill before the tear gas assaulted the crowd at the barbwire.
By the time I made it up the hill the first of hundreds of rubber bullets were being shot into the crowd. Only two internationals were hit that day, but last Friday in Bil’in, an estimated 25 people were either hit with rubber bullets, soldier batons, or received medical care from tear gas inhalation.
PHOTOS of Maried and the FULL story of April 20, 2007 demonstration:
Memoirs of a Nice Irish-American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory