"Instead of carrying out late night raids on the village of Bil'in, arrest people and drag them to detention and court, the army should have done a simple thing – implement at last the Supreme Court ruling of two years ago, move the fence erected on the Bil'in lands and return to villagers their lands and source of income, which were taken in order to extend the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Illit" said Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, upon entering the military court at Ofer Camp near Ramallah.
"When the army does that, the demonstrations at Bil'in will instantly end, because the reason for them will have disappeared." (The court was deliberating upon extending the remand of Muhammad Hatib, one of the leaders of the Bil'in struggle.)
Also present during the proceedings were other public figures, such as Knesset Member Dov Hanin of Hadash and Rabbi Rabbi Arik Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights.
Members of Gush Shalom, as of other peace movements, were among hundreds of activists from Israel and abroad who arrived yesterday at Bil'in, in order to participate at a march against the Fence which steals the villagers' land and protesting the wave of detentions. Among others there was a large contingent of Spanish participants, who sang songs from the time of the Spanish Civil War, as well as French activists who carried a large sign in the colours of the French flag and chanted slogans against the Israeli occupation.
"Every time I get to Bil'in, I find again that the army claim – that spraying tear gas is in response to stone throwing' – are simply not true" says Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson, who had taken part in the demonstration. "I can testify that the soldiers started shooting tear gas when the protest march was still far from the fence, when nobody was throwing stones and indeed nobody was in range for stone-throwing. I have the impression that the military communiqués on the Bil'in protests are written in advance, so as to justify the soldiers' conduct, and without any relation to what actually takes place."
At the peak of the confrontation the soldiers used a machine capable of shooting fifty tear gas canisters per minute. Protesters covered their face with cloths and handkerchiefs, while the press photographers present had equipped themselves in advance with gas masks.
Contact: Adam Keller firstname.lastname@example.org +972-54-2340749