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Nonviolent Solidarity : Sometimes we win, sometimes we die

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On my last morning in the West Bank in January 2005, I traveled the potholed unpaved road to Billin, a village near Ramallah where villagers and Internationals have been nonviolently and creatively resisting The Wall, The Occupation and the fact that more than half of the indigenous peoples land has been annexed by the Israeli government.

In Billin, the Green Line is five miles from the electric fence being erected with sensors and cameras upon Palestinian land. The fence runs out a few yards from where our van parked and we easily make our way over the rocky land to the Billin outpost.

The indigenous peoples began nonviolently resisting The Wall/Fence almost two years ago. As of January 2005, 300 nonviolently resisting locals had been injured by the IDF more than three times and yet they persist to return for more.

Two weeks prior to my January visit, Internationals, Israeli's and locals implemented a creative challenge to the status quo imposed by the Israel government for the times they keep ' changin': the Billin'ers erected their own outpost.

International, Israelis and the oppressed indigenous people of Billin, constructed a 10x10 brick edifice just yards from where 700 upscale apartments which are being built on their land.

The indigenous people of Billin brought their case to the Israeli Municipal Court and that Court agreed the building of the settlement dwellings was indeed illegal and ordered the construction to cease. The day I was there, a half dozen Caterpillar tractors were moving earth for the anticipated paved road that only Israeli's will be allowed to travel upon.

Eyad, one of the landowners and a leader of The Popular Committee in Billin explained, "A few weeks ago we brought in a caravan [trailer] on our land close to where the settlers apartments are being built. While we were inside the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] sawed the door open and pulled us out and roughed us up.

"So, we brought in another caravan and during the night we built a concrete brick building within four hours. All day and all night people stay here to resist the wall and occupation. People come and go; they are from all over the world. They support our nonviolently resisting the wall that is clearly stealing our land. This electric wall and the IDF are not allowing us onto our land to care for our olive trees. They confiscated our land and impose military law upon us and claim we are trespassing on our legally owned land."

Abdullah, Coordinator of Against The Wall in Billin informed me that there are 1,600 people who call home Billin and legally own 4,000 dunums of property. The Israeli government confiscated 2,003 dunums of agricultural land and is building apartments that Palestinians are forbidden to approach. The Israeli government continues the building of the electric fence deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice for it prevents the indigenous land owners from accessing what is legally theirs.

During my visit I spoke with a few of two dozen Israelis and Internationals who were hanging around the brick house. Some stay for days, some for weeks and sleep inside sleeping bags on the dirt floor of the cramped shelter.

Soft spoken and intense twenty year old Suneela from New York stated boldly, "We are fighting an important struggle. If America would only learn the truth about what is happening here, they would stop their blind support of the Israeli government that denies people basic human rights."

Twenty year old Israeli born Yuval who has actively resisted the injustice in Billin for the past five months added, "This cause is very important to me because this is the only way to struggle. This is our only chance to bring back the popular Intifada: a chance for women and children to nonviolently resist the wall and occupation."

Elizabeth, a twenty year old from Indiana studying Middle East Foreign Policy in Jerusalem has lived every weekend at the outpost in Billin since its birth.

Forty year old Ratebaburabeme, a member of the Popular Committee, Stop The Wall Campaign and a delegate with Seeds of Peace in 2003 told me about when he was shot and jailed for two weeks because of his nonviolent resistant activities.

"The Judge said he would investigate the soldier who shot me, but the soldier lied and denied he shot. The matter was quickly forgotten by the Israelis...I teach Social Work and Psychology at El Quds Open University...Three weeks ago we could not come in here, but when the court admitted the settlement buildings were illegal we put the caravan on the property and when the IDF destroyed that, we built this room. Ever since, more and more Israelis, Lawyers, Sheiks, women and children come and stand with us in solidarity for human rights. *Rachel Corrie's family has been here too."

*"When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I've ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible."-From a Feb. 27, 2003 email from *Rachel Corrie to her mother.

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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org Staff Member of Salem-news.com, A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)
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