Bi’lin is another town that holds weekly demonstrations against the Wall – the illegal Apartheid Wall that seperates so many Palestinians from their land. In this case, it’s construction has confiscated over half of all the land belonging to the village. So this Friday, I took a weekoff my usual travels to Ni’liin to go to another part of this concrete and wire symbol of oppression.
This week, however, the protest in Bi’lin had another aspect added to the mix. Also visiting was Naomi Klein, Canadian progressive journalist and author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. The latter (which I highly recommend) has just been published in Hebrew, but Klein has pledged to conduct her “book tour” without any state-funded institutions, in a show of support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against “Israel”.
In the blistering heat of rural Palestine, with the Wall providing a politicised back-drop to proceedings, there was a press conference given to the gathered activists and journalists. First we heard from Basel Mansour, a member of the Bi’lin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, who moved and inspired listeners with his words of resilliance:
“We will continue our non-violent resistance to the confiscation of Bil’in’s land and incorporate using the legal system as a means of attaining justice.”
Next up was Klein:
“Bi’lin is known throughout the world as a symbol of resistance against occupation. I was insistent that the first leg of this tour would be at the Friday protests, but this particular week is special for another reason…”
Klein went on to describe the court case currently being taken out by Bi’lin residents in Canada, surrounding the illegality, as declared by Israeli courts, of the Wall. She also showed support for activists in Palestine:
“When Palestinians, accompanied by Israeli and international activists, on peaceful marches are met with bullets and tear gas – that’s not normal.
In my opinion art is political, so cultural producers can use their art to support the boycott, and to strengthen the resistance against occupation. Boycott is a tactic… we’re trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa.”
I must admit that I was a little disappointed that Naomi didn’t come onthe demonstration that followed, a bit too “superstar” for my liking. What resulted was the usual showerings of tear gas, and the visual contrast of the valiant shabab with the brutality of the Israeli military. I loved the way the advice of the Palestinians I was with at the front of the march switched so quickly from “get out of here!” when they thought I was some poor kid in a wheelchair, to “get back to the front!” when they realised where my heart is at.
It was also really nice to meet a friend from London who is working here with War on Want. She sent me a text afterwards saying “lots of people are worried about you”, but I can’t think what gave her that impression…