Last Friday, at the most recent Bil’in demonstration, I told a camera that was filming events that “the resistance will never die”. The poetry of resistance is hip-hop, so I was excited to hear that Saul Williams, a highly acclaimed artist and poet from the US, would be visiting the village.
Unlike other “celebrities” who have come to see the oppression we are living under, Saul didn’t drive up in a jeep. He didn’t have an “entourage”. He came in a small car with a group of Israeli activists, who had given him a ride from Tel Aviv. As it was the holiday of Eid al-Adha, most of the leaders of the Bil’in Popular Committee were busy or away, so it was left to the ordinary people, including a couple of the local shabab, to show him around.
He walked to the Wall with us, smoking a cigarette and joking with Asharaf, or the “Palestinian Che” as he is known by friends. When we got to the Wall, it was getting dark. The soldiers peeked out from their encampment a couple of time, but not much else. I told Saul that all the fields on the other side of the Wall, as far as the eye could see, were Bil’in’s land.
We returned to the local community centre together to tell him more about the situation. He wasn’t in a rush to leave, but rather, eager to hear the stories of the people living here. I told Saul about the night raids, and about the recent arrest of my friend Mohammed Yassen, during which they beat up his brother and held a gun to his mother’s head. I could tell from the expression on his face that he was shocked.
When he asked about work for Palestinians living here, I told him that unemployment was very high. The village is a farming community, and relies onagriculture as it’s main source of income. The Wall has stolen nearly all of Bil’in’s agricultural land. I told him about Hamde, my best friend in Bil’in, who has lost his permit to work inside Israel due to his participation in the resistance here. For many Palestinians, “Israel” is the only place they can find the work to support their families.
But as Basel Mansour, a local resident and member of the Popular Committee, told Saul, the Occupation is not simply the soldiers and the settlers, it is your whole life. He said that he’d had a bad dream the night before, in which soldiers were invading his house. A couple of months ago, that dream was being made a reality. I still remember the soldier standing outside, telling me that he knew where my family lived.
As Saul was getting ready to leave, standing outside in the brisk evening air, someone pointed at my wheelchair and said that it was useful during the raids. “One time I used it to block a door,” I said, sitting down to demonstrate, “and four soldiers couldn’t move it!”
“He’s crazy!” said another person. “No,” replied Saul, “courageous… strong.”
“I hope your going to come back to Palestine?” I asked.
“Yes, of course.” he answered.
“And next time,” I replied, “make sure it’s a Friday. Then you’ll see how we really get down.”