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Bil'in protest in presence of European diplomats

With empty pots - how shall we feed our children? Bil'in protest in the presence of European diplomats

Israeli activists of Gush Shalom and 'Anarchists Against the Wall arrived at the village after leaving behind their bus which had brought them from Haifa and Tel-Aviv and doing the last part by foot and Palestinian taxis. But upon arrival they found in the village streets a whole series of cars belonging to the corps diplomatique. 15 European diplomats had come earlier and toured the "Separation Fence" in the Bil'in environment and they were to stay to witness the weekly demonstration.

This week's gimmick of the protest march: a child was held aloft inside a metal bathtub - symbolizing the empty pots of the Bil'iners who lost their lands, as well as of the Palestinians as a whole to whom the European Union doesn't want to continue providing.

Another gimmick - a bridge to be put over the fences, a huge construction. When it was used to actually climb over the first line of fencing it caused a shock among the present soldiers, and was immediately followed by shooting and arrests. Apart from three arrested Israelis as well as two internationals several people were wounded, among them Rachel Avnery who got a concussion grenade against her leg.

The press release following hereafter tells the story from the perspective of the diplomatic visit to Bil'in.

Press Release, April 1, 2006

15 European diplomats tour "Separation Fence" at Bil'in Village

Villagers and peace activists: Fence steals land on settlers' behalf Diplomats witness violent dispersion of protest by army - will report to their governments

Fifteen European diplomats toured at Friday Noon the Israeli "Separation Fence" erected on the lands of the West Bank village Bil'in. Among them were representatives from Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, The Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark and Sweden.

Originally, army forces at the spot refused to allow the diplomats to cross the Fence westwards and tour the lands on its other side, ajacent to the Israeli settlements "Modi'in Illit" and "Mattityahu East". After prolonged negotiations the commanding officer on the spot agreed to allow a half-hour tour.

Bil'in villagers accompanying the diplomats pointed out areas where olive trees had been uprooted for erection of the fence, and far wider olive groves which remain on the other side of the fence, cut off from their owners (to whom they are often the sole source of livelihood). Former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, of Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc) told the diplomats that the Fence route was not defined by security considerations but by the desire to annex lands earmarked for settlement expansion and dispossess their Palestinian owners. The diplomats said they would report to their governments on all that they saw and heard.

Subsequently, the fifteen diplomats placed themselves on a nearby hilltop, from where they observed the course of a protest march held by Bil'in villagers together with Israeli activists of Gush Shalom and Anarchists Against Walls. They witnessed the widespread use of force by the army to disperse the demonstration, including the shooting of salvos of concussion grenades, which caused burns to several demonstrators, the beating of demonstrators by clubs, and the detention of three Israeli peace activists, an Australian volunteer and an Italian journalist - all of whom were dragged into waiting police cars and taken away.

"The army charged the detainees with 'assaulting soldiers', but these reliable international witnesses know the truth. They saw with their own eyes that the army assaulted a peaceful, non-violent protest march. The only crime of the Bil'in villagers is their unwillingness to accept the theft of their land for the purpose of settlement extension. It seems that that the new government, to be created following this week's elections, intends to continue the erection of fences and walls and the theft of Palestinian land. Therefore, we too will continue the struggle against this criminal policy which foments hatred and threatens our future" say the Israeli organizers.

© Scoop Media

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