The village of Bil’in in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which is losing more than half its land due to Israel’s “separation barrier,” wrote the following letter for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to give to President Bush. On their way to present the letter to Abbas at the Muqata in Ramallah, his troops fired warning shots at the villagers, moderately injuring one of them. Almost daily protests have been held in Bi’lin against the fence for the last three months.
See our last post on Bi’lin.
Dear Mr. President,
Greetings mixed with pain and agony. Greetings that refuse oppression and discrimination. Greetings full of confidence in freedom. Greetings from the bottom of the sea of Palestinian blood. We send this letter to you, President of the Free World, and ask you to stand by our side in our nonviolent struggle for justice.
We send this letter from Bil’in, a small Palestinian village that is being killed by the Wall that the entire world condemns. Located 2 1/2 miles east of the Green Line, our 1,600 residents depend on our ability to farm and harvest our olive trees to sustain our livelihood.
More than 575 acres of Bil’in’s 1,000 acres are being taken for the construction of Israel’s Wall in order for Israel to annex five settlements and another one that is under construction. The settlements surrounding Bil’in consume most of the available water in the area, leaving very little for Bil’in residents- barely one cubic meter per person per month.
Last year the International Court of Justice, the world’s highest legal body, ruled that the construction of the Wall on Palestinian land in tens of Palestinian villages like Bil’in violated international law, and that the Wall must be removed. Still, the Israeli court system has refused our appeals to prevent the construction of the Wall in Bil’in. Because of this, we, along with Israeli citizens and people from around the world, have been peacefully and nonviolently protesting the confiscation of our land, sending a clear message that we can coexist and live in peace and security. The Israeli occupation does not understand our peaceful resistance and acts against us with terror.
In the past three months since we began our struggle against the Wall, Israeli soldiers have frequently entered homes in our village. A three month old child had to be brought to the hospital after Israeli soldiers threw tear gas into her home. More than 120 people have been injured and over 100 Palestinians, Israelis, and foreign nationals have been arrested in nonviolent acts of resistance in Bil’in.
For example, in a peaceful protest on April 28th, 1000 Palestinian, Israeli and international marchers were attacked by Israeli riot police and military. At the front of the march Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset and elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council were physically assaulted by the Israeli military. Undercover Israeli agents infiltrated the peaceful protest and began throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers to disrupt the protest. When Palestinians tried to stop them, they were arrested by the undercover agents. Two Palestinian men who were arrested that day are still being held without charge by the Israeli authorities.
Because this injustice is so grave, the Palestinian people have lost faith in the impartiality of the United States. We urge you, Mr. President, to look deeper into the human, social, and economic impacts of the Wall and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land.
We are very proud that Abu Mazen is delivering this letter. We trust and believe in our president’s vision, courage and commitment to a peaceful solution to the conflict in our lands. It is our hope and belief that all Palestinians can and will express resistance nonviolently, and we ask you, Mr. President, to make a stand so that we can achieve our freedom by peaceful means.
The people of Bil’in
See our last post on land conflicts in the Occupied Territories.