The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Bil'in: A Struggle in Pictures

by Jon Elmer

Photo essay of demonstration against the separation barrier in Bil'in.

This sidebar is associated with a full-length news article, Protest, Grief as Barrier Segregates Palestinian Village from Farms.

Photographs taken on Friday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 16, 2005 by Jon Elmer. All photographs © copyright Jon Elmer 2005. For reprint permission, please contact The NewStandard.

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All morning Friday, puppets and placards are prepared as Israeli activists arrive, often having to circumvent checkpoints. "They usually grab one or two of us, but most of us get away," says one.

Weekly demonstrations begin after the Jum'a -- the noon prayer on Friday, the Islamic day of assembly. The mosque is the staging point for the protest, and the demonstrators work their way down the main street of Bil'in. International and Israeli solidarity activists join the march to the construction site of the barrier that will soon separate villages from farmland -- or they march as close as the soldiers will allow.

IDF trooper lays razor wire

After so many months, the demonstrations have a certain regularity and routine. Around noon, soldiers finish their lunch in a building on the edge of the village. They have commandeered the building, turning it into a makeshift forward operating base. The soldiers slowly get themselves ready. They unfurl razor wire and wait for the demonstrators to arrive.

Girls lead demonstrators

Emboldened by the presence of the "International Women in Black" at a demonstration last Tuesday in Bil'in, local women took the forefront of this particular protest.

protestor argues with soldiers

An organizer of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil'in argues with soldiers about the freedom to demonstrate and the force used by Israeli Defense Force troops. The scene is dispersed by tear gas shortly after.

These teenaged women -- objecting to the placement of the razor wire, which was well inside their village -- engage in a painful tug of war with heavily-armed Israeli soldiers. Though they use tissue and eventually a placard to hold onto the sharp wire, their hands are left bloody and their trousers ripped. The women ultimately succeed in wresting the wire away from the soldiers. While they receive basic first aid for their wounds, they are all smiles.

soldiers arrest protestor

soldiers carry protestor away

Demonstrators sit down on turf well away from the barrier construction site, and still inside the village of Bil'in itself. Within moments, soldiers begin hitting the demonstrators -- all internationals and Israelis on the frontline -- with batons. Then they fire concussion grenades and tear gas and, finally, they arrest some protestors. In all, soldiers detain 26.

"The message here is that you have no right to protest," Rabbi Arik Ascherman tells TNS moments before he is arrested himself.

Palestinian demonstrator in tear gas

A Palestinian demonstrator is seen amid the gas.

An Israeli soldier reloads his weapon

A soldier reloads his weapon during clashes with Palestinian stone-throwers.

Soldiers shout at demonstrators

Israeli soldier shouts at demonstrators who began to move into a farmer’s field alongside the barricade.

Palestinian swings sling

Palestinian swings sling

Long after the tear gas and arrests, Palestinians begin to retaliate with stones directed at the heavily armed soldiers. Locals say the troops pursue Palestinians well into their village after virtually every demonstration. The soldiers also carry out raids in the village during the night after demonstrations, according to villagers and internationals that remain in Bil'in to provide protection against the incursions.

Soldiers' feet

Soldiers line up to confront demonstrators.

Soldiers shooting rubber bullets

Israeli soldiers, in an olive grove well into the village of Bil'in, pursue Palestinians, firing deadly rubber bullets. The presence of international and Israeli demonstrators tempers the Israeli reaction, often preventing the use of fully-live ammunition.

Bulldozers construct barrier

Heavy machinery works on the barrier through Bil'in. Once completed, the barrier will separate the villagers from more than 50 percent of their agricultural land. It is unclear how the villagers will access their farms, but in areas where the barrier has been completed in the northern West Bank, Palestinians have limited access through heavily gaurded gates.

Palestinian child walks by huge flag

Bil'in children play around an enormous Palestinian flag that marks the entrance to Bil'in. The constant presence of international solidarity activists is a source of pride for the villagers, as well as an important element in expanding their struggle beyond the tiny farming village, said organizers and villagers alike.

Photographs taken on Friday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 16, 2005 by Jon Elmer. All photographs © copyright Jon Elmer 2005. For reprint permission, please contact The NewStandard.

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Jon Elmer is a contributing journalist.

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