Two, Three, Many Ni’lins

By Kim Bullimore – The West Bank

More than 40 years ago, the Argentinean-born Cuban Revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara wrote in his message to the Tricontinental that the "forgotten peoples" of the world – the poor, oppressed and exploited – must "create two, three, many Vietnams" [1].  Written at the time when the Vietnamese people were waging their courageous struggle against US imperialism, Che noted that rebellion must flourish across the tricontinent (Asia, Latin America and Africa) and around the world and that it was the duty of the dispossessed and oppressed to "liberate ourselves at any price".

Today, the rebellion advocated by Che Guevara can be found in the many courageous struggles of the oppressed around the world for liberation, freedom and justice. In Palestine, this rebellion is evident in the brave struggles of the Palestinian villages, towns and cities throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza, who oppose the brutal Israeli occupation and the erection of the illegal apartheid wall. 

Since 2002, when Israel began the construction of its illegal wall, Palestinian villages, towns and cities have been engaged in non-violent struggle against all odds to defend their culture, land and livelihood. In 2003, villages such as Budrus, Al Midya, Deir Qadddis and Kharbata in the Ramallah district of the Occupied West Bank led the struggle in non-violent resistance against the wall, holding daily and/or weekly demonstrations. Budrus became one of the first villages to successful win an Israeli court order for the apartheid wall to be pushed back to the Green Line. In 2004, the village of Bil’in took up the baton of struggle and in the last three years has become the model for joint Palestinian-Israeli and International non-violent struggle throughout the occupied West Bank, inspiring other Palestinian villages and supporters of social justice and freedom all over the world.

As the village of Bil’in continue their struggle, they have been joined by the residents of another small Palestinian village, whose non-violent struggle is also inspiring Palestinians throughout the Occupied West Bank and making headlines throughout the world.

In May, Ni’lin village, located just 10 kilometres from Bil’in village and on the 1948 Green (armistice) line became the latest Palestinian village to begin organising demonstrations against the building of the illegal apartheid wall and the stealing of their farm land by the Israeli state.  In 1948, with the creation of the Israeli state, Ni’lin village lost more than 40,000 dunams (4000 hectares) of its land.  Today, with the construction of the wall, the village will stand to lose a further 2500 dunams (250 hectares) of its agricultural land [2]          

For the last two months, the villagers of Ni’lin, have been courageously holding 3 to 4 demonstrations a week against the destruction of their land and livelihoods.  At each demonstration, they have also been joined in their struggle by Israeli and International peace activists, echoing Che’s words that solidarity is "not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to his death or to victory". 

The joint Palestinian-Israeli-International demonstrations have been so successful that the village has been able to disrupt and halt temporarily, three times, the construction work being carried out illegally on their land.   This is the first time in several years that a Palestinian village has been able to successful halt the Israeli bulldozers and push back construction crews destroying their lands.

Because the village has refused to quietly accept the confiscation of their land, the Israel military retaliated by attempting to intimidate and to collectively punish (which is illegal under international law) the 5000 residents of the township.  On July 4, Israel’s occupation forces imposed a 4 day siege on the village, preventing the residents of Ni’lin from leaving and entering the village, as well as food and medical supplies from entering the village.  

According to the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall during the four day siege, Israeli occupation forces injured more than 50 villages with rubber coated-steel bullets, while three people were seriously injured by live ammunition [3].   In addition, hundreds of people suffered from respiratory problems to teargas inhalation when the Israeli military shot teargas at and into residential homes.  More than 20 homes were invaded by the Israeli military during the siege, breaking personal property and beating the residents of the houses, including women, children and the elderly.    During the siege, the Israeli military also dug up newly paved roads, wrecking parts of the municipal sewage system and also entered the local girl’s schools breaking down doors and smashing windows.

One female Ni’lin resident was force to give birth at home without medical assistance, as the Israeli military refused to allow her to leave the village to go to hospital in Ramallah. During the first three days of the Israeli siege, ambulances and medical crews were unable to enter the village and as a result the injured remained untreated.   Palestinians, Israeli and international peace activists who attempted to deliver food, milk and medicine to the besieged village were also prevented from entering, with the Israeli military using force – including beatings, teargas and rubber bullets – to prevent them carrying out their humanitarian mission.  In addition, during the four day siege, the Israeli military also prevented the family of a deceased villager from entering the village, with the body of their deceased family member.  As a result, the family was unable to bury their family member within the time prescribed within their religion.  

Palestinian new agency, Maan News also reported on the fourth day of the curfew, that the Israeli military violently attacked village residents as they attempted to demonstrate against the illegal curfew imposed on their village [4].   According to Maan, Jamil Srur, an electrician from the village, who did not participate in the demonstration was hit by a live bullet in the stomach when he was watching the demonstration from his door way.  According to Maan News, "the bullet lodged itself into Srur’s back" and "doctors were unable to remove the bullet, for fear that the damage to his spine will cause paralysis".  Maan also reported that Mutia’ Amira, a 32 year old construction worker whose family will lose approximately 9 dunums of land to apartheid wall was also hit in the knee with live ammunition fired by the Israeli military as he took part in the demonstration.

According to the Popular Committee, since demonstrations began in late May, to date more than 160 people, including children, have now been injured by rubber coated steel bullets fired by the Israeli military, while hundreds of non-violent protesters have been brutally beaten by the Israeli military during the protests and more than 26 people have been arrested. 

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society who provides medical assistance to villagers during the demonstrations have also reported the Israeli military have fired indiscriminately on their health workers and vehicles, with one ambulance being hit at least 15 times by bullets fired by the Israeli military [5].  According to the 29 year old PMRS health worker driving the ambulance and who was trying to reach an injured youth, "This is not a one-off incident, but it’s part of a wider series of attacks against medical staff.  I have been attacked three times before under similar circumstances in Bil’in village".  The driver noted that the attack by the Israeli military was "deliberate" and a "targeted act of violence".

Despite four days of siege, the villagers of Ni’lin emerged defiant.  In a statement released on July 8th, the day following the lifting of the Israeli siege, the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall said "the people of Ni’lin will not give up their right to defend their basic human, economic and social rights and therefore will not relinquish their right to protest against the confiscation of their land.  The people of Ni’lin are also not willing to give up their right to stand up against the construction of a Wall that has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice" [6]

On July 9 and 10, the village organised two more demonstrations.  On July 9, the villages, joined by Israeli and international anti-occupation activists were again able to reach the wall construction area and temporarily stop construction work pushing back a bulldozer and preventing it from continuing its work.  

The following day, hundreds of villagers were joined by other Palestinians from nearby villagers, as well as around a hundred Israeli and international activists.  The peaceful rally was brutally attacked by the Israeli military.  While the Israeli occupation forces were able to successfully split the demonstration, preventing half of the demonstrators from getting from the side of the wadi (valley) closest to the village to the other side where the construction work was talking place, at least a hundred demonstrators were able to make it that side of the wadi.  Demonstrators on the village side of the wadi were prevented by teargas and rubber bullets from entering the wadi. 

From our vantage point at the top of the wadi, we were able to witness the Israeli military severely beating Palestinian, Israel and International non-violent demonstrators on the other side of the wadi.  At least 8 Palestinian villagers, 6 Israeli anti-occupation activists and at least two international activists were seriously injured.  Several villagers and Israeli anti-occupation activists received rifle butts to the head, causing severe bruising and cuts to their eyes, while others were badly beaten around the legs, arms and hands resulting in many of them not being able to walk without considerable pain for at least a week.  One Israeli activist was injured when he was hit in the head with a teargas canister fired directly into the unarmed demonstrators, while an elderly female international activist was injured when hit with a rubber coated steel bullet.

As the demonstration drew to a close and the injured were attended to in the small village medical clinic, Palestinian Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad surrounded by an entourage of cars and security barreled into the village.  But despite all the trappings of leadership, today, in Palestine, the true leadership of the people lies not within the sterile and quisling parameters of the Palestinian Authority lead by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas and his unelected and appointed Prime Minister, Fayaad.  Instead, it is in the Palestinian villages, townships and cities, where rebellion and struggle has not been forsaken.  As Che noted in, "the active mobilisation of the people creates its new leaders" because it is in the framework and hardship of real struggle, that "the people create their warriors and leaders…" who will be the ones to win their people’s liberation as they create two, three, many Ni’lins.

As the village of Ni’lin takes up the leadership of the non-violent resistance to oppression and occupation, the courage of its villagers and the courage of their brothers and sisters in Bil’in, Al Masra, Umm Sulummuna, Azzoun Atma, Al Khader and other villages throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza deserve no lesser words then those reserved by Che for the Vietnamese people in 1966: "what greatness has been shown by this people! What a stoic and courageous people! And what a lesson for the world their holds".  

-Kim Bullimore is currently living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where she is a human rights volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service (www.iwps.info). She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit her blog: www.livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com

Notes:

[1] Guevara, E., Message to the Tricontinental – Create two, three many Vietnams. http://www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk/ww/guevara/1967-mtt.htm

[2]  McCarthy, R., (8 July, 2008) We have no alternative than peaceful protest.  The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/08/israelandthepalestinians.middleeast

[3] and [6] Statement from the Ni’lin Popular Committee against the Wall (9 July, 2008) International Solidarity Movement http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2008/07/09/statement-from-the-nilin-popular-commuttee-against-the-apartheid-wall/

[4] Maan News (12 July, 2008) Many injured or detained at Ni’lin march
http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=30495

[5]Palestinian Medical Relief Society (26 June, 2008) Israeli Soldiers Deliberately Attack PMRS Health Worker http://www.pmrs.ps/last/etemplate.php?id=247

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