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Bilin: A liberating village unfolding story of Palestinian success

Posted By Ahmed Abdullah

September 15, 2007

Bilin village, located 4 kilometers east of the Green Line, could have been another unknown village in Palestine. However, it gained international popularity due to the separation barrier in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, probably because the barrier destroys the village’s agricultural life by separating it from around 60 percent of its farming land.

Bilin villagers had nothing else to do but protest on weekly basis against the construction of this illegal barrier that Israel claims is needed for its “security”, despite the fact that the wall has frequently been slammed by international human rights groups as another step by Israel to seize an additional piece of land from the Palestinians. 

Even though the barrier still exists, destroying much of Palestinian lives, Bilin protests attracted the attention of left wing Israeli groups along with international activists, who meet every Wednesday to go through their next step.

Despite the protests, Israel began building a new settlement called Modiin Ilit, which was planned to take most of its space from Bilin. 

But the Israeli plans were foiled. 

Tuesday the 4th of September brought victory for Bilin villagers when the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the government to re-route the barrier away from the village because the current route was "highly prejudicial" to the villagers and not justifiable on “security grounds.”

Nasseir Samara, a member of the Bilin Popular Committee, told the BBC that the “only thing Israel listens to is the Israeli courts. Now we have to make sure the decision by the court is implemented and our lawyers will be asking Israel every day about that”.

“We are told we will get back between 1,000 dunums (100 hectares or 250 acres) and 1,400 dunums of land - out of more than 2,000 dunums seized - but it still depends on the army to draw the new line,” Samara added.

After the court ruling, Bilin celebrated and announced a week filled with nothing but festivities. Along with their international supporters, Bilin villagers danced their traditional dabkeh and hanged the Palestinian flags everywhere. 

International journalists also travelled to the village to report the joy of the villagers who are now looking forward to a somehow normal life where they can at least have the freedom of work.

“This is the first happy day we have had since the occupation began in 1967,” Abu Nizar, another committee member, told BBC. 

However, the celebrations didn’t hinder the villagers’ protests against the separation barrier; the one kilometer march which they have been holding each week for the past two years. 

Two hundred people walked through their olive grooves where their source of income lies out of their reach. Organizers say they’re doing their best to make these protests against the illegal barrier as civilized as possible, trying to prevent any clashes with Israeli occupation forces. 

The Bilin case isn’t the only incident where Israel has taken a piece of land from an already occupied village. Last year, an appeal from other Palestinian villages captured the attention of Israeli judges, who later ordered the military to move parts of the barriers back to the Green line. 

However, Bilin is a different case because it’s highly unusual that a Palestinian committee receives such international support. "We are helped very much by the outside people's support - they are ambassadors for our struggle and do not think we could have succeeded without them," Samara told the BBC.

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