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From the field

Background on the demonstrations in Bil’in

Bil’in is a symbol of the popular protest against the Separation Barrier. The weekly Friday demonstrations in Bil’in began in February 2005. At the same time, the villagers petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice, filing their objections to the proposed route of the barrier, which would leave about fifty percent of the village lands west of the barrier. The route of the barrier was designed to facilitate the future expansion of East Matityahu, a neighborhood in the settlement of Modi’in Illit, despite the topographic inferiority of the route and in contraindication to security considerations. On 4 September 2007, the High Court of Justice accepted the position of the village’s residents, declaring that the route does not satisfy the standards of proportionality. The court instructed the state to consider an alternate, less injurious route. Despite this court ruling and another ruling handed down on 15 December 2008 that declared that the alternate route proposed by the state did not comply with the criteria set by the court, a long delay ensued in moving the barrier. Work began only in June 2011. The demonstrations in Bil’in have not ceased despite the adjusted route because it still leaves 1,500 dunams [150 hectares] of village lands west of the barrier.

The Israeli military classifies the demonstrations in Bil’in violent disturbances of the peace, whereas the residents say the demonstrations are an unarmed, popular protest. Protesters taking part in the actual demonstrations are usually not violent. However, youths often throw stones near the demonstrations.

On 17 April 2009, Bassem Abu Rahma, 30, was killed during a demonstration against the Separation Barrier in Bil’in. He was hit in the chest by an extended-range tear gas canister.