Postscript: A Shooting in Bil’in

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Postscript to my last post: this morning members of our delegation were furiously texting each other with the horrible news that our dear friend Iyad Burnat, leader of the Popular Committee in Bil’in was shot during their weekly demonstration today.

According to reports on Bil’in’s Facebook page, Iyad and the other marchers were approaching the separation wall when the IDF opened fire with tear gas and coated steel bullets – two of which struck Iyad directly. Hearts sinking, we waited for a full report – much to our relief, we eventually learned that his injury was not life-threatening.

Just another reminder of the unbearably high stakes faced weekly by the Palestinian nonviolent activists in villages across the West Bank…

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13 thoughts on “Postscript: A Shooting in Bil’in

  1. Brant, thank you for adding this post script. Every time I see these photos of Iyad’s face contorted in pain, I feel unbearable emotional pain. I wish everyone who reads your blog and facebook posts could know this beautiful, gentle soul and meet his wonderful wife, and beautiful, sweet, children. I wish they could laugh at Iyad’s boyish teasing, taste his wife’s makluba, feel his daughter’s hand as she gently rubs hand lotion into their hands. It is these memories that run through my mind as I view these photographs. It is these personal relationships and attachments that we developed on our trip that highlight the violent perversion that is the Occupation. I think back to only last Monday morning when some of us stood by – helpless – as we witnessed Iyad’s 8 year-old daughter crying hysterically from pain and fear after being hit with tear gas that blew over on us from the center of the village. While I’ve always felt that my activism to end the occupation was very personal to me in a number of different ways – it has NEVER felt so deeply personal as it does now. A number of our Palestinian hosts expressed passionately that they don’t want to throw anyone into the sea, they don’t want anyone to suffer the pain of losing their homes and lands as they have, they just want to be FREE. And I am forever committed to solidarity with them in their struggle. Because not all of us are guilty, but we are all responsible. And our liberation is tied in with theirs. Salaam, Shalom, Peace, Lisa

  2. We were relieved to hear that he will be “okay” tho with the pain of the memory. May he be stronger than ever. Our prayers and work are with you all.

  3. Thank you for sending along this horrific news. Prayers are being offered for their complete recovery. I keep thinking of his wife who makes no secret of her concern for his wellbeing in the film, 5 Broken Cameras. This has to be hard on her and the children.

    Up until this moment the only new source beyond your email is an article in Ma’an that Google links to. You would think that the near-killing of the subject of an Academy-award nominated film would gather more coverage.

  4. I just returned to my hotel from a walk down E Jerusalem’s Salakh E-Din, dropping in to say hello to a couple shop owners who have become friends over time. The street is busy, boisterous, friendly. In one shop I bought a small item and pulled out my newly acquired Bilin change purse to pay for it.Then to read your blog. Such a poignant reminder of what a personal price people have paid, are paying and will continue to pay for their freedom. Cotton

    • What is Obama (or you, for that matter) doing about the daily violence perpetrated against the Syrian people, the Iraqi people, the Lebanese people, the Pakistani people, the Egyptian people, the Libyan people, etc, etc. See, he doesn’t play favorites.

  5. Why Obama takes no action?….he is very busy with his drones,,,also these Palestinians are bringing actions which brings Israeli security efforts…as they are using non.lethal methods…against sling.shots..rocks…verbal abuse..and fire bombs….no one not the UN…not the western nations…not Arab states…will ever mix in…the pals.are on their own…their friends could buy them helmets,with visors…gas masks..and body protection…that might do more good then all the outrage,tears,and fancy prose they get from you guys…

    • It would be difficult to get such supplies in to the people since the Israelis would certainly confiscate any such materials that were sent in to the Palestinians. Sure, people might like to do more, but realistically they cannot do much more than they are. The US needs to stop giving Israel the money it spends to oppress the people, but it is not only the US government but many private US billionaires who help the Israelis do what they do.

  6. The Palestinians are also engaged in violent behaviors, don’t fool us. If they merely marched, nothing would happen. The IDF has strict orders about not firing back, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes at Rachel’s Tomb last year, being stuck there after prayers for two hours thru a barrage of rocks being thrown. Other than yelling, the soldiers and/or border police did nothing. One of the visitors went back inside, up to a second floor, and filmed the Palestinian kids throwing large rocks, one who broke a window. Sometimes the border police call in Palestinian police to successfully stop this behavior.
    The tactic of presenting a tear jerking, one sided view is very powerful propaganda. Rabbi Rosen, how come you don’t take your group to visit victims of suicide bombings, the thousands who are permanently injured, and the bereaved families of those who are killed? The thousands of Jewish (sometimes arabs, too) people suffering from PTSD from the countless rockets fired into dozens of communities near Gaza, and the deadly results they produce? The Palestinians have extremely powerful “leaders” who don’t understand the word compromise and expect it all. Nice of you, Rabbi Rosen, in your compassion for your own people (?) that you fully endorse this view. You know better than I how the issue isn’t the wall, the settlements, but the entire Jewish state, whatever the borders. And you artfully ignore the ugly history of treatment of Jews by arab countries, to the point there are no Jews (outside of a few thousand in Morocco)in arab countries today. You don’t present both sides, period.

    • Roz, the army does object to ‘merely marching’ – if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be banned under military law. The IDF typically defines a demonstration as any gathering of more than ten persons and states that these are automatically illegal unless permission is given by the military governor. This means that participation in a protest (and not just a protest – the flexibility of this definition has enabled the army to shut down educational and cultural events) is enough to land a Palestinian in jail. One of my elderly neighbours was frightened to join our creative arts centre when it was set up, because she worried that the army would class it as ‘political’ and she would lose her Jerusalem access. The centre was set up by one family to breathe some life into a neighbourhood that had seen a lot of military violence and to enable neighbours to reconnect with one another after the isolation. It took bravery on this eighty-year-old woman’s part to come. This is the state-supported violence that Brant is writing about. In some people’s eyes it really is equivalent to kids throwing stones, because they have come to see two separate legal systems (one of which denies people basic democratic freedoms of speech and association) as normal. I actually had one person tell me that ‘protesting isn’t a right’ while in the same breath she condemned stone-throwing as a crime. Unless you’re prepared to do the same thing, and decide that rights for Jews are privileges for Arabs and that’s the way it should be, you have to accept that there is no parallel here.

      The army is almost always more restrained when Israeli Jews are around. We all know it. But that night, or the night following, or one night three weeks later, there will be house calls at midnight. And they won’t care whether they go to the house of the stone-throwers, the house of the stone-thrower’s second cousin’s wife, or the house of just some random kid. (If you want to talk about trauma-related mental illness, roughly 95% of ex-child detainees will experience it.) This is the reality of life here, as my landlady’s twelve-year-old boy found out when soldiers pounced on him and stuffed him into a jeep – grab any kid and it’ll teach them all a lesson, that’s the theory. He lives just on the other side of the wall from Rachel’s Tomb, in a home that is currently lying under threat of army confiscation. If my host family loses the fight against confiscation, perhaps the Tomb complex can be expanded for the exclusive use of people like you. You matter under this regime; my landlady and her family matter considerably less. This is why there is an irony in your comments – you accuse Brant of ‘artfully ignoring’ what has happened to Jews a thousand miles away in Yemen, as though Palestinians in Bil’in are somehow involved and culpable, but you yourself knew nothing about what has been done to the residents of the Rachel’s Tomb neighbourhood in your name and for your convenience, even though you were standing just a few metres away from the community. Who is ignoring what here?

      The reality of the occupation is that it inflicts terrible harm on a civilian population for the supposed benefit of another ethno-religious community, and for most Israeli Jews this might as well be happening on Mars. It’s very distant from their consciousness. The newspapers talk about occupation, but it’s such an abstract concept that when the ‘air flotilla’ was staged there were dozens of bemused Israelis asking why the activists didn’t just cross the Jordanian border if all they wanted was to get to Bethlehem, apparently quite unaware of what a military occupation actually entails. There are plenty of outlets where you can talk about issues you want to talk about; there is no shortage of willing listeners. The writing on this one small WordPress blog is, I think, aimed more at people who want to find out what they’re unlikely to hear elsewhere – or who have reached the point where they’re no longer able to preserve their personal comfort level at the expense of other people’s most basic rights. If you think that this is a worthy trade-off, there are plenty of news sites and blogs much bigger than this that will be more palatable to you.

      • Vicky……there is only one issue for the Israelis…their safety…the Palestinians have been killing and maiming Israelis at every chance they get…just a few days ago an 18 yr old soldier was stabbed to death while he slept on a bus..not to mention those little babys they killed in cold blood…until your friends decide to live in peace,they won’t get peace…that’s just the way it is….truth is they are lucky that they are not dealing with Egypt,Syria or Jordan…your efforts would be better spent trying to convince your Arab clients to put down their knives rocks and firebombs…..if they would live in peace,in time it would all work out…for everyone

      • Jordy, I am lucky to live and work with some of the kindest and most generous-hearted people I’ve ever met. The family whom I live with, mentioned in my above comment, are a big part of the reason why I am now a pacifist – they showed me by their example what it means to live with compassion. I will never forget unexpectedly turning up with a friend in tow who happened to be an off-duty Israeli soldier, and rather nervously asking my host mother if it was OK if we gave him a bed for the night. She looked at me and said, “You should not have brought him here.” My heart sank. She continued, “If they find out he has been here they could hurt him, he would be in trouble with his commander, and this is a good boy. Take care of your friends, Vicky.” He stayed with us that night and has been visiting us regularly since. This was not long after my host mother had had to block an army jeep with her body in order to stop them driving away with her twelve-year-old son. Perhaps if you had been with her on that day you would have told her that she should consider herself lucky that she’s not ‘dealing with Syria’?

        This family’s kindness has never stopped them from being harassed by the army. Terrible things have been done to them; the threat of home confiscation is just the latest in a long list. It is an insult to say to them that none of this would be happening ‘if they wanted peace’, because it isn’t true. They know that acting kindly won’t get them anything under this regime. They just choose to do so because they believe it to be right. It is pretty callous for someone who doesn’t have to deal either with Syria or with increasing poverty, fear of homelessness, and fear of child arrest to tell a woman who deals with all this and more that she’s ‘lucky’.

        The numbers do not bear out what you are saying about Palestinians being desperate to kill ‘at every chance they get’. The Palestinian civilian death toll is staggeringly high compared to that for Israelis (yet you do not suggest that Israelis count themselves lucky not to be in Syria, but instead treat their deaths as very serious). You are also talking about the killing of soldiers and the killing of babies in the same breath, as though there is no distinction between targeting a soldier and targeting a child – it’s all the same bloodthirsty terrorism. Many people talk like this, and when Palestinians are murdered, the same conflation is made, but in reverse – it’s too bad when babies die, but in every war there is collateral damage, it must have been because militants were nearby, there must have been a good reason, and that man who was killed was no doubt a terrorist, he must have been, it’s all necessary for safety, safety, security, that’s all. People living here are painfully aware of this double standard: some blood is worth more than other blood. I think I’m better off trying to challenge that legally enshrined belief than in dissuading my ‘clients’ (most of whom have trauma-related mental health problems) from putting down weapons that they haven’t got. If you want to go on telling yourself from the comfort of an American computer chair that they are some vicious knife-wielding bomb-carrying horde who threaten innocent citizens of a beautiful benign state whose noble rule they are just so very lucky to live under, I can’t stop you. But I will continue to describe what I see from the doorstep (or from the living room, when the IDF are requisitioning it), with reference to the context that both you and Roz have glossed over or tried to justify – the separate legal systems, the absence of civil rights, etc. If you don’t want to read it, you don’t have to bother.

        I am very familiar with the extent of Jewish Israeli fears, and I do have a personal stake in all this – my partner is a Jewish Israeli, as are many of my close friends. One friend, a former officer in the army who is still deeply invested both in the idea of IDF morality and political Zionism, startled me by saying not long ago, “I’m going to have to get involved with some of this peace stuff, because if I don’t I’m going to spend the rest of my life being afraid.” She and I have had many long middle-of-the-night conversations about fear. It’s paralysing and it’s real and I feel for her. That doesn’t make the fear rational and it doesn’t mean it can justify what’s going on. She at least sees that. She is also coming to realise that she is not just fearing for her physical safety, she is fearing for the loss of the ideals and beliefs that led her to make aliyah in the first place. This uncertainty and pain is shared by a lot of people who have her emotional investment in these issues. But again, what matters more? You get to preserve your fairytale vision in which the state is personified as all that’s brave and right, or five-year-olds get to play outside in Silwan (a Silwan with equal municipal services to West Jerusalem’s) without being pounced on by magavnikim? Again, priorities. This is what it comes down to in the end.

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