Iyad Burnat and the Nonviolent Movement in Bil’in


Video and Edited Transcript
Mr. Iyad Burnat
Transcript No. 380 (4 February 2013)



4 February 2013
The Palestine Center
Washington, DC


Mr. Iyad Burnat:

Good afternoon, everybody. You know, this is the last meeting here in the United States after three months of tour[ing]. I’ve been in many states, many cities, many events. And it was wonderful that I met a lot of people, and this is what is our goal, our message to American people, especially the American people, that didn’t know more about the situation in Palestine. And they didn’t know, most of them, that I’ve met, and I’ve met a lot of people, and most of them didn’t know that their money goes to Israel’s army. This is the time that everybody has to know, in the United States, and this is our message. Because of this I’m happy to meet you and to meet all of the people here in [the] United States.

So we have the nonviolent resistance in Palestine, and it’s growing. We didn’t start it in Bil’in village, as a [the] nonviolent resistance. It’s in the history of the Palestinian resistance, that if we talk about many years ago, we find a lot of intifadas, a lot of demonstrations by nonviolent ways against the Israeli occupation in our Palestinian land. So if we go back to 1987, that’s the first intifada, the famous intifada for the Palestinians, I was 15 years old at that time, and I joined the intifada with my friends. I [was] arrested for two years. And [the intifada] was a nonviolent way.

[In] 2003 the Israelis start[ed] to build the apartheid wall around Palestinian villages and cities. And this is the goal of the Israeli army, this is the goal of the wall: to put the Palestinians together in jail, to make the lives of the Palestinians hard, day by day. And it didn’t start in 2003, it started from 1948, that the Israelis make the life of the Palestinians hard: killing people, demolishing villages to remove the Palestinians from their houses. And they continue until now.

In Bil’in village, as a case of the nonviolent resistance, in West Bank, Bil’in is a small village. As you know, we have [had] our nonviolent resistance eight years now, every Friday. We use every Friday a new idea of our resistance. So here I have some photos:

We have the red line which is the apartheid wall. The green line, as you know, is what the United Nations mentioned in 1967, that’s two states: a Palestinian state and an Israeli state. Always we have the Israelis [who] didn’t care for any international laws, for any agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis, from the beginning.

So here, as you see, after the wall, after the green line, the Israelis start to build settlements everywhere on the ground, on the land of the Palestinians. So, from 1993 after [the] Oslo agreement, we have seven settlements that they built on the land of Bil’in, and on the land of other villages around Bil’in. If you look between the apartheid wall and between the green line, we have, in the Bil’in area, six kilometers. These six kilometers [are] full of settlements, as you see.

For example, we have Modi’in Illit, the biggest settlement up there. We [have] 60,000 people living in this settlement now [after] ten years. When they started to build the apartheid wall in Bil’in, and you know, when they started to take the land, to confiscate the land, they confiscated it by security reasons, or by closed military area. They used many laws against the Palestinians to take their land and confiscate it, their land.

The length of the wall is about 750 kilometers around the West Bank, around the cities. So the Palestinians will have, after the wall, twelve percent from their land. Twelve percent [that] they cut to pieces. There is not contact between the Palestinians cities and the villages inside of West Bank area. We have also inside of [the] West Bank area, we have more than 250 settlements. Half a million settlers living inside of West Bank. So it means that the Israelis continue to build the settlements, continue to build new houses in the settlement. They never stop building settlements in our villages. They never stop attacking the people, the farmers by the settlers. The settler is part of the army. All the settlers in the West Bank, they have guns. And you know you have in the news sometimes, I don’t know if your news tells you about this, but, you know, we have, every day, we have attack[s] from the settlers [on] the farmers, especially in the north, in the Nablus area and Tulkarm. The settlers [shoot] and attack the people, they burn the olive trees of the farmers.

So when they started to build the apartheid wall in Bil’in in December 2004, they destroyed 1,000 olive trees for the farmers. Olive trees are a big means for the farmers, as a Palestinian. First, it’s the holy tree. It’s the food of the farmers. It’s the life of the people there as farmers. Bil’in is a small village. We have 1,900 people living in Bil’in. Most of them are farmers. When the Israelis started to build the apartheid wall, they confiscated 2,300 dunums from the farms of the people, it’s about 60 percent of the land of the village. And this land is full of olive trees. Most of the people are farmers. It means that most of the people lost their jobs, lost their olive trees, lost their land.

And also, the wall comes where the aquifer of the water [is] for the Palestinians. As a Palestinian, we have enough water to use in our life, but the Israelis, by the wall, they stole this water and they gave it to the settlements around the village, and you will feel that if you visit and you see there that the settlement is green, 24 hours [of] water, and swimming pools, everything they have. If you look to the other side, to the Palestinian village, you will see everything is brown. You will see that the Palestinian roofs are full of tanks to collect the water. And sometimes when the Israeli soldiers attack the village at nighttime, or in the day, they shoot these tanks [with] rubber bullets. This is what they want to do [to] the Palestinians, just to make life hard day by day.

So we started our nonviolent resistance in Bil’in, 2004, and it was every day until February 2005. The people saw the bulldozers attack their olive trees, destroy their farms, so everybody [went] in the streets. Women, children, men, [went] to the streets to fight against the bulldozers, to try to stop the bulldozers from destroying their land. And we used the nonviolent way in our struggle. In February 2005 we organized ourselves, we built our committee, we decided to have the demonstration every week. Since eight years, we have our demonstrations every week. Every Friday, we have a new idea that we use in our demonstration to send our message to many people in the world that they didn’t know what’s the meaning of the apartheid wall, because, you know, the Israeli propaganda is everywhere, that says this is for security, and everything. When they want to attack the Palestinian, to destroy the life of the Palestinians, they say it’s for security reasons.

But the wall is, as I told you, 750 kilometers, the green line is 320 kilometers, so it means that the apartheid wall [is] more than twice [as long as] the green line. It comes like a snake, to take more land from the Palestinian land to build more settlements, to put the Palestinians together in jail. And this is what’s happening now, that there is no contact between the Palestinian villages by the wall and the settlements. And this is what’s happened, that the people from Ramallah, for example, they cannot go to Jerusalem. They need permission to go there, and for security reasons, most of the Palestinians don’t have permission. I’ve never been in Jerusalem, and it’s 25km from our home. If we want to go to Jenin, for example, from Ramallah, we have to spend all the day to go there because [of] the checkpoints and the settlements and the borders of the checkpoints.

So I think this is what the Israelis are doing now, this is what they want the Palestinians to do. They force them by their food, they force them by destroying their life, to leave the villages and to leave this area. And we know that Israeli Zionists, now, they called for a Jewish state. It means that they didn’t want a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Palestinian under the occupation to be in that area. So, it’s not from now, this idea, it started in 1948, when the occupation started in Palestine.

So, as I told you, we started the nonviolent way as a weekly demonstration in February 2005. We put ourselves in cages in front of the bulldozers, we put ourselves in barrels, in cylinders; we fight by our bodies as a nonviolent way. All the people join us in our demonstrations. We have internationals from all over the world that participate with us in our demonstrations. We have, every week, Israeli activists, also, that come and join us in our demonstrations every week.

So, on the other side, we find a lot of violence from the Israeli soldiers that they try to break us by many ways, a lot [of] violent ways. It started by using a lot of weapons against us, many kinds of weapons that [are] illegal to use in nonviolent demonstrations. Or, it’s illegal by international law to use it against the people, but the Israeli army was using it against us in our nonviolent demonstrations,directly on the people. And when we say that’s tear gas or a rubber bullet, that’s the people, the Israeli’s propaganda also plays [with] the words of the weapons that they use. So, tear gas is meant for eyes or to keep people away. Rubber bullets [are] not so dangerous. That’s what they say in their propaganda. But what they use, really, is rockets against the people. They use the tear gas directly on the people to kill the people. And we have two killed in our village, in Bil’in. We have 40 people killed around the villages in nonviolent demonstrations like in Na’leen, or Budrus, or al-Musalla, or al-Walaja or Nabi Salih.

So we have a lot of violence from the Israeli soldiers, and also all these weapons were made in the United States. What they use against us every week, we have 1,300 people injured in Bil’in village, as a small village, all these weapons were made in the United States. And also when they shot these weapons they didn’t know if you were a Palestinian, or Israeli, or international, so we have a lot of our friends that have been injured by these weapons in Bil’in. We have our friend, Christian Anderson, he’s been shot in Na’leen village by the tear gas canister, and this tear gas is the same tear gas that shot our friend Bassem Abu-Rahma, and he was killed in Bil’in. When they shot him in his chest it made a big hole in his chest. It means that these are very dangerous weapons that they use against the people in Bil’in. In other villages now we have many people killed by these weapons that they use directly on the people. And these weapons that we call “the black rocket” that they use in the demonstrations, it’s made in the United States. The American army was using it to break in windows when they want to attack someplace. In Bilin they use it against the people directly from 20 meters or 15 meters, and by using this tear gas, because of this, we’ve had a lot of people killed and injured around all the villages and where we do our nonviolent struggle. So they use, as I told you, many kinds of ways, many kinds of weapons, to break us in our nonviolent struggle.

Also, at nighttime, when they attack the village, and it was sometimes every night that a big group of soldiers attacks the village at nighttime, covering their faces, with guns, with dogs attack[ing] the houses, wak[ing] everybody from his sleeping, just to make the village very hard life at nighttime. And it’s made a lot of problems for the children that they grow up with the violence of the Israeli soldiers at nighttime and in the day. So we have 150 who’ve been arrested in the village, and most of them are children. They put them in jail from four to 18 months, and they have to pay to the court money [for] each one that’s been arrested. They have to pay to the court between 2,000 to 15,000 NIS. This is to break the children, to break the families. The families lost their land, their olive trees, their jobs, so they want to break them by the money to their children, money to pay to the court. Children in our village are 13 years old, 14 years old, 15 years old. Most of the people who have been arrested are children. If you see 5 Broken Cameras movie, you will see in the movie how old these children [are] who’ve been arrested, and how the Israeli soldiers arrested them at nighttime in the village.

And it was sometimes every night they attacked the village, to break the people, because the Israeli army knows that our way, our nonviolent way, has affected the Israeli army. They know that by this way we can succeed against the Israeli propaganda, against the Israeli army, against the Israeli economy, because these are the three strong legs that the Israeli occupation stands on: the army, they have a strong army; they have a strong media everywhere in the world, and we feel this media here in the US, that they have a strong media; and they have a strong economy. By this way we can fight. By our people on the ground we can break the Israeli army. They cannot use against us the planes or rockets in the demonstration. They need a lot of soldiers, a group of soldiers, to stop us in nonviolent demonstration. Everybody can join us in our demonstration by this way. International media, Palestinian children, women, everybody can join us in these demonstrations. So they need a lot of money to spend on the army to stop these people, and now it’s growing in Palestine. We have 20 villages, 20 places that are doing the weekly demonstration every Friday, and they need a lot of soldiers to stop these people. They need a lot of tear gas, a lot of weapons to use, and they lost. They lost by this way.

And on the other side, by our boycott, by our friends outside that’s leading the BDS movement, we can fight the Israeli economy. And it’s growing everywhere, in Europe, here in the United States. Many people are starting to know and to boycott the Israeli’s occupation. The third, is the media. Here we didn’t see that the American media shows anything from our struggle, from our nonviolent way, the situation in Palestine, the people who are living under the occupation, suffering every day by the occupation, the farmers. They didn’t show here anything. It means that the Israeli media is controlling the American media. They didn’t show the two sides. They show one side in their media. And by this way we can fight, the media. By this way we have a lot of friends, from the United States, from Europe, that visit us every week. And these people are our messengers outside. They can show our message outside to their friends, to their students, to their families, so we can send this message to many people by our media. We can fight the media by this way. So it’s growing. It’s growing everywhere. We know now a lot of people know about the situation in Palestine and what’s going on.

So here (slide) we have some photos that give you more information about the ideas, the weapons that they used in our demonstration against the people during the eight years of our struggle.

So if we look here (slide) we see a tear gas canister that they use [with] guns also directly on the people.

Here (slide) [are] some of our ideas that we use in our demonstration. Do you know what this is? (slide) Yes, it’s the Avatar movie, that we make our people as Avatar people, and they go to the wall. So when the soldiers saw Avatar people come, they didn’t know what to do at that time.

Here (slide) is some of the weapons that we talk about. This is water, it looks like water, but it’s chemical things they collect together to make a very bad smell. They use it every week now against the people. You have to throw your clothes out, you have to wash yourself many times if you get some of this water on your body.

This (slide) is also [an]other tear gas that they use 50 tear gas at the same time by a machine against the people in the demonstration.

Here’s (slide) the olive trees that we talk about. They destroyed more than 1,000 olive trees, and these olive trees are more than 1,000 years old.

So many kinds of weapons here (slide), if you search or Google the tear-gas canister, you will find that most of these weapons are made in the United States. So, I know this kind is made in Pennsylvania, for example.

Here’s our friend (slide) Bassem Abu-Rahma, he’s been shot by the tear gas canister.

This (slide) is our flotilla to Gaza when we didn’t have time or chance to go to Gaza to join our friends because they didn’t give us permission, so we made our flotilla in our village.

(slide) It’s a lot of tear gas they use every week against the people. So this is the tear gas that we talk about, the black one. It’s very dangerous, very fast. They have to use it 500 meters in the sky, and, you know, they use it against the people, direct to the people in 15 meters. By this one we have many people [who have] been injured and killed, the last one in Nabi Salih village. They shot him in one meter [with] this one and he died in the place, [they shot him] in his face.

(Slide) Sometimes we have a demonstration for the children after the night raids and the hard life of the children at night, just to tell the soldiers we want to sleep.

Here (slide) is [an]other kind of tear gas that they use also. They have tear gas and they have fire, and this is how they burn the olive trees. At night time we talk about the hard time of the children, that when the soldiers attack the houses they have to wake everybody from his sleeping.

(Slide) So, I’ve been arrested many times in the demonstrations.

So, you know, Bil’in became a famous village in the world after the nonviolent resistance, after we succeeded to send our message to the people in the world. We succeeded to demolish part of the wall in Bil’in village, and it’s the first time that we have the Israeli court has a decision to demolish part of the wall and to move it back 500 meters, and it means we have 1,000 dunums back to the farmers in Bil’in village. And we succeeded to stop 2,000 apartments in the settlement Matityahu Mizrah, that’s new settlements they build it on our land, and they start to build it after 2003. So we succeed to send our message to many people in the world. We succeed to invite a lot of people, famous people, people who have Nobel Peace Prize, a lot of European Parliaments, members of Parliament. They visit us in Bil’in, many groups from all of the world. Not just in the demonstrations, but also in other days in the week they visit Bilin and they join us in our situation there.

So here (slide) for example we have Jimmy Carter. He visited Bil’in with Desmond Tutu, and he said at that time that this is an apartheid wall, these are illegal settlements, and when he came back here to the United States I heard that the Zionist attack[ed] him for this. But everyone who goes there will say that.

Here’s (slide) the soldiers at nighttime when they come to arrest somebody. That’s with dogs, with guns.

Here’s (slide) Matityahu Mizrah settlement that’s on the land of the village, all these settlements [are] on the land of Bil’in village.

Here’s (slide) the soldiers at nighttime.

(Slide) And you have a lot of weapons that they write on it “Made in the USA,” as you see.

(Slide) We have many of our American friends that come and join us in our demonstrations, also.

(Slide) As you see, many kinds of weapons every week they use against the people, as rocket weapons, and all these weapons they shoot by the guns direct to the people.

(Slide) Here’s Modi’in Illit settlement. They continue to build new houses on the land of the people, destroying the olive trees. We have 50,000 to 60,000 people living now in these settlements.

(Slide) So, a lot of ideas we use in our demonstrations every week since eight years. We have new ideas: this is, for example, Martin Luther King [Jr.] with Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. We made our people look like them to lead us in one of our demonstrations on Friday.

We have a lot of ideas. We have many demonstrations that we use creative ideas since eight years. And now also we have used these ideas in other villages. We have many places that [are] doing the same Bil’in demonstration. As you heard before, [for] a few weeks we started to build villages in West Bank areas near the settlements by our people, but always the Israelis attack these villages and they demolish the tents in these villages and arrest the people. But we continue on the ground to work to resist by the nonviolent way, as we continue.

Iyad Burnat is head of the Bil’in Popular Committee and a leader in the village’s nonviolent popular resistance movement. Since 2005, citizens of Bil’in have held weekly protests against the Israeli separation wall, which effectively deprives them of much of their farmland for the benefit of a nearby Jewish settlement. The villagers are joined by Israeli and international peace activists, and have maintained a commitment to nonviolent methods of resistance in the face of Israeli repression.

This transcript may be used without permission but with proper attribution to The Palestine Center. The speaker’s views do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jerusalem Fund.