In a rare move, the IDF this week posted a video on YouTube showing Palestinian
violence at Friday’s anti-barrier demonstration in the West Bank village of
RELATED:IDF: Bil’in protester’s death unconnected to tear
gasFemale activists dedicate Friday Bil’in march to Abu
An IDF spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the video
was made in response to the high level of media focus on the weekly Bil’in
demonstrations following the death the previous Saturday in a Ramallah hospital
of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a village resident. Palestinians claim that Abu Rahma died
from tear gas she inhaled the day before at an anti-barrier protest. The IDF
says she was being treated for medical complications unconnected to tear
For years, Palestinians, Israelis and foreign activists have posted
YouTube videos depicting IDF activities at the weekly protests and in other
parts of the West Bank, including one in which a protester was shot in the leg,
allegedly with live ammunition. Another depicts the death of Abu Rahma’s
brother, Bassem, who died at Bil’in when a tear gas projectile hit him in the
chest at an April 2009 demonstration.
Although the IDF has posted other
videos on YouTube, this is the first portraying the weekly protest at Bil’in,
with a focus on Palestinian violence.
By press time, the video of
Friday’s protest – which was dedicated to the memory of Abu Rahma – had slightly
more hits, at 1,172, than the activist video, which had registered 1,149
The video begins with an IDF warning to demonstrators over a
megaphone. “You may protest and express your opinions,” a voice says. “You may
not throw stones or cross the yellow gate. You may not damage the security
In the next shot, a male protester, wearing a white scarf around
his head and another around his mouth, walks up to the wire fence that is part
of the security barrier and cuts it, even though soldiers are standing just a
few meters away on the other side. The IDF then issues another warning: “Any
harm to the fence will force us to respond.” Upon hearing this, the Palestinian
protester gives the IDF the finger.
The video then depicts many more
shots of activists throwing stones at soldiers standing on the opposite side of
The rocks sail over the barrier and over the heads of the
soldiers; in some cases, the soldiers have to jump out of the way.
IDF then uses a large white police truck, which sprays strong jets of
foulsmelling water, which the rioters call “skunk.”
“Our approach is to
enable a protest as long as it is nonviolent,” Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon of the GOC
Central Command explains in the video. “We differentiate very clearly between a
nonviolent demonstration, which is a legitimate form of protest, and a violent
riot that involves the throwing of rocks and metal objects, physical harm and
damage to the security barrier.”
But several videos of the same Friday
demonstration that were posted by activists show a completely different side.
Demonstrators are shown holding aloft posters of Abu Rahma, which describe her
as a martyr. In one video, activists chant and wave flags as they walk from the
mosque in the village, down the road, past the last house, down a hill, into a
valley of olive trees and over to the barrier, which forms a half circle around
their fields. Many are wearing eightpointed yellow badges that read “Palestine,”
and chant “Free Palestine!” and “Let us pass.” One young woman climbs onto the
barrier and waves a flag. Another protester waves a poster of Abu Rahma in front
of the soldiers.
Only in one clip is a protester seen trying to dismantle
the barrier with his hands.
After that there are several video shots of
the white truck shooting streams of “skunk,” which completely clears the
protesters from the wire fence.
Following this, soldiers shoot rounds of
tear gas, and one protester is seen lying on the ground. Another is evacuated
from the scene.
In another video, which was taken after activists reached
a gate in the barrier, protesters can be seen running from thick clouds of tear
gas from canisters that snake a path across the fields before
From its perch on a hilltop overlooking the site on Friday, The
Jerusalem Post saw how both aspects of the protest, violent and nonviolent, took
place at the same time.
Depending on where one stood and at what time,
one could see a violent or a nonviolent demonstration.
strode peacefully from the mosque and into the valley. They fell back when the
white truck sprayed “skunk,” and dispersed altogether under clouds of tear
Most of the stones were thrown by people who stood apart from the
marchers, next to the fence and in a field away from the road.
event that lasted over an hour, soldiers shot many rounds of tear gas, sometimes
at the main group of marchers and other times at the stonethrowers.
places the tear gas was so thick it was hard to see through it, and on occasion
the air was so heavy with gas that even the observers on the hilltop had to move
The Post saw members of an ambulance crew treat one protester for
what appeared to be tear gas inhalation. A woman was observed sitting in a van
and moaning, apparently from the effects of the gas.
activist Jonathan Pollak insists that the intent of the weekly protests is to
remove the barrier, which he and the Palestinians consider illegal. In the case
of Bil’in, Pollak said, the High Court of Justice had agreed that the barrier’s
present location was illegal.
The ruling came more than three years ago,
he said, and since then the state had found the IDF in contempt for failing to
The army began relocation efforts last February. An IDF
spokesman said it would likely take another three months to move the structure,
and that in the interim it was important that the existing stretch remain