Int'l donors fund Bil’in protests, IDF official charges

Army tears down part of fence, completes new segment of security barrier along altered route; villagers have vowed to continue their rallies.

Bilin Fence 311 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Bilin Fence 311
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Foreign funding and not political fervor fuels the weekly protests by Palestinians and activists against the Bil’in fence, the IDF charged on Sunday in a press conference it held to mark the completion of the rerouted West Bank barrier and the demolition of the old fence in that area.
Palestinians in Bil’in have held Friday protests against the barrier since the IDF began building it in 2005. No other West Bank village has rallied so long and so consistently against the security barrier.
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As a result, the Bil’in rallies have come to symbolize Palestinian anger against the barrier throughout the West Bank.
The old high-voltage fence separated farmers in Bil’in from their land. The relocated barrier, which was just completed, placed 650 dunams (65 hectares) of farmland back on the Palestinian side of the barrier.
But it still left 1,300 dunams on the Israeli side. Villagers have vowed to continue their rallies until the barrier is completely removed and all their land is easily accessible to them.
Israel is building the West Bank security barrier to protect its citizens from terrorism.
Palestinians, however, say that the structure is designed to deprive them of farmland and has little to do with security.
The IDF on Sunday said that it understood that the relocated barrier would not affect the protest movement in Bil’in against the structure.
“Protests here will continue because there is a lot of money involved,” Binyamin Brigade commander Col. Sa’ar Tzur said.
“For a long time this has not been a political or diplomatic issue. They get money from foreign donors,” Tzur said, but he did not provide any names of individual or organizational donors. He added that teenagers were being paid to participate in the demonstrations.
Jonathan Pollak of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which helps organize the Bil’in protests, rejected the IDF’s allegations as ridiculous.
The man who made the charge “receives a huge salary for shooting demonstrators,” Pollak said.
On Sunday, bulldozers, cranes and construction workers were busy taking down the old barrier. As Tzur spoke, behind him a crane was busy stacking sections of the fence.
Along the barrier section, which was the site of the weekly protests, workers were busy getting ready to dismantle the wire fence where the IDF had in the past fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rioters.
The demolition of the old fence and the construction of the new wall, at a cost of NIS 31 million, was the result of a High Court of Justice ruling in 2007 that the former route was illegal.
It took two years for the IDF to provide the court with an acceptable route.
Only in February 2010 did the army begin work to reroute 1,700 meters of the high-voltage fence.
Last week, the IDF began preparation work to remove that fence. On Sunday, it began taking it down.
“We view it as an important political victory, but it still is a whitewash for land theft.
The demonstrations will continue until the wall is dismantled entirely,” Pollak said of the removal of the old barrier.