Human rights groups decry military closure of Bil'in, Nil'in

"The state is failing in its duty to allow and respect the residents' right to protest."

nilin cool  (photo credit: AP)
nilin cool
(photo credit: AP)
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights on Wednesday blasted the IDF for issuing an order declaring the open area between the West Bank security barrier and the Palestinian villages of Nil’in and Bil’in a closed military zone on Fridays.
Residents of the villages, along with Israeli and foreign supporters, hold protests each Friday against the route of the barrier which cuts the villagers off from their farmland on the “Israeli” side. The protests in Bil’in have been held weekly for the past five years.
According to the new order, Israelis, foreigners and Palestinians who do not live in the village will not be able to enter the protest area from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays until August 17. The order is due to come into effect Thursday.
ACRI attorney Limor Yehuda said that “the military commander’s order will keep out Israeli and international protesters, precisely those who are recognized as having a moderating influence in the field. That raises questions about what are the reasons behind the order.
“If the establishment of the barrier on their land was not enough of a violation of the villagers’ human rights, in its latest act the state is failing in its duty to allow and respect the right of the residents to protest against the illegal acts being perpetrated against them.”
Yesh Din legal adviser Michael Sfard said “the popular protest in Bil’in has become a symbol of the joint struggle of Palestinians and Israelis against the injustice and land robbery caused by the route of the security barrier.”
Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that the army was compiling a list of cars belonging to Israeli activists who routinely take part in the protests in Nil’in and Bil’in, including the names of the owners, and the make and the color of the vehicles. The army has also raided the villages at night and arrested protest leaders.
In a statement issued last month, marking the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the protests in Bil’in, ACRI charged that from the very beginning, security forces took harsh measures and, sometimes, used exaggerated force to stop the protests.
“In 2009, there was an escalation in the efforts of the security forcesto repress the protest in Bil’in,” ACRI wrote. “Since June 2009, wehave been witness to an unprecedented wave of arrests andinterrogations of local residents of Bil’in, among whom number theorganizers of the demonstrations against the barrier. About 37activists have been arrested since June 2009, and some have beenremanded in custody until the end of the proceedings.
“Thesearrests show that it is not a matter of “regular” law enforcement actsbut preemptive operations aimed at repressing the popular andlegitimate protest taking place in the village.”