Bil’in: Struggling for land and liberty

May 31st, 2009 | Posted in Boycott, Canada, Palestine

interview with Mohammed Khatib of the Bil’in popular committee by Stefan Christoff

    Photo: ActiveStills. Protest against apartheid wall in Bil’in, Palestine.

In April 2009 an Israeli soldier shot a high-velocity teargas canister at Palestinian activist Bassam Ibrahim Abou Rahme at close range during a protest against the Israeli wall in Bil’in.

Minutes after the shot Bassam Ibrahim Abou Rahme died, the eighteenth Palestinian to die in popular protests against the Israeli wall in Bil’in which have taken place each Friday for over four years.

Israel’s wall surrounds Bil’in residents, cutting the Palestinian villagers from large sections of their farms lands and olive groves, while Israel continue to construct settlements on lands belonging to the Palestinian municipality.

Last year Bil’in village launched a historic lawsuit in the Quebec Superior Court against two companies registered locally, Green Park International and Green Mount International, who are currently helping to build an Israeli-only settlement on land within Bil’in’s municipal jurisdiction.

In tandem with the Quebec court case Palestinian activist Mohammed Khatib, with the Bil’in popular committee, is set to tour Canada throughout June to speak about the key court case in Quebec and to mobilize support for the ongoing popular protests in Bil’in village.

In the lead-up to this historical cross-Canada tour Mohammed Khatib spoke about the struggle in Bil’in village live on CKUT radio, 90.3 fm in Montreal, below is a transcription of that interview.

Stefan Christoff: Bil’in village has been holding demonstrations each week, every Friday against the Israeli wall since 2005. Could you talk about these demonstrations that have caught the imagination of people around the world and why the Palestinians of Bil’in have been so moved to protest weekly for over four years?

Mohammed Khatib: Since 2005 we have been demonstrating against the apartheid wall but also against the Israeli settlements being built on our land by Israel.

International and Israeli activists always participate in our protests which are non-violent and call for Israel to stop occupying our land. In response to our peaceful protests the Israeli army has used a lot of violence against us. Last month the Israeli military killed my good friend from Bil’in, a soldier fired a teargas canister at close rang killing Bassam Ibrahim Abou Rahme, striking him in the heart; a tragedy for our village.

Stefan Chrsitoff: Now in terms of your land in Bil’in, the Israeli wall cuts though your land and the Bil’in popular committee estimates are that upwards of 50% of your territory will be annexed. Can you explain the importance of your land to the Palestinians of Bil’in, how the land relates to your survival and identity.

Mohammed Khatib: Almost 60% of Bil’in village land has been confiscated, mainly cultivated land, with olive trees and farming fields which has allowed us to survive for generations. Also Israel is building settlements on our land which is tragic because loosing this land is an attack on our livelihood as Palestinians.

This land is so important to our survival because we are farming village and we depend on this land for our livelihood, it is our source of life. There are thousands and thousands of olive trees on this land a source of life for us and a symbol for the Palestinian people, in Bil’in and throughout Palestine.

Israel is stealing our land, uprooting the olive trees and surrounding us with the apartheid wall. All this is possible because Israel occupies our land with military force and the fate of our land is being decided by military officers who are our occupiers.

Israel is occupying and confiscating our land to expand their settlements on Palestinian land. This is not only happening in Bil’in but throughout the Palestinian territories. Again and again the tragic pattern is that first Israeli military forces occupy our land, then excludes us from our land and then hands over our land to Israeli settlers who build huge buildings, surrounding and protected by the Israeli army.

This is why we have taken our case to the Canadian courts, where we will try to bring Israel to justice for the crimes that it is committing against us and for this case in Quebec we need your support in Canada.

Stefan Christoff: Can you speak about the shooting death of Bassam Ibrahim Abou Rahme, who was killed by the Israeli military during demonstrations in Bil’in, the 18th Palestinian to be killed at your weekly demonstrations. What are you’re your memories about Bassam who was a friend and comrade to you.

Mohammed Khatib: Bassam was a good friend not only to the Palestinians in Bil’in but also to all the Israelis and internationals who participated in our weekly demonstrations.

Bassam is a symbol of humanity, someone who was very active in the village, everyone liked and loved him. At our demonstrations Bassam was always speaking with the Israeli occupation forces in a human way, asking them to stop shooting, asking them to act peacefully and to stop using violence against us.

Actually when Bassam was shot by Israeli occupation forces while he was actually asking them to stop shooting at the protest because an Israeli friend who was demonstrating with us had been injured. Quickly after Bassam began calling on the soldiers to stop shooting in order to allow a medical team to enter, the Israeli army shot Bassam at close range with a powerful teargas canister, hitting him in the heart.

This teargas canister wasn’t the normal type but a new model that the Israeli military is using that can travel around 500 meters. It is really a mini rocket which the soldier fired at Bassam from only a couple feet away. The killing Bassam by the Israeli army was filming on video and is on-line, a crime is clearly caught on video and until now the Israeli soldier who killed Bassam has faced no punishment or charges.

Bassam was a good friend to everyone in the village and everyone who has supported our struggle around the world. Never will we forget Bassam in Bil’in and we will continue to demonstrate each week in Bil’in, as Bassam did, until the occupation ends and the apartheid wall falls.

for more information on Bil’in village visit the village website:

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