Editor’s note: For more than 10 years, the brave people of Bil’in in the Occupied West Bank have been leading the resistance against the Israeli occupation. Every Friday the village marches against the illegal Israeli Separation Wall that bisects their agricultural lands. Throughout the years they’ve been supported and joined by solidarity activists, from the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall to Basque groups, always using creative ways to demand attention for their plight.
Iyad Burnat has been one of the central figures in the Bil’in protests. He is the brother of Emad Burnat, director of the highly acclaimed 2011 film 5 Broken Cameras. Resistance has cost Iyad years in jail and the loss of friends killed. A year ago his son was severely and permanently injured after being shot in his leg by Israeli soldiers. Throughout these trials, one thing characterized the Bil’in people above all: an unbreakable spirit of resistance!
Below is Iyad’s soul-wrenching account after being targeted and severely beaten during last Friday’s protests:
They tried to kill me.
In the afternoon of Friday, August 28 we went to our weekly demonstration against the theft of our land and the apartheid wall in Bil’in. We have been doing this non-violent demonstration for 10 years. As usual the soldiers were waiting for us in front of our village, but this time from the start of the demonstration we could feel that there was something different from the usual initial bombardment of teargas from the soldiers’ jeeps.
To begin with, they fired a smaller amount of gas towards the peaceful demonstration, but as the march continued towards the site of the old segregation wall, the soldiers ambushed us and held me at gunpoint, threatening to shoot. The soldiers tied my hands far too tight behind my back, the plastic ties cutting into my skin. Still with their guns aimed at me, I was brutally beaten by five or six soldiers with sticks and they bound my eyes with blindfold material soaked with pepper spray.
I did not resist — any resistance against these type of soldiers would just lead to more of a beating or worse.
After the beating, in agony, the soldiers walked me to their jeep on the other side of the separation wall surrounding the illegal settlement close to our village. I was in great pain and could feel that the soldiers had done some real damage to me.
I pleaded with the soldiers to speak with their commander as I could feel a lot of pain in my chest and needed to visit the hospital. The soldiers then just laughed and mocked me saying that there is no hospital for “terrorists”. They lied to me that they would take me to the hospital after they had taken me to the police station. On arrival at the police station, still cuffed and blindfolded, I again told people there that I needed to see a doctor but no one would listen.
I was held from 2pm until midnight without charge and still with no access to medical care, all the while with pepper spray burning my eyes and the ties slicing my wrists.
When they finally released me and my cousin Hamza, who was arrested for photo-documenting the day’s events, they threw me out on to the street and told me that I had to call for an ambulance myself. Hamza called the ambulance as I was exhausted and unable to move with the pain. The ambulance arrived in around 20 minutes and took me to Ramallah hospital where they treated me and told me that I have two broken ribs in my chest, along with heavy bruising all over my body. They gave me medicine and I was told that they cannot do anything to treat the broken ribs.
I have been arrested and injured many times during our struggle against the illegal settlements and theft of our families’ land, but this time I felt that the Israeli soldiers wanted to kill me. They have done a lot of things over the years to try and break us and the spirit of the village, especially targeting me and my family.
When I was in the hospital on August 28, the date of my son Majd’s birthday, I recalled that exactly a year earlier, he himself was in the hospital awaiting treatment after being shot in the leg by Israeli soldiers during a protest. This is how the Israelis use violence to threaten and scare my family, hoping that we will break and give up resisting the occupation and give up on the land we depend on.
The oppressor must understand that every bullet and beating towards us does not make us weak, but strengthens our resolve and brings us closer together. We will not give up, we will resist until they tire of using violence against us.
I will continue to fight for our freedom, for a better future for my children and for all children. As soon as I am fit and able to attend, I will return to our weekly protest and continue to demonstrate against the aggression we face in our everyday lives.
Iyad Burnat is the head of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall, which has led weekly demonstrations since 2005 against the Israel West Bank Barrier and the illegal settlements in the area. Iyad has been arrested and imprisoned over a dozen times for non-violently protesting Israeli actions. This text was originally published on Iyad’sFacebook page.