Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Click below for a multi-media ’essay’ on the weekly protests staged in the West Bank to protest the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank. Israel says the barrier prevents Palestinian attacks in its towns and cities. Palestinians say the barrier is a land grab as much of it is built on land they want for a future state.
“Skunk”, the Israeli Army calls it. Good name.
It had been a month or so since I was last in Bilin, a village in the West Bank, north of Ramallah. Regular protests occur here every Friday over the controversial Israeli barrier fence. Palestinian, Israeli and international protesters and activists gather near the fence to protest and sometimes throw stones at the Israeli security forces standing guard on the other side who fire teargas at the protesters. Sometimes the amount of teargas the security forces fires can be overwhelming because they are firing into open fields rather than narrow streets or houses. The gas is usually enough to turn all but the hardcore protesters back along the path from which they came.
I knew beforehand the Israeli security forces had recently introduced a new sort of smelly chemical spray, called Skunk, fired from a police water cannon. I was told by Fadi Arouri, our Ramallah photographer, how horrible it was after he experienced the lasting stink it left with him the week before. He politely offered to stay back last Friday, a few hundred meters away, to get a long shot of the tear gas being fired.
Our TV cameramen and stills photographers prefer to shoot anywhere except in the West Bank village of Bilin. That’s where Palestinians, foreign supporters and Israeli left-wing activists hold weekly protests against the barrier Israel is building in the occupied West Bank.
Seeking to quell protests in Bilin, Israeli security forces spray a foul-smelling substance that sticks — for a long time — to skin, clothes and cameras. Staying their ground, protesters have been trying a counter-measure: yellow plastic suits and masks.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s ruling against Israel’s controversial separation barrier, which is still under construction in and around the West Bank. According to a report from the UN High Commission for Human Rights, about 60 percent of the barrier has been constructed.
Israel says the barrier is aimed at preventing Palestinian terrorism, and says that since the wall has been built there has been a significant drop in attacks. However, the ICJ condemned Israel’s construction of the barrier on land within the West Bank-land Palestinians want for a future state-instead of on the Israeli side of the green line (the 1949 armistice line).
Every week our photographers and cameramen cover any number of demonstrations organised by activists protesting against the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank. Palestinians say the barrier is an Israeli land-grab that stifles freedom of movement and economic growth. Israeli authorities say the barrier prevents would-be attackers from reaching Israel.
You can read more about the controversy over the barrier here.
Covering the demonstrations has become a kind of routine. Most demonstrations happen on Fridays in the early afternoon. Protesters usually arrive along the same route. The Israeli army or Border Police are usually positioned in the same places. Protests start fairly quietly with chanting and flag-waving but almost invariably degenerate into skirmishes where demonstrators throw rocks at the Israeli forces who fire tear gas or rubber coated bullets to disperse the crowd.