Photos of Friday’s Arab Bil’in fence protest, which Palestinian Authority PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attended, disprove claims that the demonstration was "non-violent.” Pro-Arab activists claim the IDF shot tear gas before the violence began.
Fayyad addressed the rally and left before the violence began. He later accused Israel of a “war crime” for the death of 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahma, who died a day after the protests from what Palestinian Authority sources claimed was poison gas. However, Arab sources changed the story of her medical treatment, first reporting that she and one other were treated at the hospital and released. After she died, they reported that she had remained in the hospital in Ramallah.
The IDF has raised doubts concerning the circumstances of her death because the Palestinian Authority has refused to release medical reports, which the military wants in order to complete its own investigation and to determine if the tear gas canister was the direct cause of her death or if other causes, such as a heart attack, were the cause. The PA also refused to join Israel in a probe of the incident.
Foreign and local media highlighted the use of tear gas by the Israeli army and police but did not mention the rock throwing attacks. Several months ago, a security officer lost an eye after being struck by a rock.
Israel’s Ynet published a video of Friday’s protest that was posted on YouTube by Kaitham Khatib, media coordinator of Bil'in, who films the protests every week. The video omits all evidence of Arab and leftist violence, which was photographed by Israeli authorities.
Also attending the protest was Haggai Matar, a contributing writer for the Hebrew-language Maariv newspaper, and a member of the left-wing Gush Shalom [Peace Bloc]. He has refused to enlist in the IDF.
“Contrary to Palestinian claims that yesterday’s riot in Bil’in was non-violent…approximately 250 rioters had gathered in Bil’in, hurling rocks at security forces, who responded with riot dispersal means,” IDF spokesmen said. “The village area was declared a closed military zone in order to prevent the violent riot from escalating and the entry and exit of the village for residents continued as usual.
“Similar violent riots occurred this weekend in [five other villages], in which rioters hurled rocks at security forces.” One soldier was lightly wounded from a rock that was hurled at his face.”
Left-wing activists, anarchists and Arabs have staged weekly protests at Bil’in for six years. The village is near the route of the security fence that stretches from the northern Jordan Valley to the northern Negev and which is aimed at making it more difficult for terrorists to reach Israeli urban centers.
Nationalists have charged that the route of the fence, which approximates the 1949 Armistice Lines that were in effect until the1967 Six Day War, is intended to draw the borders of a future Palestinian Authority country.
Statistically, terrorist suicide bombers have almost disappeared, but many attribute this to the activism of the IDF in preventing terror rather than the fence.
Rahma’s funeral Saturday was accompanied by incitement against Israel. She was buried next to her brother, who was killed in a similar protest nearly two years ago, when a tear gas canister struck him in the chest.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas played on the sympathies of the international community, saying that the IDF is guilty of crimes "carried out by the army of the occupation against our helpless nation.”
Saturday night, Israeli pro-Arab activists disturbed the 1:00 a.m. quiet around the home of U.S. Ambassador to Israel James B. Cunningham, chanting anti-Israeli slogans and leaving behind empty tear gas canisters, according to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and reposted on the New York-based Mondoweiss blog, which is fiercely against a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
The protesters chanted, “One, two, three, four, stop the occupation stop the war. Five, six, seven, eight, end the funding (US) end the hate.” Activists also blocked a main Tel Aviv artery for one hour Saturday night before being dispersed by police. Several people were arrested.