NIF Chair Naomi Chazan
NIF Chair Naomi Chazan Knesset website

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Yesh Din, groups that are sponsored by the New Israel Fund, are upset over an IDF decision to declare the villages of Bilin and Naalin closed military zones every Friday. “The IDF is trampling on freedom of expression in a place that has become a symbol of protest,” they said.

The groups' statement ignores and denies the violent nature of the weekly actions at Bilin and Naalin, which began five years ago and have, in one case, caused an IDF soldier to lose an eye.

"The protest at Bilin and Naalin objects to the illegitimate abuse of the residents' human rights, following the illegal construction of the separation fence on their lands,” the two groups said in a statement. “The protest is carried out by residents of the area – men, women and children, who are joined by Israelis and activists from the entire world,” the statement read. “The demonstrators at Bilin were even recognized in a formal United Nations report as defenders of human rights, who are entitled to special protection by the security forces. These grassroots protest actions have become a model for imitation among demonstrators and political activists throughout the West Bank [Judea and Samaria – ed.],” it explained.

'Nonviolent protest'

"In the past year the IDF is acting ever more aggressively to repress the protest at Bilin and Naalin, sometimes using means of dubious legality,” the leftists complained. Among other things, they said, the IDF is applying more force, including illegal use of weapons against the protestors, arresting and trying organizers of the protests at Bilin, “even though this leadership has etched upon its flag the nonviolent method of protest.”

Attorney Michael Sefard, Legal Adviser to Yesh Din, stated that “the person who signed the new IDF Command Head's order has apparently lost all shame and pretense of representing a regime that respects, even for outward appearance's sake, the freedom of expression of residents under its rule and their right to protest.”  

Nonviolent? Recent rioting at Bilin (photos by Flash 90):