Burnat got his first camera in 2005 at the birth of his fourth son, and recorded the weekly demonstrations against the barrier – which started at the same time – where villagers were joined by Israeli activists and internationals. I witnessed one such protest myself, in May 2008, on my first trip to the West Bank and Israel. They have sometimes turned deadly, as both Palestinians and their supporters have been killed by bullets or tear gas canisters fired by the IDF. On the day I was there, it was relatively mellow, with tear gas canisters fired over the fence starting lots of little fires in the dry grass, and sending protesters scattering, but nobody was shot and the IDF didn’t use sound guns at high decibels and had not yet begun shooting protesters with “stink water,” as they have on many occasions since.
Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi spent a lot of time in Bil’in doing his own filming, and the two men collaborated on the documentary. You can watch/read two interviews with both of them on Democracy Now! and see excerpts of the film. Watching Emad’s elderly parents climbing onto a military vehicle to try to rescue Emad’s brother from arrest was heart-wrenching.
In 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the barrier had to be moved, and in 2011 it finally was, returning some but not all of the stolen lands to the village. The protests are continuing because the villagers want all of their land back.
On my second trip there last November, I missed the weekly demonstration but did get to view a lot of home-made videos of the demonstrations, including one in which a beloved leader of the protests, Bassem Aburahma, was shot and killed by the IDF.
I just read that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking “a hard line” against some of the settlements his government has deemed illegal (most likely the “illegal outposts”), while allowing the expansion of many others.
I find it interesting that the whole issue of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank – now in its 45th year – has completely fallen off the agenda of any U.S.-Israeli talks, which now focus on Iran. And my Palestinian friends are disgusted with their own leadership as well, seeing it as too corrupt or too complicit with Israel (Fatah) or too rigid, too anti-woman and too fanatically religious (Hamas). They are not too excited about the impending merger of the two (if it happens).
The energy is in the popular resistance movement – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign http://www.bdsmovement.net/, the “freedom rides” of Palestinians on Israeli-only buses http://bit.ly/vZhfh0, and the ongoing protests in Bil’in and many other villages to the “separation barrier.”