Liverpool Friends of Bil’in (LFOB) has had a twinning relationship with the West Bank village of Bil’in since 2008. In that year the head of the Popular Committee, Iyad Bornat, visited Liverpool and appealed for a twinning liaison. Since then we have developed ties with the Friends of Freedom and Justice Committee and the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in the village and we work with key people on a variety of projects.
Our group is a member of the Britain-Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network www.twinningwithpalestine.net
Twinning is a grassroots movement linking individuals, groups and institutions, such as schools, football teams, support groups, women’s groups, trade unions etc. and providing professional links between people. The possibilities are endless.
We are part of a national twinning movement linking communities here in Britain directly with communities in the Occupied Territories. It has proved to be a highly effective two-way process of support for the Palestinians and a means of educating and enriching ourselves. Twinning is an act of friendship and solidarity with a people suffering from occupation, oppression and denial of basic human rights and freedoms, ensuring they do not feel isolated in their daily struggle for survival. It creates opportunities for exchange visits and we get to know real people in a real place. LFOB is non-party political, and our members come from Christian, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds and from no faith. Our concern is to speak out for the human rights of the Palestinian people and to give them a voice in Liverpool.
THE VILLAGE OF BIL’IN
Bil’in is a small village of some 2,000 people situated west of Ramallah in the West Bank and close to the Green Line. In 2004, 60% of its land was stolen in order to expand the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Illit and to build the Apartheid Wall. This deprived the villagers of their traditional agricultural land, including olive groves, causing a sharp rise in unemployment and impoverishment and severely curtailing freedom of movement.
The people of Bil’in have organised non-violent demonstrations against the theft of their land every Friday since 2004. Every Friday they face army invasion, tear-gas, sound-bombs, foul-smelling skunk water, pepper sprays, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition in response. Drones are a recent addition to this arsenal.
Two members of the same family, Bassem and his sister Jawaher Abu Rahme, have been killed. Some, like Rani Bornat who is permanently confined to a wheelchair, have been very seriously injured. Hundreds more have been injured in lesser ways. In addition, the village is subject to terrifying night raids by the army who seek out young men and children and abduct them in the middle of the night to unknown military centres where it is routine to abuse them and subject them to both physical and psychological pressure sometimes amounting to torture. Organisers are harassed, called repeatedly for interrogation, held in indefinite administrative detention or given substantial prison sentences.
Virtually every family in Bil’in, as in every other Palestinian village which offers peaceful but determined resistance, pays a heavy price. The resistance in Bil’in is based on a tripod of support: local Palestinian people, Israeli activists and international supporters. These three elements are present at every demonstration and whilst some of the planning is joint, it is always Palestinian-led.
We have established a strong core of organising activists here in Liverpool which meets regularly, raises money and plans the direction of the twinning. We are often in daily email contact with our Bil’in partners. We organise exchange visits in both directions providing regular contact. We buy beautiful traditional hand-made crafts from the women in order to sell here. We have provided volunteer teachers of English for a variety of groups in Bil’in. We have paid for advanced English classes for some Bil’in activists. We link Liverpool and Bil’in schools who work on joint projects eg. a photography project highlighting the daily lives of children, their families and schools and a longer-term twinning link between a girls’ school in Liverpool and the all-age school for girls in Bil’in. We would like to send a football coach in order to facilitate training and a possible youth football exchange. We have raised money for various small village needs such as paying rent for the office of the Popular Committee, replacing cameras smashed by soldiers when filming demonstrations, some school equipment etc.
In Liverpool we stage street actions in the city centre to highlight arrests and detentions in Bil’in. Each December we sing carols in the city centre to collect money and draw attention to the situation. We give regular talks and we organise very successful social and fund-raising events such as our annual Quiz Nite.
We commissioned a professional Liverpool photographer to work with Bil’in school children and create an exhibition called “Silent Voices”which has been touring the UK since 2012 when it was made. Most photos were taken by the children of Bil’in depicting their day-to-day lives under the stress of the occupation. In Liverpool it has been shown in the Central Library, the two cathedrals, St. George’s Hall, Union headquarters and the Unity Theatre among many other places. Wherever you are in the country it is available to book it and display on application to this website.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Join the Liverpool–Bil’in email list and receive bulletins direct from the weekly demonstrations, and information about our activities.
- Join the Bil’in Core Group and participate in our business meetings when we plan events and visits, discuss the news from Bil’in, organise street events, stalls, fund-raisers etc.
- Support us financially by donation or standing order or organising an event.
- Invite a speaker to a group you belong to.
- Contact us through this website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org