May 3rd, 2011 by emad
Imad Burnat activist model: a life-threatening wall
It’s been 3 years since Imad Burnat was wounded on an accident by the separation fence in Bil’in, after 5 years of dedication to document Bil’in’s resistance against the wall Imad carries the consequences of his injury alone.
Imad Mohammed Yassin Burnat, 36 years old, from the village of Bil’in and a young father of four children, joined the Popular Committee against the Wall in Bil’in from the start. Imad documented with his camera 5 years of Bil’in’s resistance and the army’s brutality; this includes dozens of demonstrations in the village and in other villages too, Imad also followed the army’s different attempts of putting pressure on the village through night raids, curfews, house arrests etc. His work became very important and was broadcasted in Television channels worldwide among them Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabia and many more… his footage was also used in many films such as “Bili’n My Love”. His short films were shown worldwide in TV’s, events and on the Internet.
Imad’s footage was used as a witness in numerous cases in Israeli courts. Many of the villagers were arrested during demonstrations and, as usual, Israeli soldiers’ stories were trusted without question, but the videos taken by Imad proved the lying nature of these soldiers. The protesters were often arrested for stone-throwing, assaulting the soldiers or attempting to take a soldier’s weapon. Israeli soldiers made these claims to the court, but the film often showed the opposite, and embarrassed the soldiers. Some Israeli soldiers admitted that some of their officers forced them to make a false testimony. On the other hand, there were many demonstrators who were directly injured, without posing a threat to the soldiers; Imad’s videos were also used to prosecute these soldiers in the courts.
The Israeli soldiers were aware of the risks these cameras posed to them since the beginning of Bil’in’s popular resistance of the wall. There was never a raid on the village without the cameras ready for monitoring. Imad had been targeted and wounded dozens of times, his cameras were broken by soldiers many times, and he paid a very high personal price for his work, but he was determined to continue the struggle through filming, which made the Israeli soldiers to search for other means. In Oct. 6th 2006, while he was documenting an Israeli invasion at the village, he was arrested and sentenced to a month in jail and two months house arrest outside Bil’in. When he was out of that, he returned to his path of resistance again.
In 2007, one of the soldiers fired a rubber coated steel bullet at him, which broke his camera. The rubber bullet is still in the lens of the camera until today, a testament to the targeting of the press and journalists.
Over the years Imad filmed the progression of the building of the separation wall and the colony of Modi’in Elit, He also documented the land’s grabbing of construction companies, the ongoing construction, the settlers entering to the apartments, trees uprooting etc. In order o document this Imad spent long periods of time during the week in the lands beyond the fence so he can to catch this important images. Imad also frequently took his turn to stay in the outpost built to protect and guard the land behind the wall. He went there early mornings, monitoring the violations committed by the settlers, and encouraging farmers to go and work in their own land.
Imad was nominated, with other members of the popular Committee against the Wall to accept the Carl von Oostaizhaki Prize. It is to be awarded by the World Assembly for Human Rights in Germany on December 17, 2008. He was going to be rewarded for his role in the defense of human rights, and had equipped himself by obtaining a visa. He was impatiently and excitedly awaiting the journey, but what happened?
On November 22nd, Imad drove as usual, to be in the outpost behind the wall. He spent a few hours in the outpost with friends and with his camera ready to film anything that might happen. On the way back after he passed the first military gate and was approaching the second, Imad lost control of the tractor and collided with the wall. Imad was critically injured; he had internal bleeding, and had undergone several operations in his spleen, liver and lungs.
After months of hospitalization in hospital Imad was released to his home. He had a skin implant that protected his organs that enforced him a yearlong recovery in which his mobility was extremely limited. He had to visit the hospital to have several operations and many treatments until the present days. Imad’s doctors determined he would be limited physically for the rest of his life and won’t be able to work in any physical job. During all this time Imad was unemployed.
Despite Imad’s dedication for the Palestinian cause and his priceless work, The Palestinian Authority decided to define Imad’s accident as a Private event that does not concern their responsibility thus leaving him without any economic support for the rest of his life. This decision is an example of the use the Palestinian authority in peace activists and popular resistance to political needs without giving an honest support to the people that are doing sacrifices for the future of Palestine.
Imad’s accident was not a private event. First, the construction of the wall in the high slopes destroyed the original route and forced a new route through the military checkpoint. This route wasn’t built so people would cross it; on the contrary, it was a temporal passage that endangered the lives of citizens, such as Imad. Second, Imad spent many days beyond the fence to document violations and the ongoing constructions as was mentioned before, his visit on November 22nd in the lands of Bil’in was part of his work of documentation. And third, for the last 5 years Imad’s life was, in general, dedicated to Bil’in’s struggle. While most people worked to build a better life for there families in very difficult circumstances, Imad was devoted to documenting the events out of belief this documentation is crucial and invaluable.
This poor decision leaves Imad very disappointed. He feels this oppression has to be published and known so that people participating in the popular struggle in Bil’in and in other places will learn from his experience.
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