At the end of 2002, Israel began the construction of the 'Apartheid Wall'. This wall does not mark the borders of a Jewish state, but rather aims to kill the Palestinian state. In spite of the judgment passed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly, and despite the fact that suicide operations on the part of the Palestinians have stopped, construction continues on the 703km wall, which has clearly become a tool for land confiscation and expansion. When construction began on the wall, the Palestinian Environmental Non-Governmental Organisation Network (Pengon) launched a campaign to expose the expansionist goals that the wall represents. Pengon does not follow the agenda of any organisation or political party; the campaign's goal is solely and absolutely to resist the presence of the wall and confirm the Palestinians' rights.

An increasing number of people throughout the world are becoming aware of the fact that, contrary to Israeli claims of security and self-defence against 'Palestinian militancy', this wall is political and represents racist, imperialist, colonial and expansionist aims of the Zionist project. Not only an illegal land grab, it marks Israeli borders crafted to control major water reservoirs and rich agricultural land, squeezing Palestinians inside ghettos, the gates of which are under control of the colonists. This is meant to destroy the Palestinian economy and deprive them of any decent living and education. This wall not only negates the possibility of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, it also nullifies Palestinian existence on this land, leaving behind villages squashed between the wall and the so-called Green Line.

Nearly 200 Palestinian villages and towns are directly effected by the wall. A number of Palestinian villages started a resistance movement against it; the most prominent of which are the villages of Bil'een, Ni'leen, Al Ma'ssara and Jayyous in addition to other villages in the region of Al Khalil (Hebron) and to the southwest of Nablus. Perhaps the most outstanding example is the village of Bil'een, which, for the past five years, has resorted to peaceful protests every Friday. In solidarity with this village, activists from various countries, including Israel, have participated in a campaign in support of the Palestinian people, seeking to exert pressure on their governments and force them to condemn the wall and demand Israel pull it down.

The 4th International Bil'een Conference for Non-Violent Resistance was held from April 22-24, 2009. It was widely attended by many prominent Palestinians in addition to peace activists from several European countries, Cuba, the US and Israel. Participants from Gaza took part via video link.

The conference sought to encourage non-violent popular resistance in the Occupied Territories, to widen the scope of international solidarity with the Palestinian people, to spread the culture of resistance, to support the boycott-divestment-sanctions movement, and to illustrate the Palestinians' misery to the participants through field visits.

Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, the Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate, summed up the case at the conference by saying that Bil'een is but an example of man's ability to refuse oppression. He who looks for good ends must look for good means to achieve such ends. Through its continuous struggle for the past four years, Bil'een has proved man's ability to refuse this dark state of affairs and to peacefully resist occupation. She then called upon the world to intervene and demand an end to the policy of racial cleansing of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.

In a letter addressing the conference, former US president Jimmy Carter expressed his solidarity with the people of Bil'een and their struggle against the wall. The Bil'een experience, Carter said, has become an example for the whole world to follow. He called upon Israel to stop building both the wall and the colonies. At the same time, Vice President Luisa Morgantini of the European Parliament confirmed her intention, along with thousands of Europeans, to bring Israel to the ICJ.

The struggle of Bil'een and its sister villages, as well as the annual conferences, are part of a growing movement of non-violent resistance in Palestine. These conferences, held every year and well-attended by international and Israeli participants, have marked a turning point in the peaceful Palestinian resistance. Every day, this kind of peaceful resistance is attracting new supporters among the Palestinian people.

Essentially, the importance of the Bil'een struggle lies in its ability to expose Israeli racism to the world. The NGOs, as well as the political parties, should study the Bil'een experience in depth for the purpose of expanding this struggle to include the entire West Bank.

To win this battle, all Palestinian political leaders, organisations and the whole civil effort in general must be united against the wall, and must treat this battle as a branch of the broader war against the Israeli occupation. This way they can arouse the widest possible energies among the Palestinian people, consolidated with Arab and international support.

We must not forget that it was the Palestinians who, in 1936, held the longest civil strike in history. They have no better and more effective choice than to adopt a peaceful, civilised and continuous uprising until they put an end to the Israeli occupation and achieve their national self-determination

Dr As'ad Abdul Rahman is chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.