Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

June 24, 2010

Budrus

Yesterday, I attended an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that showcased the documentary “Budrus.

Budrus is a small, relatively unknown Palestinian village located near Ramallah with a population of about 1,500.  The documentary tells the story of the community’s struggle with the state of Israel in 2003 against plans to build part of the separation barrier through the village.  The proposed plan would have surrounded the village and confiscated 40% of the land.

The documentary follows a local leader, Ayed Morrar, who united the community to try and block the plans through nonviolent means.  He brought together an unlikely group, comprising of members of Hamas and Fatah as well as Palestinians, Israelis, men, and women.

Perhaps most crucial was the role of women.  Morrar was unable to mobilize the community until his 15-year-old daughter Iltezam brought women to the movement.  The women would stand in front of bulldozers or lie in front of olive trees, and IDF soldiers did not know  how to deal with them.  The documentary actually shows some soldiers beating women.  As a result, a woman IDF soldier was called in to handle them.

Israelis played a crucial role in the nonviolent movement as well.  Iltezam states how she did not think she would ever have an Israeli friend before; she never knew any, only IDF soldiers.  Morrar, who was at the event yesterday, commented on how through this event, he was able to see the good side of Israelis. He was able to see and meet Israeli that want peace and who want to raise their children in peace based on justice, not peace based on what Morrar calls the relationship between the slave and master.  Israelis are very important in the nonviolent movement, as they give credence to the Palestinian struggle by questioning the actions of their own state.

Also unlikely was the cooperation of Fatah and Hamas members.  Morrar recounted how politics were temporarily put aside, as both parties, even if they differed ideologically, desired the same results.  Politics is indeed an important issue in the struggle for nonviolent protest.  The pockets of resistance in villages such as Budrus do not have any national leadership yet, and the role of the PA in the nonviolent movement is still questionable.

Though the movie documents the struggle of just one village, its message offers hope for what is possible: eventual freedom.  The producers of the film, Just Vision, are trying to spread this message.  Just Vision is currently on a six month promotion tour through the U.S.  For Screenings of “Budrus” in your area, click here.

Spoiler Alert:

In the end, the villagers of Budrus, after 10 months of nonviolent protest, forced the IDF to move the separation barrier out of the village.  They saved 95% of the land, and the barrier was built almost entirely on the Green Line.  Some parts even went into the No Man’s Land area.  However Israel will not acknowledge the efforts of the Budrus villagers.  The official response from the government is that the barrier was not moved because of the villagers’ efforts, but for other reasons.

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1 Comment »

  1. Knowing a member of the “other side” is crucial. I wish that Palestinians could be transported by the million to the United States to live all around the country for a year or two simply to have Americans exposed to members of “the other side” in their daily lives. Far too many Americans make the equation Palestinian = terrorist

    A huge problem in perception of the problem of the occupied territories is that Americans, Jewish and otherwise, are far, far more likely to have Jewish friends, acquaintances and coworkers than they are to know Palestinians in those same categories. This is particularly true in urban areas.

    Take me, for example – I have Jews as both upstairs and downstairs neighbors in my condo building. At the single-family house where I used to live, neighbors on both sides were Jewish. My children (now grown) attended school with Jewish children. My dentist is Jewish, my Representative in Congress is Jewish, my state senator and state representative are both Jewish. There are synagogues throughout the neighborhood, when I go shopping at the grocery there is a whole section of kosher food. There is a large Holocaust museum a couple of miles away. The Holocaust is required by law to be taught in the public schools. I am a theater-goer and have lost count of the number of plays I have seen based on a Jewish theme. Jewish holy days are recess days for public school. When I open the paper (the New York Times, even though I live in the Chicago area) the obituaries are filled with Jews because of all of the accomplishments they have made in the NYC area – they make up a large part of that city’s notables and Chicago’s as well. Philanthropic Jews have contributed buildings at Northwestern University, medical facilities. Several local parks are named for Jews.

    In contrast – I don’t know of one Palestinian in the neighborhood or in local/state politics.

    The result is that the Middle East is presented from a Jewish perspective. Whether it be the majority who back the Netanyahu government or the minority who want an end to the occupation, it is Jewish voices that frame the entire conversation and Palestinians are see only within this frame, not from knowing the real people.

    I’ve had to go out of my way to inform myself about the other side – to see the humanity of the Palestinians and the ordeal that they must daily endure, rather than the cardboard caricatures of crazed terrorists.

    It is only from this self-education through the Internet that I have become active due to my outrage at the one-sided story I have been fed for a lifetime. That AIPAC is so powerful in Washington DC should be no surprise to anyone. Likewise, no-one should minimize the huge task involved in getting the other story – that of the nakba – into the American vocabulary, let alone overcoming the prejudice that creates a flawed mental picture of the Palestinians entirely removed from who they really are.

    Comment by Clif Brown — June 24, 2010 @ 3:18 pm | Reply


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