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.
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.