Palestinian nonviolence—alive and sometimes victorious

    Some landscapes are more political than others, like the village of Budrus, in Palestine (that is, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory called the West Bank).

    Like many other such villages, Budrus is dependent on its centuries-old olive trees for its economic survival and for the villagers’ connection with their past and their land. But in 2004, the village’s survival was threatened when the State of Israel announced that its 26-foot high barrier wall would pass through Budrus, requiring the uprooting and destruction of 3,000 of the village’s olive trees. (In flagrant violation of international law, the wall would pass well within the “Green Line,” the border between Israel and the Palestinian Territory.) At that moment, Budrus was like many other villages in the path of the wall in one other respect: It was threatened with slow death as a viable community.

    Budrus, however, was not without resources. It had Ayed Morrar, a five-times imprisoned Fatah activist for Palestinian self-determination. It had his 15-year-old daughter Iltezam. It had Hamas activist Ahmed Awwad. And, in the end, it had friends—friends from the international community and from within Israel itself.

    Morrar called a meeting. He and Awwad agreed to work together to unite the village. They called on the whole community to resist—and Morrar persuaded the village that nonviolence was “in the best interests of the Palestinian people.”

    The morning that the bulldozers were scheduled to arrive, the men of Budrus marched en masse to the site of the proposed uprooting and put their bodies in the path of the earth-moving equipment. The bulldozers—and their military escort—backed off, but, of course, returned the next day.

    That was when Morrar’s daughter Iltezam observed that the resistance had to that point been all male and told her father that the women of Budrus had to join the protests (pictured above). When he conceded the point and asked the women to join in, Iltezam led the way by leaping into the hole a bulldozer had dug. Soon after that, international supporters came to Budrus to join the villagers; so did Jewish Israeli peace activists. After ten months of blustering insistence by Israel that no protests could make it back down, it did exactly that, moving the route of the wall away from Budrus and its olive trees and closer to the Green Line.

    (Depending on your definitions, the defense of Budrus was almost entirely but perhaps not 100 percent nonviolent. There were moments when the youth of Budrus were provoked to the point of throwing stones at the armed intruders, who responded by firing guns. But Morrar and Awwad begged for absolute nonviolence, and in the end, the villagers complied.)

    After their victory in Budrus, Morrar and his comrades organized nonviolent resistance to the wall in other Palestinian communities. Now the map of the West Bank is dotted with such pockets of resistance—and the struggle for Budrus itself is available in Budrus, a documentary by filmmaker Julia Bacha and the Just Vision production company. Using footage of the events filmed at the time, plus interviews with Ayed and Iltezam Morrar, Ahmed Awwad, one of the Jewish defenders of the village, and two members of the Israeli military who attacked it, they answer the often-asked question, “Where are the Palestinian Gandhis?” They make it abundantly clear that Palestine does have its Gandhis—and that, as happened in India, Gandhian resistance can sometimes defeat armed aggression. Budrus will inspire all nonviolent activists, although it may also make you wonder why you’re here and not in Palestine, putting your own body on the line for justice.

    Budrus, a Just Vision production directed by Julia Bacha, is in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, with English subtitles and at this writing is playing at Manhattan’s Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village. For more information, see

    This blog originally appeared at The Political Landscape.

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