"If only the Palestinians believed in nonviolence." That is the common refrain regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the US. How many times have we heard, "Oh, if you just practiced nonviolence, you'd have your state in no time." Or, "Look at Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They got what they wanted for their people using nonviolence. Why don't the Palestinians do the same?"
From now on we will answer this question with one word: Budrus.
What is Budrus? Budrus is a Palestinian village near the Green Line. Budrus is also an award-winning film proving Palestinians are engaging in nonviolent resistance, and, slowly but surely, it is working.
About the film:
Budrus is an award-winning feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel's Separation Barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, launches a women's contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today. In an action-filled documentary chronicling this movement from its infancy, Budrus shines a light on people who choose nonviolence to confront a threat. The movie is directed by award-winning filmmaker Julia Bacha (co-writer and editor of Control Room and co-director Encounter Point), and produced by Bacha, Palestinian journalist Rula Salameh, and filmmaker and human rights advocate Ronit Avni (formerly of WITNESS, Director of Encounter Point).
If you care about a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Budrus is a must see documentary. You will be moved to tears, inspired, and awed by the courage of the people of Budrus. It demonstrates not only the anatomy of nonviolent resistance in Palestine but also the evolution of the movement as it grows from a village matter to an international cause. Courage and candor are all around, as Morrar's daughter jumps in front of an active bulldozer, forcing it into retreat with no sure knowledge she wouldn't be killed in the process. It is not a film about the nebulous idea of freedom or nationhood but about a town's determination to sustain its existence and way of life.
As Daniel Levy of New America Foundation simply put it, "After seeing this documentary, I don't think anyone here could say I knew that was gonna happen."
Watch the trailer for 'Budrus'
After the film screening, Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) said: "This is a story that is not often told." He went on, saying it is an important film for Washington lawmakers who often know little about the conflict. "Facts are in shorts supply in this town," he said. "Opinions are not." He then asked Ayed Morrar: "Is this movement sustainable?"
Morrar answered: "We learned a lot from Martin Luther King, and one thing for sure, this is sustainable and yields results. It is difficult to lead a people from an office. A leader must be with his people."
Congress ought to support peaceful and nonviolent education in the Palestinian territories. My hope is that they will dedicate some of the $400 million President Obama promised in aid to Palestinians to support nonviolent resistance against Israel's unjust policies. After all, it was President Obama who, in his 2009 Cairo speech, called on the Palestinians to use a nonviolent approach to resisting the occupation:
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
Morrar's message to the Palestinian supporters was simple: "We can either accept Israel's actions against us as fate or see them as unjust actions that must be challenged nonviolently... We want a peace that is human to human, not between a slave and his master."
So many have asked, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? Where is the Palestinian Martin Luther King?" They are in every face in Burdrus and in every face in the nonviolent movements across the West Bank, from Bil'in to Nabi Saleh. The United States called for nonviolence, and they got it. Now they need to support it by investing in the individuals and methodologies that will allow nonviolent resistance to flourish. "The keys to the peace of the world [lie] in Washington, DC," Morrar said. Now it's time for Washington to turn the key.