“We don’t have time for wars. We want to raise our kids in peace” – Ayed Morrar
An award-winning feature documentary film, Budrus is the story of a non-violent resistance movement against the Apartheid Wall, built by Israel in the West Bank. The film chronicles the real life struggle and success story of the people of Budrus and their allies through documentation of protests, meetings, and interviews with Palestinian community organizers, Fatah and Hamas activists, Israeli activists, IDF soldiers among others.
Construction of the wall commenced in 2002; it moved through the West Bank, annexing Palestinian territory and remapping borders with a renewed appetite. Popular graffiti shows the wall moving like a snake engulfing Palestinian towns and villages whole in its wake. In 2004, the Israeli state shared further architectural plans for construction of the Wall; the plans showed a deviation from the Green Line, annexing more Palestinian territory. The wall would cut through Budrus, an agricultural village of about 1,500 inhabitants, in the West Bank. The wall would be constructed over felled olive groves and through a cemetery, confiscating nearly 90% of the land. Furthermore, the wall would entrap numerous Palestinian towns and villages including Budrus in enclaves, cut off from the rest of Palestine, hemmed in by Israeli security checkposts. The destruction of the olive groves threatened not only a loss of livelihood for the villagers of Budrus, but also severed their ancestral ties to their homeland and to their cultural identity.
A local Fatah activist of Budrus, Ayed Morrar organized his community to stand together in unity and non-violently resist Israeli attempts to confiscate their land. ‘Budrus’ recounts how the protests grew to include men and women, old and young, it united Fatah and Hamas members and brought Israeli and international activists to join in solidarity for a single demand – cease construction of the Wall. The film includes archival footage from Israeli news channels and footage from protests, shared by the activists documenting the demonstrations, highlighting greater future possibilities of collaboration between artists and activists, and the intersections between both.
The film touches upon some interesting points to ponder for the global women’s movement. Morrar’s fifteen year old daughter, Iltezam Morrar organizes women in the protests. “Men can’t push the Israeli soldiers back,” she says with a smile, “but women can.” Women didn’t only protest alongside the men, but strategically positioned themselves infront of the men. Knowing that the Israeli soldiers would not touch the women, they led the confrontation. Male soldiers would not touch the women perhaps, but female IDF soldiers would not hesitate. The story of Yasmin, a female IDF soldier is explored through interviews (with Yasmin) and footage from demonstrations. “Yasmina,” the Palestinian women call out to her, come to our side, join us. They appeal to her higher conscience as a woman entreating solidarity and a commitment to social justice. During one interview clip, Yasmin talks about her desire to be a combatant in the Border Police as opposed to being a solider in the army. She cites her reasons as “the border police is more assertive and it offers the most equality for women.”
Female soldiers and non-traditional male identifying soldiers always have a point to prove – that they too have it in them to be part of the armed forces. How do values like compassion and kindness and assistance compete in this race to fit the archetype of the perfect soldier?
‘The fence has created a solution to terror’ appears to be what the Israeli State apparatus want people to believe. That the construction of a “security fence” is the only fitting response to Palestinian attacks on settlements and what constitutes the borders of Israel as recognized by international law. However, not everyone buys that argument. “The fence itself is an act of terrorism,” says Matan Cohen, an Israeli activist, member of Anarchists Against the Wall. He explains that “the wall, while presented as a temporary security measure seeks to foster a new political border, and in doing so further removes both itself and the sphere of critique on Israel’s politics from a ’48 paradigm to one where the ultimate question is border positions in relation to ’67.” The wall seeks to further legitimize the Green Line (1967 borders) and backtracks even more from questioning the existence of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, and engaging in an honest dialogue about the borders of ’48 prior to further annexation in ’67. He adds further that this rules out the right to return for Palestinians. He predicts that the wall is a tool for expropriating further Palestinian territory and furthering Israeli apartheid. In its essence it is an instrument to dissect Palestinian society and expand Israeli control of the occupied territory. This can open a critique of the limits of the film itself, that it speaks only to a liberal agenda, that does not question the existence of the wall per se, but only seeks to amend the route of the wall.
Budrus has been celebrated for its portrayal of the unity of the different political factions, Fatah, Hamas and the Popular Front. Ahmed Awwad, who is situated as Ayed Morrar’s Hamas counterpart, provides insight into the nature of divided Palestinian politics by commenting on the moment of unity and joint struggle in Budrus – “we want it to spread to all of Palestine.”
The marches in Budrus were peaceful, non-violent protests. Yet, as they grew in size and gained momentum and halted construction the Israeli security forces began to employ force in what they called “traditional crowd dispersal tactics.” Batons were used and tear gas, and rubber bullets quickly gave way to live ammunition. The usage of violence was not arbitrary, Palestinians were targeted and Israelis and foreign citizens avoided. What does that mean for the non-violent movement to be at the receiving end of increasing violence? What are the weapons of resistance left to the non-violent protestors? Using stones and their bodies as their weapons and as their defense there is a deep internalization of violence even during non-violent protests. It may appear then that within the evolution of non-violent movements, violence is employed at some stage, transforming the nature of the struggle. It is also abundantly clear that violent measures do not provide lasting resolutions but only create unstable short-term stalemates, which lead to negotiations and a recourse to non-violence.
There is a scene in the film with sounds of gunfire and the camera focuses on Ayed Morrar on a phone talking to someone about the situation, “it’s like Fallujah – shooting everywhere,” he says. This can be seen as a reference to a direct link between the US military and Israeli security forces and military occupation. The protestors are shown to retreat and the Israeli soldiers advance into the village, occupying houses to create a stronghold for their continued military presence and maintain the curfew imposed on Budrus. One day during the imposition of the curfew, there is a wedding and the wedding party has to go to another village, but the curfew doesn’t permit movement. “Please let us go, it is a wedding,” people entreat the soldiers. Life has to go on, and must be lived even under Occupation. By capturing moments like this, the film begins to build a tapestry of what this life must look like; when daily and momentous incidents of life are held up and delayed or simply not permitted.
Julia Bacha, the director of ‘Budrus’ hopes that the film can bring these protests out of anonymity. “Today from Nabi Saleh to Ni’iln, Bil’in to Sheikh Jarrah, every week Palestinians from all political factions, Israelis and internationals unite, often with women leading, to protest the confiscation of olive groves, house demolitions and settlement growth. They do so in creative ways and to varying degrees of success, yet remain virtually unknown,” she articulates in the director’s statement. The film ends with the re-routing of the wall and a victory for the Budrus protestors but the final conclusion is still far. As documented in the last few minutes of the film, Ayed Morrar and some other activists are getting ready to travel to Ni’ilin to show their solidarity with the protests against the continued construction of the Wall there. In a sense, the film concludes without ending but rather is a dedication to the continued struggle and resistance against the undemocratic oppressive racist Israeli State.
Hira Nabi lives and works in New York City, teaching video production to youth and contesting borders, visas, identity and violence through film.