Yesterday James North wrote a piece about Budrus and Ayed Morrar, the Palestinian organizer of nonviolent resistance who is at the heart of the film. At North’s urging, I went to see the film yesterday.
Every story we get about Palestinians must be smuggled into the United States; and now there is a story smuggled in, about the actual occupation, in the form of a feel-good documentary. By the end of Budrus you think that everything is OK, that the small village of Budrus got its land back, and the Palestinian activists and the Israeli activists are working together. The last image is of the activists walking down the hill together. A feel good moment, which does not represent the reality of the occupation.
It doesn’t matter. This is a wonderful film. Anyone who cares about Palestinian dignity and human rights ought to go and see it and I just hope many of them are young and will become engaged having watched this story.
The character of Ayed Morrar is astonishing. He and his daughter are Palestine. Here is a man of humble gesture and subtle expression, he lives a simple life, and yet he is more politically sophisticated than just about anyone you have ever met. He was first arrested in 1981 at age 19 because he is a Palestinian nationalist. He and his brothers spent years in jail. Now their village is being devoured by the occupation. It is a testament to the nobility of the human spirit that a person can be actively committed to nonviolence after all that he has experienced.
The film is magnificent in its depiction of the occupation. I don’t know Julia Bacha’s politics, it hardly matters. She patiently shows us the Israelis uprooting olive trees, the old women who value an olive tree as much as a child, the kid arrested brutally in the narrow lanes of the village. Most importantly, you see how readily the Israelis dispense violence to try and dispel resistance. Thus the crucible moment of the film, when the good Israelis arrive to take part in the protests, is not just a heartwarming thing; no, these people are saving Palestinian lives by forestalling worse violence. For the Israeli soldiers say openly that they cannot treat “Jews” the same way as Palestinians.
The climax of the film is when these internationals, including the heroic Israeli Kobi Snitz, are eating with the Palestinian resisters, literally breaking bread. Kobi Snitz is a wonky photogenic mathematician, who has been many times arrested; and in the middle of this film he is terrified that he is going to get killed, by the Israelis, but he gains courage from the covered Palestinian women who run up between him and the Israeli soldiers. That scene will be with me for a long time. Here are the Jim Crow lunch counter and Freedom Rider spirits before your eyes. To hear the Hamas activist in the village shake his head in disbelief as he praises the Israeli Jews who are opposing occupation alongside Palestinians, to hear Morrar’s daughter say that she had never met kind Israelis before the freedom riders showed up– this is a moment of political kindling. Yes there are Jews and internationals putting their asses a little bit on the line as Palestinians are crushed. These thrilling scenes should inspire others. Please go to Palestine, young internationals. Palestinians need you, they need to feel that they have not been abandoned by the world, so as to steer this place away from violence and hatred.
One state. I’m not a one stater. But you watch this film and you think, only democracy can heal this land. These people are deeply intertwined, and I don’t see how you can partition, when there are so little resources left for the Palestinians; let democracy ravish the land.
The film ends badly. Bacha is careful not to give us the awful context. She says, the peaceful opposition to occupation was spreading, to Nilin, to Bil’in, and on. Well from her lips to god’s ears. The Israelis killed five people peacefully demonstrating in Nilin and they have imprisoned Adeeb Abu Rahma for more than two years for his astonishing act of verbal resistance. For expressing himself. (I would be serving many years if I were there and Palestinian, I wouldn’t be able to help myself). The Israelis are taking more land in Bil’in and still haven’t moved the fence. The resistance is far longer and wider and hopelesser and more historical than Bacha indicates. It is continuous with the Arab strike of 1936 and the civil rights marches of the United States and the Gaza freedom march of 2009. And the Palestinans are more cruelly occupied than ever. But this news too must be smuggled in. I just hope that many Americans go see this film, so that more idealists join the struggle, to save lives and save two societies, too.