Pay Attention to Nonviolence: The Story of Budros and a Documentary Film (with TED video)

“I believe that what’s mostly missing for nonviolence to grow is not for Palestinians to start using nonviolence, but for us to start paying attention to those who already are.”

With that, documentary filmmaker Julia Bacha launches into the story of the town of Budros, and the townspeople’s nonviolent struggle against Israeli intentions to build a wall that would steal 40% of the people’s land.

The story of Budros is probably one you’ve never heard before. I hadn’t heard about it until today, when I happened across this incredible talk by Bacha:

Bacha’s speech is inspiring on two fronts.


“What was even more surprising was that Budros was successful. The residents, after 10 months of peaceful resistance, convinced the Israeli government to move the root of the barrier off their lands, and to the ‘green line’, which is the internationally-recognized boundary between Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

Two: Her speech also posits that nonviolent direct action might be used more frequently in places like the Middle East if it were only paid attention to more by the media. She cites a perfect example: the Palestinian town of Walajeh, which faced a plight similar to Budros. The people of Walajeh had grown “disenchanted” with nonviolence, “since nobody was paying attention.” After activists screened Bacha’s film in Walajeh, something spectacular happened: a week later, the town held the “most disciplined, well-attended demonstration to date.” The villagers, after seeing the film, steeled their resolve to continue nonviolent struggle against the construction of the Israeli-imposed wall because they felt that “there were indeed people following what they were doing.”

The story of Budros inspired Walajeh to continue their efforts and not resort to violence. But it didn’t stop there: on the Israeli side, there is a new peace movement which, after translated from Hebrew, means Solidarity. Solidarity members have been using the story of Budros

“as one of their primary recruiting tools. They report that Israelis who have never been active before, upon seeing the film, understand the power of nonviolence, and start joining their activities.”

Nonviolence’s effectiveness isn’t as surprising as the fact that one documentary essentially helped fuel a nonviolent resistance movement against long-time occupiers. Bacha’s question is a good one:

If a small-budget documentary could begin to change the narrative in three towns, what would happen if large media conglomerates focused on these efforts instead of Hamas rockets and Israeli raids?

This of course leads to other questions, such as:

What repercussions would this have on other nonviolent movements all over the world? And should we even try to reform the present media system, or forge ahead by inspiring the creation of more political documentary filmmaking?

My hunch is with the latter. What are your thoughts?

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