I was honored last night to be invited to a small showing of the movie Budrus, a documentary about one town in the West Bank that successfully and non-violently resisted Israeli efforts in 2003 to build the separation barrier in a way that would have encircled the town, cutting the residents off from their land and uprooting precious olive trees.
I went to the screening knowing that I would have to write about it, and when thinking about it after seeing the movie I immediately became uneasy. I thought about broad issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the constant arguing, and the seemingly inescapable cycle of rhetoric and violence, provocation and response, and no longer wanted to write this review.
When I told a friend at the screening about my dread of writing about the movie because I didn’t want to write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his response was, “well then don’t write about the conflict. Write about the land.”
And that is the heart of the movie, the land. Budrus mostly follows one man, Ayed Arrar, a Palestinian nationalist and activist who organized the protests over 10-months that lead to Israel’s eventual decision to build the wall close to the 1967 border, allowing the town of Budrus to keep 95% of its land. The movie follows others through filmed scenes and extensive interviews, including with Arrar’s wife and daughter, a Hamas activist, an Israeli Army spokesman, an Israeli border patrol officer, and Israeli activists who protested with the residents of Budrus.
The movie has a clear purpose, to show the injustice of Israeli construction that would have cut off the town from its fields and livelihood, and even cut the town’s cemetery in half. But regardless of the justifications or arguments against the security barrier, the thing that struck me most about the movie was that there seems to have been simply no reason for the decision to draw the fence line around Budrus – instead of simply hewing to or close to the green line, the army chose to pursue a more complicated route, one that involved turning the area around a town into a closed military zone, deploying border police day after day to push back protesters, all for no gain. After all, no Israelis were set to move into the land, no one would make use of Budrus’ olive groves, they were simply upended, to be replaced with concrete and concertina wire.
And so I have to ask, what makes more sense for Israel? Two states with defensible borders, or constant haggling over land, incremental change, and soldiers permanently deployed in town after town, forced to fight back a hostile majority for little foreseeable gain.
No matter how you feel about Israelis or Palestinians, Budrus is a beautiful piece of work that tells a stirring story and will make you look at this issue with fresh eyes. In Washington you can see Budrus at the Silverdocs film festival June 24 and 26, for other cities check the film’s website for information.
— Andrew Lebovich