Budrus is a small Palestinian town of 1400 people, many which rely on income from their olive trees to live. Not only are these trees integral to the livelihood of the people, they are also of historical importance, having belonged to families for generations.
In 2009, the townspeople of Budrus strategically opted for nonviolent resistance against Israel’s plan to build a wall that cut across their land and required many of their olive trees to be uprooted. Soon, it was not just the Palestinian people of Budrus peacefully protesting against the building of the Wall, but foreign activists, including Israeli people. For some, this was the first friendly interaction between the two sides.
The Budrus townspeople and their supporters were successful, and Israel changed the boundaries of the Wall, restoring Budrus’ land. They were inspirational, serving as an example to other Palestinian people fighting for their land.
I present Budrus not as a way of arguing for one side over another in this conflict, but as an example of what a small group of people can achieve if peacefully united. I have recently been giving much thought to the strategy of nonviolent resistance, and came across Budrus, the documentary. In a conflict stained by violence from both sides and by historically entrenched positions, Budrus and other such nonviolent movements in Palestine and Israel stand as a beacon of what is possible and of what can be achieved for both groups via working together.
Would Budrus have been successful if its women had not joined in the demonstrations? What about the foreigners? And what about the Israelis? If they hadn’t joined, would it have received as much attention as it did? And if it had opted for violence, would it have failed?
This last question was clearly answered by Budrus organizers: using violence was a loosing battle. Only through the strength of unity and nonviolence could a battle with any possibility of winning be fought. The answers to the other questions remain unclear, but I would like to think that without both sides uniting, Israel would have gone ahead and put up the Wall, probably using even stronger force. Maybe if Israelis had not joined the Palestinians, violence would have been a more tempting option against Israeli soldiers.
These musings are, admittedly, hypothetical. But one thing we do know: Budrus’ magic formula was successful in peacefully achieving the objectives of both sides. Palestinians got to keep their land and Israel got to build its Wall. Maybe even more importantly, now we know it is possible.