Palestinian nonviolence: Is the Budrus model still viable?
The recent film 'Budrus' champions a West Bank village's nonviolent resistance that inspired more than 15 similar protest movements. But the momentum is waning.
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“The army has become more violent than before,” says Tamimi. “They are shooting five times more tear gas than before, and there are more rubber bullets and more soldiers.... They don’t want to give a message to other Palestinians that this small village can do something.”Skip to next paragraph
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Israeli army spokesman Barak Raz counters that the protests are “not peaceful sit-ins but very violent riots in which well over 100 security forces have been injured.” One soldier was hospitalized in early November after being hit in the head by a rock in Bilin.
Bilin organizer: Our expectations were lower
Mohammed Khatib, the organizer of the Bilin protests, says Budrus's model inspired him to protest the Israeli confiscation of village land. His village will mark six years of demonstrations in February.
Bilin protests attracted retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former President Jimmy Carter, and Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – but also the Israeli military in the form of nighttime raids, the arrest of prominent activists, and the death last year of one protester after being hit with a tear gas canister. In early 2010, the army began rerouting the barrier to cede about 175 acres of land back to Bilin.
Asked why Bilin has struggled for more than five years with fewer results than Budrus achieved in 10 months, Khatib says the expectations were lower from the start.
“No one expected that we would manage to change the route of the wall even one centimeter,” he says.
Looking back at the first intifada
Tamimi, of Nabi Saleh, hopes to revive the first intifada, which began in 1987. Though it killed hundreds of Israelis and more than 1,000 Palestinians, nonviolent tactics such as strikes, protests and agricultural movements formed a key part of the uprising – and sparked international support.
But Prof. Klein said he doubts that a national movement like the first Intifada will materialize. “Without a national network, an organization building protests in different places, this will not turn into an Intifada,” Klein said.
In the first Intifada, the PLO played a role in organized local efforts into national ones, helping with the circulation of leaflets that advertised strikes and other actions.
Why Israeli and the PA want to contain protests
Both Israel and the PA have an interest in containing protests modeled after Budrus – Israel to prevent a non-violent Intifada that could embarrass Israel and the PA because a popular uprising could spiral into a bloody resistance, Klein says.
Abir Kopty, a press officer for the PA, says this is not true. The government is actively supporting the protest movements, both with funding and visits by prominent officials, including Mr. Fayyad, she says.
When asked whether the PA had initiated any large-scale national protests, Ms. Kopty says, “The government is busy now with the state-building project and preparing for statehood.”