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TEDGlobal 2011

Julia Bacha: Pay attention to nonviolence

Filmed:

In 2003, the Palestinian village of Budrus mounted a 10-month-long nonviolent protest to stop a barrier being built across their olive groves. Did you hear about it? Didn't think so. Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha asks why we only pay attention to violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict -- and not to the nonviolent leaders who may one day bring peace.

- Filmmaker
Julia Bacha is the creative director at Just Vision, an organization that uses film and multimedia storytelling to foster constructive conversations on some of the most divisive issues of our times. Full bio

I'm a filmmaker.
00:15
For the last 8 years,
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I have dedicated my life
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to documenting the work
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of Israelis and Palestinians
00:23
who are trying to end the conflict
00:25
using peaceful means.
00:27
When I travel with my work
00:29
across Europe and the United States,
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one question always comes up:
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Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?
00:38
Why aren't Palestinians
00:40
using nonviolent resistance?
00:42
The challenge I face when I hear this question
00:45
is that often I have just returned from the Middle East
00:48
where I spent my time
00:51
filming dozens of Palestinians
00:53
who are using nonviolence
00:55
to defend their lands
00:57
and water resources
00:59
from Israeli soldiers and settlers.
01:01
These leaders are trying to forge
01:04
a massive national nonviolent movement
01:07
to end the occupation
01:10
and build peace in the region.
01:12
Yet, most of you
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have probably never heard about them.
01:16
This divide between what's happening on the ground
01:19
and perceptions abroad
01:21
is one of the key reasons
01:23
why we don't have yet
01:25
a Palestinian peaceful resistance movement
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that has been successful.
01:30
So I'm here today
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to talk about the power of attention,
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the power of your attention,
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and the emergence and development
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of nonviolent movements
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in the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere --
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but today, my case study is going to be Palestine.
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I believe that what's mostly missing
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for nonviolence to grow
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is not for Palestinians
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to start adopting nonviolence,
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but for us to start paying attention
02:00
to those who already are.
02:03
Allow me to illustrate this point
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by taking you to this village
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called Budrus.
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About seven years ago,
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they faced extinction,
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because Israel announced it would build a separation barrier,
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and part of this barrier
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would be built on top of the village.
02:21
They would lose 40 percent of their land
02:23
and be surrounded,
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so they would lose free access
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to the rest of the West Bank.
02:29
Through inspired local leadership,
02:31
they launched a peaceful resistance campaign
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to stop that from happening.
02:36
Let me show you some brief clips,
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so you have a sense
02:40
for what that actually looked like on the ground.
02:42
(Music)
02:45
Palestinian Woman: We were told the wall
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would separate Palestine from Israel.
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Here in Budrus,
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we realized the wall would steal our land.
02:59
Israeli Man: The fence has, in fact,
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created a solution to terror.
03:03
Man: Today you're invited
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to a peaceful march.
03:09
You are joined
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by dozens of your Israeli brothers and sisters.
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Israeli Activist: Nothing scares the army
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more than nonviolent opposition.
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Woman: We saw the men
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trying to push the soldiers,
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but none of them could do that.
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But I think the girls could do it.
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Fatah Party Member: We must empty our minds
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of traditional thinking.
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Hamas Party Member: We were in complete harmony,
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and we wanted to spread it to all of Palestine.
03:53
Chanting: One united nation.
03:56
Fatah, Hamas and the Popular Front!
03:58
News Anchor: The clashes over the fence continue.
04:02
Reporter: Israeli border police were sent to disperse the crowd.
04:04
They were allowed to use any force necessary.
04:08
(Gunshots)
04:10
Man: These are live bullets.
04:12
It's like Fallujah. Shooting everywhere.
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Israeli Activist: I was sure we were all going to die.
04:17
But there were others around me who weren't even cowering.
04:20
Israeli Soldier: A nonviolent protest
04:28
is not going to stop the [unclear].
04:30
Protester: This is a peaceful march.
04:33
There is no need to use violence.
04:35
Chanting: We can do it! We can do it!
04:38
We can do it!
04:42
Julia Bacha: When I first heard
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about the story of Budrus,
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I was surprised
04:50
that the international media had failed to cover
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the extraordinary set of events
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that happened seven years ago,
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in 2003.
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What was even more surprising
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was the fact that Budrus was successful.
05:03
The residents, after 10 months of peaceful resistance,
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convinced the Israeli government
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to move the route of the barrier off their lands
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and to the green line,
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which is the internationally recognized boundary
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between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
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The resistance in Budrus
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has since spread
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to villages across the West Bank
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and to Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
05:29
Yet the media remains mostly silent
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on these stories.
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This silence carries profound consequences
05:39
for the likelihood
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that nonviolence can grow,
05:44
or even survive,
05:46
in Palestine.
05:48
Violent resistance
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and nonviolent resistance
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share one very important thing in common;
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they are both a form of theater
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seeking an audience to their cause.
06:01
If violent actors
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are the only ones constantly getting front-page covers
06:06
and attracting international attention
06:09
to the Palestinian issue,
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it becomes very hard
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for nonviolent leaders
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to make the case to their communities
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that civil disobedience
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is a viable option
06:21
in addressing their plight.
06:23
The power of attention
06:25
is probably going to come as no surprise
06:27
to the parents in the room.
06:29
The surest way
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to make your child throw increasingly louder tantrums
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is by giving him attention
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the first time he throws a fit.
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The tantrum will become
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what childhood psychologists call
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a functional behavior,
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since the child has learned
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that he can get parental attention out of it.
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Parents can incentivize or disincentivize behavior
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simply by giving or withdrawing
06:57
attention to their children.
06:59
But that's true for adults too.
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In fact, the behavior
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of entire communities and countries
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can be influenced,
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depending on where
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the international community chooses
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to focus its attention.
07:15
I believe that at the core of ending the conflict in the Middle East
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and bringing peace
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is for us
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to transform nonviolence
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into a functional behavior
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by giving a lot more attention
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to the nonviolent leaders on the ground today.
07:32
In the course of taking my film to villages
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in the West Bank, in Gaza and in East Jerusalem,
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I have seen the impact
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that even one documentary film can have
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in influencing the transformation.
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In a village called Wallajeh,
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which sits very close to Jerusalem,
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the community was facing
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a very similar plight to Budrus.
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They were going to be surrounded, lose a lot of their lands
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and not have freedom of access,
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either to the West Bank or Jerusalem.
08:05
They had been using nonviolence for about two years
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but had grown disenchanted
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since nobody was paying attention.
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So we organized a screening.
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A week later,
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they held the most well-attended
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and disciplined
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demonstration to date.
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The organizers say
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that the villagers, upon seeing the story of Budrus
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documented in a film,
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felt that there were indeed people
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following what they were doing,
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that people cared.
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So they kept on going.
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On the Israeli side,
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there is a new peace movement called Solidariot,
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which means solidarity in Hebrew.
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The leaders of this movement have been using Budrus
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as one of their primary recruiting tools.
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They report
08:56
that Israelis who had never been active before,
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upon seeing the film,
09:00
understand the power of nonviolence
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and start joining their activities.
09:04
The examples of Wallajeh
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and the Solidariot movement
09:08
show that even a small-budget independent film
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can play a role
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in transforming nonviolence
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into a functional behavior.
09:18
Now imagine the power
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that big media players could have
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if they started covering
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the weekly nonviolent demonstrations
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happening in villages
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like Bil'in, Ni'lin,
09:32
Wallajeh,
09:34
in Jerusalem neighborhoods
09:36
like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan --
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the nonviolent leaders
09:41
would become more visible,
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valued and effective
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in their work.
09:47
I believe
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that the most important thing
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is to understand
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that if we don't pay attention to these efforts,
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they are invisible,
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and it's as if they never happened.
10:01
But I have seen first hand
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that if we do,
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they will multiply.
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If they multiply,
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their influence will grow
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in the overall Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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And theirs is the kind of influence
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that can finally
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unblock the situation.
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These leaders have proven that nonviolence works
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in places like Budrus.
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Let's give them attention
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so they can prove it works everywhere.
10:29
Thank you.
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(Applause)
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About the Speaker:

Julia Bacha - Filmmaker
Julia Bacha is the creative director at Just Vision, an organization that uses film and multimedia storytelling to foster constructive conversations on some of the most divisive issues of our times.

Why you should listen

Bacha started her filmmaking career writing and editing Control Room (2004), a documentary about the inner workings of the Arab satellite television channel Al Jazeera. She then wrote and co-directed Encounter Point (2006) and directed Budrus (2009), both stories of courageous bridge-building between Palestinians and Israelis in a highly volatile environment. Her most recent film, My Neighborhood (2012), follows a Palestinian teenager struggling to reclaim his home in East Jerusalem from Jewish settlers. She is now directing a film about the Palestinian women who secretly led the First Intifada, for which she was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship.

More profile about the speaker
Julia Bacha | Speaker | TED.com