Sunday, October 28, 2012

A response from Hilary Putnam; women and nonviolence in Budrus


In response to a sickening statistic about the Israeli public's embrace of apartheid here, Hilary Putnam offered some wise counsel about some movement in another direction.

"Dear Alan,

It is sickening, but the Ha'aretz headline made it sound even worse than it is. The key word is "IF". Although a large majority of Jewish Israelis oppose giving West Bank Arabs the right to vote IF the West Bank is annexed, only 36% support annexing the West Bank, according to the same article, and 50% oppose annexation. (Idiotically, 34% "don't know"–talk about evading responsibility!). Moreover, the Russians are moving closer to the (non-Russian) secular Israelis, which is a hopeful development.

I too tend to despair, but lets not paint the situation worse than it is.

Affectionately always,

"Dear Hilary,

Thank you. I got a sense, more than a sense, of what you must have been dealing with. And all your points are helpful and even comforting. There is a weight to being there which will take months to work through, come to terms with (if I had not been writing as I was there, it would have been even harder to bear).

I have seen some powerful people, including Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian of the Holy Land Trust who wants everyone to heal and thinks of nonviolence deeply in those terms. He has been to Auschwitz and listened to an Israeli guide talking to children about hara (I think) or shit in Arabic, meaning that the same thing - genocide - will happen now and in the future, unless everyone is armed, everyone defends Israel. That could be okay (though it breeds particularism and paranoia), but of course not in the current circumstances. He thinks rightly that most Palestinians who are into nonviolence are for now into it as a political tactic or strategy. And he opposes stone-throwing by children against tanks (one might, but I heard some fierceness in the villages in defending it, David against Goliath). He liked Palestinians refusing for a week to go along with Israel's resetting of the time, a move which he said caused a lot of consternation among Israelis), and is working for a just way out, one of stopping the oppression and permitting healing and human rights for everyone.

I will respond to this more over time.

With great affection,


Ayed Marrare, a leader of the village committee in Budrus, told us some stories:

“’Are you crazy? You think by your small village, you can change the Israeli government?’” The soldier said.

The first day, Ayed said, we stopped the bulldozer. We surrounded the bulldozer; we jumped on it. Only 3 soldiers were nearby, 5 others in the vicinity to protect them. They had to turn back

The next day, 7 jeeps came. Still, we surrounded the bulldozer. When a crowd of people – drawn from the 1500 people of the village - arrived, the soldiers said they were planning to take bulldozer away. They did.

The next day, they brought more soldiers; we brought more people. “We can do it.”

Children chanted “We can do it.”


“One marcher 17 years old was killed (we stood by the grave stone). 200 were arrested.

(Rubber bullets – hard as lead – litter the area). Israel sentenced 150 villagers (10%) to jail for four months.

There was a huge funeral in Budrus. Everyone was crying.

We must keep going.”


First, they put up the wall to achieve security. Now they need to make the wall secure.

The wall has become the public mind or spirit of Israel, erasing its hopes of genuine (based on human rights or individual rights) democracy and freedom. In the lead story in Haaretz Monday, “Survey: Most Israeli Jews advocate discrimination against Arab citizens,” Gideon Levy reports that a majority of the Israeli population now shamelessly endorses apartheid in Israel.

“Most of the Jewish public in Israel supports the establishment of an apartheid regime in Israel if it annexes the West Bank. A majority is also explicitly in favor of discrimination against the state’s Arab citizens a survey shows.”


The Israeli government has the Adan military camp next to the Wall that cuts the territory of Budrus.

To have settlements, to have a wall, one must “guard” it.


Olive trees are the life of the villagers. Land is the life of the villagers.


Israel arrested Ayed, a coordinator of the first Popular Committee in Palestine (sometimes with 7 members, sometimes 16). It was a small but representative committee. The State indefinitely detained him.


In 1953, in nearby Qatiya, another village originally of 1,000-1,500, some of the Palestinians who were driven out in the first transfer or ethnic cleansing, came back.


Tuesday, we saw the abandoned houses of Lifta in the midst of a National Park in Jerusalem. Lifta was a wealthy community, comparatively, allowed by Ben-Gurion who though he saw himself as Joshua, to leave with not so much slaughter.

Above it is Deir Yassin, where the population was massacred. The creation of Israel – a response to European genocide against Jews – was to clear the land of people.

Trees are planted by the Jewish National Fund over the rubble of 53 villages which were destroyed entirely.


When they plant a tree for “your” spirit over the home of a Palestinian, what does it do to your spirit?

When you occupy the home in an ethnic cleansing and hear voices, what does that do to your spirit?


In Qatiya, Ariel Sharon ordered the soldiers to shoot. They murdered 77 people. That stopped the coming back of people to their homes, the “immigration.”


The international press – the BBC - covered the Qatiya massacre. Often it remains silent.

But often, internationals come to support the villagers, for instance, the International Solidarity Movement. Some are wounded. Some like Rachel Corrie and Thomas Hurndall are killed.


Ayed reports the limited but real victory in Budrus:

“Protests won 1200 dunims taken from our land, 3000 olive trees were won back. We moved the path of the Wall back.” He contrasts the nonviolent movement – Gandhi, King – with the earlier, misguided violence.

Palestinians rightly believe violent resistance to oppression is just (one might add: if it is directed against oppressors, not against civilians and particularly – as suicide bombs are – children). But they see that it is unsuccessful and also that nonviolence, valuing all lives, and wanting to stop the injustice through mass noncooperation, is strong. It is especially strong because its effectiveness might break the insistence of Israel on militarism and domination.

Some thoughts of Ho Chi Minh have now come also to undergird nonviolence: if you want to kill a revolution, flood it with money. The village did it without money. They are committed to no physical harming.

For if the fear for one’s life cannot overwhelm the mind of the oppressor, then noncooperation and mass resistance have a powerful space to gain some hold, at least to compel negotiation. This is particularly true because naked killing – what Sharon did in Qatiya - if resisted and learned about widely - is horrifying.

This adoption of nonviolence is, in part, a shift in tactical or strategic judgment, one that does not go through all the way to seeing the value of nonviolence as some in this movement, for example Sami Awad, does. And yet the value of nonviolence is learned through action and through meditating on the words, coming to be through the successes of the real movement of nonviolence, to put it in Marx’s idiom. Even Nelson Mandela learned more deeply and creatively the meaning on nonviolence. That is the power and importance of nonviolent struggle.


“Now, we need to expand this movement. Justice, peace, dignity and freedom. These will exist forever.”

The demonstrations came daily, They surprised the soldiers, threw them off balance.
Now, there are demonstrations in many villages, still powerful, every Friday. But the soldiers, in some ways, know what to expect.


What was the role of the women in the village? Alice Rothchild, a member of our delegation and author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams, asks.

“In Budrus, and in the Middle East,” Ayed replies, “there is a conservative attitude toward women. Women have difficulties.”

“In Budrus, we decide women are half of our power. We open doors to women. We find a new hero in our committee. The media talk to the women, recognizing the change. They concentrate on the women in filming.”

The respect accorded the women in these villages as fighters as well as those who sustain the life of the community, as several people remark, is striking. Nonviolence has opened up a whole new world of participation and equality.


The media are big on violence. They come where there is bloodshed. They are bored by nonviolence. Where’s the money in it?

Except for the crucifixion, how would Jesus have been “covered” in Rome?

What Sermon on the Mount…?

It is natural to think of tactical significance and note that the challenge to this long practice of oppression – still powerful in the “West” as well – is valuable in this way, as it is also intrinsically valuable, for it fixes, for a moment, flickering media attention.


Ayed said:

“Some reporters asked me: where are your men? They exist, but the camera is looking for the women.

They are not just half the demonstrators. The men have to prove they participate as much and are as brave. So they do their best to protect the women and not be outcompeted by them.

Women did two demonstrations alone. It was in a strong rain.

The men said: you can go back.

They said: no no. You think you are braver than us…”

For earlier posts in this series, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

No comments:

Post a Comment