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Can Palestinian non-violent resistance make it into Israel's education system?

By the time the documentary Five Broken Cameras came out in November 2011, the Palestinian village of Bil’in in the occupied West Bank had already become the symbol of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation, Israeli settlements and the separation wall/barrier. It had already celebrated six long years of weekly Friday demonstrations led by the residents, joined by Israeli and international activists and aggressively repressed by the IDF; it had already seen several of its residents killed after being shot by IDF soldiers during these demonstrations (among them, Bassam Abu Rahme and his sister, Jawaher Abu Rahmah); and succeeded in pressuring the government to alter the route of the barrier and take down the fence (which was only implemented almost 4 years later).

All these events are told in the documentary through the eyes (and lens) of Emad Burnat, a resident of Bil’in whose “five broken cameras” were used to document his life and activism between 2005 and 2011 and constitute the film’s story. Footage of weekly protests and IDF night raids are interspersed with snapshots of his family, and his own personal experiences. The documentary is directed by both Burnat and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker and activist.

The film has won critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Sundance World Documentary Directing Award. It was also chosen as one of the best independent films of 2012 by Indiewire, and is shortlisted for the Oscar’s best documentary (final nominations will be announced January 10). It also was even selected best Israeli documentary by the right-wing Israel Hayom daily, Sheldon Adelson’s pro-Netanyahu free tabloid.

Here is a trailer:

Guy Davidi has decided to take this film and use it as an educational tool to try and raise awareness among Israelis, most of whom either haven’t heard of Bil’in or don’t really know (or believe) exactly what has gone on there. The Education Ministry’s “culture basket,” which determines which films and other media and programming are introduced in Israeli schools, doesn’t take politically charged films – certainly not one like this, which exposes the darkest sides of the IDF’s violent, illegal and unethical conduct – and which shouldn’t be surprising considering that Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar is behind instituting Israeli school trips to occupied Hebron, and the effort to open a university in the settlement of Ariel.

Davidi is therefore launching a campaign to try and bring the movie to Israeli schools, to teenagers who are gearing up for their army service. If he cannot do it through Israel’s formal educational institutions, then he is doing it informally, through independent initiatives.

Guy Davidi speaking to Israeli students at screening of Five Broken Cameras (Courtesy)

As Davidi told +972:

The goal is to open up a discussion about the Education Ministry’s “culture  basket” and state censorship of political art. The film won’t be included in the culture basket since the Education Ministry actively and systematically chooses not to select movies that are critical and touch on sensitive issues.

In order to raise funds and gain exposure, Davidi screened the film and held a discussion with Israeli students through the Windows NGO as a pilot, in order to showcase how Israeli students respond to the film and show the potential for such a project. Here is the  campaign video:

To learn more about the campaign, get involved or contribute, please click here:


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    1. Will the effect be more or less suicides by child-soldiers? Is it a phase transition? The campaign should be addressing politicians.

      Reply to Comment
      • Politicians? They’re motivated by their own self-interest in a way that kids aren’t, and their first concern is typically the maintenance of their popularity. Most children have a streak of natural curiosity, and they are not yet at the stage where they are frightened of other people’s stories. They don’t feel they have as much to lose by hearing them. Even here. An Israeli kid might be a future soldier, but first and foremost she’s just a kid.

        Reply to Comment
        • I agree with the intentions, but I believe you underestimate adults.

          Reply to Comment
          • I was talking about politicians specifically, not adults in general. A politician has to think about what will get the votes.

            But I think it’s true to say that children do find it easier to access taboo stories. I know a lady who came here as a religious Zionist over thirty years ago. It’s hard for her to face things like the stories that come out of Bilin, because what does this say about her and her life? She is sixty-one and the idea that one of her most major decisions may not have been quite what it seemed is tough to take. Children are rarely carrying this weight. This isn’t to say that they don’t have their own difficulties, because they do, but overall I think they’re less guarded when it comes to other people’s experiences.

            Reply to Comment
          • Yes, I fully agree with all that. My point was that if children are becoming aware of what is really going on, and they will have to join the IDF anyway, there could be more suicides before their service instead of during or afterwards like it is now. It was just a thought.

            Reply to Comment
          • Arieh


            Engelbert Luitsz said:
            “My point was that if children are becoming aware of what is really going on, and they will have to join the IDF anyway, there could be more suicides before their service instead of during or afterwards like it is now.”

            Don’t you think he positively salivates at the prospect of teenage Israelis committing suicide before they join the IDF?

            What do you think of such attitudes?

            Engelbert? Tell me if I misunderstood you. If I did, I will gladly apologise to you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Arieh

            Actually Engelbert, I do apologise. I just read your other two comments and it seems you are the one who wants the education directed at politicians rather than children.

            I am sure that Vicky now agrees with you and therefore she wants this program scrapped because, to use her words, it would be a waste of time on politicians. And now she understands your humanitarian concerns too.

            Am I right Vicky?

            Reply to Comment
          • Arieh

            Of course both my above comments were sarcastic. Their intent was to highlight how inane these two suspects are to whom I addressed my comments.

            I felt obliged to say this because my fear is that they would be too obtuse to get my sarcasm.

            Reply to Comment
          • nsttnocontentcomment

            Reply to Comment
          • Vicky

            Not only am I too obtuse to get the sarcasm, I’m also too obtuse for the explanation. I don’t see what point you’re trying to make.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      He should start an NGO focused on exposing Israeli children to the Palestinian narrative and apply for European funding. That should raise sufficient funding since they are giving out funds left and left for these kinds of initiatives.

      Reply to Comment
    3. directrob

      I do not understand your reaction. What is wrong with trying to show this to children rather than politicians who are too old to change their views. Those children can still do good.

      Reply to Comment
    4. A right leaning State is not going to allow what it will define as enemy propaganda into classrooms. Universities ideally should be more open to showings, but I now wonder if opposition would appear there as well. While pre-college students will be protected against such “cultural invasion,” free expression at universities might provide cover, as well as stimulate useful debate over the scope of nonviolence and IDF response.

      This film should be very important to anyone who hopes for independent judicial review. That a High Court decision was stalled for nearly 4 years with, apparently, the IDF deciding to await its own lesiure, exposes a constitutional dilemma in Israel itself. That is, the film highlights a growing failure of implemented judicial review, which I now suspect is producing timid Justices on the Court. This film is not ONLY about what is happening to the residents of Bil’in, but as well shows a growing failure of justice as defined, at least as was defined, by its High Court. The Bil’in nonviolence is then revealing a growing defect in Israel which should, in itself, be important to its citizens. Nonviolence here is revealing the nature of structural violence within Israel–and this is exactly what it is supposed to do. These are small words for what has happened to the people of Bil’in. Yet without them the IDF’s failure to obey its own High Court might have been less clear, and one can see the costs to Bil’in of that IDF failure. At no point here is the issue humanitarian law but rather the failure of Israeli justice as defined internally. It is exactly such fault lines which are crucial for the advance of nonviolent resistence.

      This film can be used to make this point, among others.

      Reply to Comment
    5. The Trespasser

      Dialogue huh?


      Palestinian Arabs are doing a really great job of reassuring everyone that they are not interested in any kind of dialogue.

      Well, done. Really.

      Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Yeah. They are upset that an Arab has no hate towards Israel.

          Isn’t it racist a bit?

          Reply to Comment
    6. Kevin

      Wow. This is impressive, and they actually get real results in the form of changed hearts and minds! Bravo to the film-makers!

      Reply to Comment
    7. The Two State “solution” implies severence; this is why Bibi et al give lip service to that end. But a Palestinian State would have to be intimately connected to Israel, socio-economically. The Wall Protests are a recognition of connection, seeking to change that connection, through that connection. They are by far the more honest and hopeful approach. Israelis will come to thank them, someday. Nonviolence builds upon that which is; it doesn’t retreat into conclaves.

      Reply to Comment