Students settled in to the living room of Lawrence’s Artistic Expression House the afternoon of January 11 to watch and learn about the non-violent resistance of the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier through the Palestinian, first-hand documentary “5 Broken Cameras.”
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized the small showing and subsequent discussion.
After the screening, members also handed out free copies of the book “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” by Phyllis Bennis, which explains this increasingly complex situation in simple questions and answers.
“5 Broken Cameras” is a 2011 documentary by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi that over the span of five years documents the non-violent protests in Burnat’s West Bank village of Bil’in against the Israeli West Bank barrier.
The film follows his family and community as they grapple to protect their village from illegal Israeli encroachments that began in 2005. The construction of the wall between the town and Jewish settlement of Modi’in Illit cut off Bil’in from 60% of its farmland, and Israeli army and police forces reacted to their nonviolent protests with arrests and violence.
In Lawrence’s directory of student organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine’s mission statement is partially to “promote the cause of justice, speak out against oppression, work to educate members of our community specifically about the plight of the Palestinian people and raise awareness of the oppression and vast suffering of the Palestinian people under the Israeli Military occupation.”
The group also aims to provide another source of information about the issues besides the mainstream media, such as providing free texts such as the one by Bennis, and websites such as visualizingpalestine.org.
President of Students for Justice in Palestine, sophomore Tamara Nasser, said she chose “5 Broken Cameras” because of its journalistic qualities and how it acts as proof of injustices against Palestinians.
“The reason I showed this documentary is number one: it’s not a movie,” Nasser stated. “It’s real footage, it’s not reenacted, there’s no edits, it’s very raw, it’s there, and it’s hard to question it.”
In addition, Nasser said she thinks many people haven’t heard about nonviolent resistance in Palestine because of the media’s focus on its violence.
“The thing that’s different for the mainstream, Western audience is that it’s about nonviolent resistance in a West Bank village that is undergoing Israeli encroachment,” she said. “This does not get on the news.”
The documentary gained critical attention worldwide when it was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards. This publicity shed light on Palestinian struggles “behind the wall” and gave their nonviolent resistance a voice.
“It’s a big production,” Nasser said about the film and its nomination. “This is the closest thing we (Palestinians) ever got to a mainstream lane, that a lot of people see this on the Oscars and start wanting to see it.”
The nomination was not without its share of hurdles. On the way to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles from Palestine, Burnat and his family were held in U.S. immigration and questioned for an hour about the purpose of his visit.
He eventually made it through customs and to the award ceremony, but Burnat issued a statement afterward, saying,
“Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank. There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day.”
Nasser said she proposed the idea of Sunday film screenings to SJP in addition to their Monday night weekly meetings in the Andrew Commons cafeteria. She wanted to open up the group to Lawrence students who may feel they are uniformed and therefore don’t attend meetings.
“The main point of all these movie screenings is to put a human face on this question of Palestine” Nasser explained. “These screenings just invite Lawrence as a community to just be in this house, just watch these movies. You don’t have to know anything about the conflict to feel something.”
This coming Sunday afternoon at 2:00pm in LU Artistic Expression house, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) will show the film “Omar” with a discussion afterwards.