Emad Burnat filmed five years (2005-2010) of Bil’in’s nonviolent resistance to Israeli settlement and military occupation. He bought his first camera to film the infancy of his fourth son. Later, he filmed as the army unloaded round after round of tear gas canisters into peaceful gatherings. He filmed as his village lost its land. He filmed as settlers beat up protesting villagers. He filmed as children were pulled from their homes in the middle of the night and arrested. He filmed as boys were murdered. He filmed as men were murdered. He filmed as Bil’in’s olive trees were burned down. His Israeli collaborator, Guy Davidi, helped him fashion that witnessing into a nonviolent weapon.
Israel is a police state. The U.S. is a police state. China is a police state. States are police states. Anarchism is life. I imagine that if I were a peasant of Bil’in my rage would have overcome love and principle. I have a hard time believing I would have had the humor and imagination to install doomed trailers and build ill-fated outposts on the Israeli side of the barrier when the knife and the gun require no imagination whatsoever to employ. I can imagine that I would have found it unjustifiable and necessary to kill.
Simon Critchley writes on page 239 of The Faith of the Faithless: “There are contexts where a difficult pacifism that negotiates the limits of violence might be enough. But — and this is the point gleaned from our reading of Benjamin — there are also contexts, multiple contexts, too depressingly many to mention, where nonviolent resistance is simply crushed by the forces of the state, the police, and the military. In such contexts, the line separating nonviolent warfare and violent action has to be crossed. Politics is always a question of local conditions, of local struggles and local victories. To judge the multiplicity of such struggles on the basis of an abstract conception of violence is to risk dogmatic blindness.” That the people of Bil’in could refuse violence through so much, for so long, without lapsing into nihilism, astonishes me. A movie has never made me weep so openly.
I have few words now. Ignore politicians. Instigate utopias. Immolate.