Emad Burnat and 5 Broken Cameras

February 24, 2013 IMEU
Emad Burnat and 5 Broken Cameras

- Emad Burnat -

  • Burnat lives with his wife Soraya and son Gibreel, who both play central roles in 5 Broken Cameras, in the town of Bil'in in the occupied West Bank. He earns a living farming, as have generations of his family before him.
  • Burnat, age 41, and Gibreel, age 8, have lived their entire lives under Israel's military occupation regime, which began in 1967. Like other Palestinians in the West Bank, they are granted no civil or political rights by Israel and are subject to repressive and discriminatory military rule, which Human Rights Watch detailed in a 2010 report titled "Separate and Unequal: Israel's Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."
  • In 2005, Burnat and other residents of Bil'in began weekly protests after Israel expropriated land belonging to them to build a wall between Bil'in and the nearby Jewish settlement of Modi'in Illit. Around the same time, he got a video camera to document the birth of his son Gibreel.
  • Burnat and Israeli co-director Guy Davidi assembled 5 Broken Cameras from footage Burnat shot of protests between 2005 and 2011.
  • On February 19, 2013, Burnat and his family were held for about an hour by customs officials at Los Angeles International Airport as they arrived to attend the Oscars. The agents didn't believe he was an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, despite the fact that he had his invitation from the Academy with him. After threatening to deny entry to Burnat and his family, they were released and allowed to enter the US only after the intervention of his friend and fellow filmmaker Michael Moore.


- Bil'in -

(See Google satellite view of Bil'in and Israel's wall, with the
settlement of Modi'in Illit, or Kiryat Sefer at right)

  • Bil'in is located outside of Ramallah in the central West Bank and has a population of approximately 1700.
  • Initially, more than half of Bil'in's land (approximately 500 acres), comprising most of the arable land, was expropriated for the wall or ended up on the western, or Israeli side of it. In 2007, in response to a legal challenge from the people of Bil'in, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the route of the wall to be modified, however the ruling only returned about half of the 500 acres originally taken.
  • The nearby Jewish settlement of Modi'in Illit (or Kiryat Sefer) was founded on occupied Palestinian land in 1994 and currently has a population of more than 48,000, making it the second largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Like all Israeli settlements, Modi'in Illit was built in violation of international law.
  • Since 2005, two people have been killed by Israeli forces in Bil'in during demonstrations against the wall, and many more injured. In April 2009, an Israeli solider shot 29-year-old Bassem Abu Rahme in the chest with a high velocity tear gas canister from close range as he protested peacefully, killing him. (The incident was captured on video and is included in 5 Broken Cameras.) On December 31, 2010, Bassem's 35-year-old sister, Jawaher, died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers as she watched a demonstration from a distance.


- Nonviolent Resistance Elsewhere in the West Bank -

  • Residents of other Palestinian towns in the West Bank have also regularly employed nonviolent demonstrations and legal challenges to protest the confiscation of their lands for Israel's wall and settlement construction, including Nabi Saleh, Nil'in, Budrus (which was also the subject of an award-winning documentary), and Jayyous, where popular protests against the wall began in 2003.
  • As with Bil'in, Israel has responded to peaceful Palestinian protesters elsewhere in the West Bank with force and repression, including violent suppression of demonstrations, mass arrests, including of children, and targeting protest leaders with imprisonment without trial, or "administrative detention," for long periods of time. Since 2004, at least 17 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank while protesting the wall, including 8 minors, and many hundreds injured. As the Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense admitted to American officials in 2010, the Israeli army doesn't "do Gandhi very well."


- Israel's West Bank Wall -

  • In 2002, during the Second Intifada, Israel began building the wall, much of it deep inside the occupied West Bank, under the pretext of security.
  • In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion deeming the wall illegal, as approximately 85% of it is built on Palestinian land inside the West Bank rather than on Israel's internationally recognized pre-1967 borders.
  • As of May 2012, more than 325 miles of the wall have been built, at a cost of $2.6 billion (US). Once completed, the full length of the wall is projected to be between 420 and 440 miles (according to the Israeli Defense Ministry and Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, respectively), more than twice the actual length of Israel's border with the West Bank. (See here for a 2011 UN map of the wall.)
  • During construction of the wall, Israel has usurped Palestinian water supplies, including the biggest aquifer in the West Bank, and destroyed large amounts of Palestinian farmland, uprooting tens of thousands of olive trees in the process.
  • Critics have accused Israeli authorities of designing the wall's route to envelop as much Palestinian land and as many Israeli settlements as possible on the western, or Israeli side, while placing as many Palestinians as possible on the eastern side. When finished, about 10% of the West Bank will be on the western, or Israeli side, along with more than 85% of the Israeli settler population, effectively annexing it to Israel.


Photographer: Hamde Abu Rahma