Thursday, July 21, 2016

Julia Bracha

Make conflicts less violent; have more women in public life. This was the thought-provoking thesis of Julia Bracha in her TED Summit talk.

Her contention runs like this. Since it's futile to try to eliminate all conflicts, what we should be trying to do is to make them less violent. Nonviolent campaigns have two big advantages.  Fewer people are hurt or killed and less infrastructure is destroyed, infrastructure that might be key to recovery after conflict. They also tend to be more successful. And the best predictor of which tactics will prevail (violent or non-violent) is the ideology regarding women in public life. In her research, movements with women in leadership roles have succeeded more often: 53-27*.

It's not that women are less involved in conflicts. It's that they are talented in exercising power and influence nonviolently in the background. Because men are the public face of resistance, we often miss women's quieter, and highly effective, role in the background. Bracha pointed to influential women like Septima Clark in the US civil rights movement who emphasized literacy and education.

The media often underestimates the influence of women in Arab and Muslim communities. Consider the 1st Intifada, where media coverage focused on rocks being thrown at tanks. However 97% of the activities in that Intifada were non-violent tactics (like strikes for instance), and the women were calling the shots in those efforts.

Bracha's film wonderful Budrus, which I saw and loved at Toronto's Hot Docs Festival (reviewed here) highlighted the efforts of the women of the town of Budrus. Budrus was fighting the Israeli security fence, which was slated to go into Palestinian territory and bulldoze olive trees which were their livelihood. The 15-year-old girl who was an inspiration in the battle ultimately planted herself in front of a bulldozer. With the help of Israeli liberals, the Israelis relented and moved the wall to the boundary between Israeli and Palestinian territory instead of its planned incursion into Palestinian territory.

* not sure of the source of this statistic

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