Documentaries

New Documentary Shows a Path to Nonviolent Activism, Peace and Coexistence at the Community Level

'Disturbing the Peace' explores a new path for Israel-Palestine.

Photo Credit: Disturbing the Peace Official Trailer / YouTube

In a land of perpetual chaos, what does it mean to be a nonviolent disrupter? It's a question Stephen Apkon asked when observing the arrests of former enemy combatants of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters who have formed an unlikely alliance against the status quo.

"I began the film in August 2013, researching, filming and following the activities of Combatants for Peace," director Apkon told AlterNet.

Apkon, whose previous documentary work includes Enlistment Days (2012), had received an invitation go to the Middle East to see if there was anything new he wanted to say about the conflict. It was then he discovered the group that became the subject of his new documentary Disturbing the Peace.

"I met with people on a whole political spectrum and I really felt like people were stuck in their own ways," Apkon said about those living in the region. 

He discovered the Combatants offered a refreshing model for nonviolent activism, peace and coexistence at the community level applicable around the world. 

Watch the trailer forDisturbing the Peace:

"They're community people taking responsibility. The power of a gathering of enemy combatants from both sides working together is extraordinary. They're the only group of enemy combatants in the world working together through non-violence," Apkon said. 

Some of the combatants featured in the film include Assaf Yacobovitz, a psychologist, Shifa al-Qudsi, a beauty technician and Jamel Quassas, a former refugee who has been jailed more than a dozen times.

"I decided to carry out a suicide bombing," Qudsi confessed in the film, from prison.

"As it turns out, the Israeli intelligence had been following her," explained Apkon. "Someone connected to the action arrested her."

After serving a six-year sentence, Qudsi joined Combatants for Peace where she met Israelis seeking peace as well. 

"I have great admiration for their journey; the quiet heroism it takes to challenge themselves and their own societies to embrace humanity of the other side," Apkon said of the combatants. "We can look at the big actions, but we shouldn't lose sight of the daily signs of working with the other side to create a better future." 

One of those actions is a freedom march the first Friday of the month to envision a different future through the West Bank. 

"We were filming these nonviolent protests and people were arrested. Whose peace were they disturbing? It's the status quo. Where are we willing to challenge the narratives that we accept as concrete reality?" asked Apkon. "We live in a constantly polarized world. Allow new narratives to emerge."

After winning the first Ebert Humanitarian Award at Eberfest in April, Disturbing the Peace went on to win at the Hamptons International and Traverse City film festivals. 

"People are wanting to bring this into inner city schools, prisons, other conflict areas," Apkon said about the film's reception. 
 
He had some interpersonal communication advice for future combatants of peace. 

"Don't demonize anyone. Don't meet hate with hate, actually listen to each other the best way I can express it. Is it balanced? For people who are in Israel and Palestine, we don't often talk about balance. The smallest amount of force on either side puts it into chaos," the director explained. 

"Think about how many people around the world are killed in our name," he added. "We have the capacity to kill, the capacity for violence and the capacity for compassion and love. Both of those things are represented within us. I hope we're able to recognize both and accept our desire for peace, compassion and love."

On November 11, Combatants for Peace will be marching in the Veterans Day parade before a 5pm screening at Lincoln Plaza in New York City. 

Watch an exclusive clip from Disturbing the Peace:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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