The Israeli feminine voice for peace
babelmed - 09/03/2007
The women’s peace movements in Israel are more than just the vigils of Women in Black. It can be said that women’s peace activism in Israel has consistently been more varied and more progressive than the peace activism of the mixed-gender peace groups.
It was more varied because women did not just hold vigils but engaged in a wide variety of activities—dialogues between Israeli and Palestinian women, street theater and teach-ins, publishing a children’s magazine for peace, consciousness-raising groups, documenting the words of Palestinian women, and a seemingly endless stream of demonstrations. It was more progressive because they took positions that were considered radical well before the mixed-gender groups did. Israeli women signed a peace treaty with Palestinian women long before Rabin and Arafat did so on the White House lawn, and their principles went far beyond the general assertion of ending hostilities. They called for the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel, the recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a just resolution for the Palestinian refugee problem.
The most influential women for peace movements in Israel seek to mobilize women in support of human rights and a just peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as they work to strengthen democracy within Israel.
A short history of the “Women in Black”
Women in Black is the most phenomenal women movement in terms popularity. The international movement began in January 1988, one month after the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) broke out, as a small group of Israeli women carried out a simple form of protest: Once a week at the same hour and in the same location – a major traffic intersection – they donned black clothing and raised a black sign in the shape of a hand with white lettering that read “Stop the Occupation”. Within months, by word of mouth, women throughout Israel had heard of this protest, and launched dozens of vigils.
This began the 17-year history of the Women in Black movement, as it spread spontaneously from country to country, wherever women sought to speak out against violence and injustice in their own part of the world. In Italy, Women in Black protest a range of issues, from the Israeli occupation to the violence of organized crime. In Germany, Women in Black protest neo-Nazism, racism against guest workers, and nuclear arms. In India, they hold vigils that call for an end to the ill treatment of women by religious fundamentalists. And during the war in the Balkans, in Belgrade, they set a profound example of interethnic cooperation that was an inspiration to their countrywomen and men.
Such a movement is often the target of attack by those who promote narrow nationalist views over reconciliation and peace. In both Israel and Serbia, where Women in Black have spoken out against the policies of their own political leadership, women in these vigils are frequently threatened and sometimes violently assaulted, accused of being traitors to their own country. Yet Women in Black have refused to step down from their courageous stand, preferring to serve as a continuous, public reminder that the oppression of others is an unacceptable option.
Although the trend took root in every continent of the world, cooperation among the disparate vigils was minimal until 2001, when e-mail lists originating in Europe, Asia, and North America began to network the groups. This was followed by two massive, joint actions – in June and December 2001 – demanding peace between Israel and Palestine. On both these days, tens of thousands of women in 150 cities across all five continents participated in solidarity actions. The December event in Jerusalem saw over 5,000 Israeli and Palestinian Women in Black and men marching together from the Israeli to the Palestinian sides of town under the twin banners, “The Occupation is Killing Us All” and “We Refuse to be Enemies”. Other Women in Black campaigns seek to focus world attention on the war in Colombia, and the need to bring peace to that region.
The international movement was honored with the Millennium Peace Prize for Women, awarded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in 2001. The international movement, represented by the Israeli and the Serbian groups, was also a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Israeli Women in Black won the Aachen Peace Prize (1991); the peace award of the city of San Giovanni d'Asso in Italy (1994); and the Jewish Peace Fellowship’s “Peacemaker Award” (2001). Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, is an international Non-Governmental Organization with National Sections in 37 countries, covering all continents. It's International Secretariat is based in Geneva with a New York UN office.
Its aims and principles include “bringing together women of different political beliefs and philosophies who are united in their determination to study, make known and help abolish the causes and the legitimization of war; working toward world peace; total and universal disarmament; the abolition of violence and coercion in the settlement of conflict and its replacement in every case by negotiation and conciliation and to promote political and social equality and economic equity.”
Believing that under systems of exploitation these aims cannot be attained and a real and lasting peace and true freedom cannot exist, WILPF makes it one of its missions to further by non- violent means the social and economic transformation of the international community. This would enable the establishment of economic and social systems in which political equality and social justice for all can be attained, without discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, or any other grounds whatsoever.
The Fifth Mother
Founded in March 2002 by women from the Four Mothers Movement, which was instrumental in ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, The Fifth mother gathers other women who share the view that "War Is Not My Language".
The movement brings to the public discourse insights from language and conflict resolution in the unique voice of women, and provides an alternative to the militant language now defining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It calls for involving experts like conflict resolution mediators to help extricate the negotiations from the present impasse. Noga
Noga started life in 1980 when a group of women from differing professional backgrounds got together and created Israel’s first and still, if not its only, certainly it’s most prominent feminist magazine. Noga was born out of a need to give women a platform from which they could air their unique voice. Since its auspicious beginnings Noga has developed and evolved and is now not only a magazine of consistently high standards but a vibrant organization. Noga’s activities include organizing symposiums, conferences and workshops, on issues pertaining to women and women’s status. Campaigning and lobbying, aimed at achieving greater representation of women in politics at all levels, and changing the attitudes of the courts towards women. But it is not only the political or economical aspects of society that are of interest to Noga, by showcasing their work Noga is instrumental in encouraging female artists, writers and photographers. Noga combines a striving for equality with an aspiration for peace and works in collaboration and cooperation with other groups in the achievement of both. Noga magazine continues to be unique, outspoken and hard-hitting providing scope and depth of information on issues relating to women’s status, women’s rights and women’s points of view. The women behind Noga are dedicated to achieving a just and egalitarian society.
TANDI – Movement of Democratic Women for Israel:
TANDI is an alliance of two organizations: Women’s Awakening, founded in 1948 as an Arab women’s organization, and the Progressive Democratic Organization of Jewish Women. Both had the same goals and mission, and believed that banding together would contribute to the success of their activities. As a result, TANDI: Movement of Democratic Women for Israel was created. The movement has several goals which include just peace in the region and the world, with coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, equal socio-political rights for women and protection of children's rights.
For more information about these movements and others active in Israel we recommend you to visit The Coalition of Women for Peace which is a network for women peace movements in Israel. It has become one of the leading voices advocating for a just and viable peace between Israel and Palestine ever since it’s founding in November 2000, just six weeks after the current Intifada began.
The Coalition brings together independent women and nine women's peace organizations, some newly formed and others promoting coexistence since the founding of the state of Israel. It is a mix of Jewish and Palestinian women, and they take action to amplify the voices of women calling for peace and justice for all inhabitants of the region. (08/03/2007)