January 18, 2002
has begun again.
month of quiet between Israel and Palestine, Prime Minister Sharon began to worry that he would have to sit down and actually
negotiate with the Palestinians, so he ordered yet another assassination and then awaited the reprisals that would get him
off the hook. It didn’t take long.
It began with the shooting of Israelis in the terrrritories, and then last night’s horrifying scene – a
Palestinian who emptied an M16 into an Israeli crowd celebrating a bat-mitzva. “In
response”, Israeli warplanes fired missiles into Turkarm while tanks reoccupied large parts of Ramallah. And so it goes. Whose turn is it?
and tragic bloodletting still fresh in everyone’s mind, it was with some trepidation that the Coalition of Women for
a Just Peace came together this morning to demonstrate against the occupation. Why
trepidation? Because Palestinian acts of terrorism somehow give legitimacy to
attacks on Israeli peace activists by rightwing war-mongers. It’s a tradition that did not even begin in the Mideast.
were surprised and pleased to have some 40 women and men, despite the tradition, who came out to demonstrate today under the
banner “Money for the disabled, not for settlers”. This is a reference
to the month-long strike of the severely disabled in Israel, whose government stipend is shamefully low, keeping them in poverty. We were even nervous about whether the disabled themselves would accept our presence
near their strike location, but several approached our group and voiced support. I
think it helped that Pnina Firestone, a veteran peace activist who is severely disabled herself, was holding up one end of
hour in the crisp winter air of Jerusalem, we put away our signs and went indoors to talk to the strikers and express our
solidarity with them. I had a good conversation with Alex, a lovely guy who agreed
that the government should help the down-and-outers, but not at the expense of the settlers.
Finally he mentioned that his son, too, lives in a settlement. Every government
since the Occupation began 34 years ago, Labor and Likud alike, has given Israelis economic incentives to move into the territories. By now, ideology follows vested economic interests.
striking disabled we drove to the regular Women in Black vigil, and were about 75 today in Jerusalem. Last week we had been joined by contingents from Michigan, France, and India. This week we were just us. There were the usual driveby shooting-off-at-the-mouth passersby, but nothing
exploded. That is a victory of sorts.
So it was
an efficient, 2-demonstration day for us, besides the other Women in Black vigils all over Israel. I hope there will be a big turnout tomorrow for Peace Now’s demonstration called , “Sharon
is Assassinating the Peace”. What are weekends for, anyway? Let’s hope it’s a quiet one.
January 25, 2002
Call to Refuse Army Orders
definitely growing criticism inside Israel of Sharon’s policies. More and
more Israelis are beginning to say that his iron fist approach is only provoking violent responses by the Palestinians. The buzz in Israel all week was whether or not some of Israel’s actions –
the demolition of homes or assassinations, for instance – constituted war crimes or not.
This ‘war crimes’ talk, in which the Gush Shalom movement took the lead, infiltrated much of the media
last week. And this weekend’s Ha’aretz
carries a report of the lost credibility of the official Israeli army spokesman.
not overstate the critique, but it is beginning. In my opinion, there are two
main reasons for this. The first was the brutal demolition of homes in the Gaza
Strip, leaving hundreds of Palestinians homeless. Israel’s claim that “no
one lived in these homes” was drowned out by the photos, journalistic reports, Red Cross aid, UN statements, and reports
of all the human rights agencies, including Israel’s trustworthy B’Tselem.
The second disheartening event to Israelis was an assassination of a Palestinian by the Israeli army, which shattered
almost a month of ceasefire. Whether this was a deliberate act to destroy the
ceasefire (and thereby avoid negotiating for peace) or not, no one could deny that the effect was renewed terrorism inside
Israel, including deadly spray-shootings on the streets of Hadera and Jerusalem. Even
our Deputy Defense Minister (Dalia Rabin Pilosoff) characterized the assassination as “bad timing”.
Israeli citizens – even those who believe that an iron fist is the only way to deal with Palestinians – are beginning
to wonder if Sharon has acted well or wisely to protect Israeli civilians. In
a sense, having Ariel Sharon as prime minister also has a positive aspect – it gives clarity to the issues. Either one supports Sharon (occupation and repression), or one supports efforts to make peace. The two are not compatible.
peace organizations have never stopped explaining that occupation and peace are not compatible, and have relentlessly kept
up their day-to-day protests, vigils, tree-plantings, home rebuildings, checkpoint monitoring, blockade dismantling, etc.,
etc. The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace has been able to create mass rallies
for peace on several occasions. But recently, we are seeing more in the media
and even on the streets. A broad spectrum of peace organizations is planning
a huge rally in Tel Aviv next week, which I’ll report about another time
But I saved
the most significant for last: In today’s Ha’aretz newspaper, a large ad signed by 53 combat soldiers and officers in the Israeli army, announces,
“We hereby declare that we shall continue to serve the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves the defense
of the State of Israel. The mission of occupation and repression does not serve
this goal – and we refuse to participate in it.” [Full text below.]
an unprecedented call by Israeli soldiers to other Israeli soldiers not to serve in the army of occupation. It is an incredibly courageous act for soldiers to announce that they will no longer continue fighting
in the territories “for the purposes of domination, expulsion, starvation, and humiliation of an entire people.” This is a very powerful statement for soldiers still on active duty, and in the rich
moral tradition of Yesh Gvul and New Profile (two organizations that have consistently advocated this position), but in unprecedented
numbers. The media have flooded them with interviews all day. May their numbers multiply.
combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), raised on the values of Zionism, sacrifice, and giving to
the Jewish people and the State of Israel, who have always served on the front line and were the first to fulfill every mission,
regardless of how difficult, in order to defend and strengthen the State of Israel;
combat officers and soldiers, who serve the State of Israel for long weeks every year, despite the high personal price we
pay, who have performed reserve duty throughout the territories and have been issued orders and instructions that have nothing
to do with the security of our country, orders whose sole purpose was to perpetuate domination over the Palestinian people;
who have personally witnessed the terrible bloodshed on both sides of the conflict;
have seen that the orders we were issued undermine all the values we were taught in this country;
understand today that the price of occupation is the loss of humanity of the IDF, and corruption of Israeli society in general;
know that the territories are not Israel, and that ultimately the settlements will be evacuated;
hereby declare that we will not go on fighting a war for the peace of the settlements.
will not go on fighting beyond the “green line” for the purposes of domination, expulsion, starvation, and humiliation
of an entire people.
hereby declare that we shall continue to serve the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves the defense of the State
of Israel. The mission of occupation and repression does not serve this goal
– and we refuse to participate in it.
list of the name, rank, and unit of 53 IDF soldiers]
February 2, 2002
Circle of Protest
has been rife with violence on both sides, leading to increased fear and anger among Israelis, who see neither peace nor security
emerging from our prime minister’s aggressive policies.
by 53 reserve officers and soldiers saying that they refuse to serve in the occupied territories has swung open the door to
criticism – of them and of the policies that drove them to this measure, as well. More
and more Israelis are beginning to question the occupation – its viability and morality.
The shameful face of Israel’s behavior was dramatically brought home to Israelis by a long news item on TV that
captured some of the inhumane behavior of our soldiers at checkpoints through which Palestinians must pass. It was therefore not surprising that a poll commissioned by Israel’s state-sponsored radio station
reports that 50% of Israelis believe that government policy in the territories is morally problematic.
in the national consensus are becoming more and more visible. Additional evidence comes from the ever-widening circles of
the Israeli peace movement and its supporters:
Refusal To Serve – Heating Up
week later, the soldiers who refused to serve are still all over the media in Israel, as are their admirers and detractors. An incredible one-third of Israelis, according to the previous poll, express support
for them. Conscious of the terrible damage this is having on the will to serve
in the territories, the army launched an all-out offensive – they demoted the officers, stripped them of command posts,
and launched a poster and petition campaign “It’s a privilege to serve in the Israeli army”. Mofaz, the
most openly right-wing chief of staff in Israel’s history, publicly accused the soldiers of being a front for a political
party. This effort to smear an authentic, grassroots effort with unfounded allegations only illustrates the severity of the
blow to the army, and its sense of urgency about containing the damage.
groups for the soldiers have sprung up: Disabled army veterans are organizing
one. Yesh Gvul is preparing an ad that will say, “Mofaz is soft on those
who commit [war] crimes, but bullies those who protest them”. And, finally,
several “wives of reserve soldiers” have begun a petition that says in part, “We are not willing to be pawns
of a government of occupation and oppression, which corrupts the values of our loved ones and our nation, while our families
pay the price.”
warm defense of these soldiers came last night from Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel’s Security Services (and ex-Navy
admiral), who responded in an interview on the main TV news of the week, “As far as I’m concerned, too few soldiers
are refusing such orders. For example, [an order] to shoot an unarmed youth is
a blatantly illegal order. I am very worried by the number of Palestinian children
shot in the past year.”
enormous relief to read and hear this kind of talk, after so many months of denial!
Even if the soldiers are unable to garner many more signatures for ads, their efforts have already had enormous positive
Women In Black And Others
of Women in Black and others are growing all over Israel. We had 100 at the Jerusalem
vigil today, up from 60-70 in previous weeks. Though the absolute numbers are
small, this may actually reflect an across-the-board 50% increase in Israelis who are fed up with the situation. There are now 18 regular anti-occupation vigils throughout Israel, about half of them Women in Black.
in Black vigil in Jerusalem was like a carnival yesterday, with a small, but very loud, group of extreme right wingers chanting
in our faces, “No Arabs, no terrorism” (i.e., get rid of the Arabs). Just
two days ago, this slogan was ruled “incitement” and therefore illegal by Israel’s Attorney General. When we asked the police to arrest the shouters for incitement, they switched to “No
left-wingers, no terrorism”, claiming this was legal. The police behaved
in their usual manner: Afraid to deal with the out-of-control right, they told
the women not to “provoke” them, which made us laugh and take over an even larger area of the vigil square, so
that everybody – police, fascists, and not-so-innocent bystanders – could see our signs more clearly.
to the ruckus was a religious man blowing a ram’s horn, traditional Jewish instrument for momentous events – blowing
“at” us, not “with” us. But only 50 feet away the honor of Orthodox Jewry was upheld by the “Oz
VeShalom/Netivot Shalom” peace movement, making their own proposal for compromise:
“We’ll give up settlements, if you give up the law of return.”
And a block away from all this was a group of university students with a simpler message: “Get out of the territories now!!!”
the police threw down obstacles to prevent our mass rally from happening tonight, they will not prevent us from holding it
this coming Saturday night (Feb. 9), sponsored by a wall-to-wall coalition of
peace organizations. The only major group missing is Peace Now, apparently because
our statements about “war crimes” and “refusal to serve” are beyond what they are willing to say at
this stage. On Tuesday, they plan to launch their own “Leave the territories”
campaign. And none of this mentions the ongoing human rights work carried out
by B’Tselem, HaMoked Hotline, Physicians for Human Rights, and some of the abovementioned organizations. And just I
finished writing that sentence, I had a call from a woman in the northern Galilee area of Israel, saying a large group there
wants to organize for protest; how do they begin. The circle is widening.
The Threat Of Peace
of course, digs in even deeper when faced with the ugly threat of peace initiatives.
Just one illustration: Permission to enter Ramallah was denied to Knesset
Speaker Avrum Burg, who was planning to bring a message of peace to the Palestinian parliament. I myself have no objection to the trip, said Mr. Sharon, but the Security Services said no.
a word about Wafa Idris, the 28 year-old woman who exploded herself and more than a hundred Israelis on the main street of
Jerusalem this week. Just before she detonated the bomb, Wafa entered a shoe
store, looked around, motioned away a saleslady, walked out of the store, and then…boom.
Why didn’t she do it in the store? Did she decide that too few people
were inside to make it worthwhile? Or was she unable to pull the cord, having
met the eye of another human being? All killing is horrifying, terrorism even
more appalling. The question we should be asking is: Why would anyone become a terrorist, especially a woman, a paramedic, trained to save lives? What could drive such a person to extremes? Appalling and
unjustified as her behavior was, the question has an answer, and we must face it.
Addendum: Since sending out “The Widening Circle of Protest”, many other
peace actions have happened in Israel today. Peace Now held two large protests
this evening, one in Jerusalem and one in Tel Aviv. Below you can read about
the dramatic action by Ta’ayush today in Ramallah. And some Israelis made home-made
“End the Occupation” signs and went to stand along a highway near their home…and people actually stopped
to join them. Something good is happening in Israel, at last.
* * *
February 10, 2002
there would be a big turnout for the peace demonstration last night just from the deluge of pro-peace ads in Ha’aretz the day before – page after page of statements and petitions, all critical of the occupation. Some excerpts:
· There is a choice!”An expanded new
list of 200 combat officers and soldiers who refuse to serve in the army of occupation.
· “There’s a limit!” Support for the new soldiers, and the names of others who have consistently refused to serve, placed by
· “We support the soldiers who refuse to serve
the occupation” – a petition placed by civilian supporters.
· “Peres, you are a collaborator in war-crimes!”
placed by Gush Shalom.
· “Do not say ‘we did not see, we did
not know’ – the price of keeping the territories” – placed by the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions.
· “A Recipe for National Suicide” –
placed by a private citizen.
And a huge,
blood-red ad, “The Occupation is Killing Us All”, signed by the 28 organizations that came together to hold last
night’s impressive rally in Tel-Aviv (full list below).
the largest pro-peace rally since this Intifada began in September 2000, with an estimated 10,000 participants – Jews
and Arabs from all over Israel filling the large Tel-Aviv Museum plaza. The mood
is clearly swinging in Israel, and the homemade signs of people who had not attended a demonstration for years reflected the
new thinking – “Stop Sharon before he kills us all”, “More conscientious objectors!”, “Occupation
itself is a war crime”, and all permutations of “Share Jerusalem”, “Dismantle Settlements”,
and “Bring our soldiers home”.
time veteran peace activist Yehudit Harel opened the ceremony, the crowd was a mass of people amazed and buoyed by each other’s
presence, with a great deal of hugging by people glad to be sharing the moment. And
then Yehudit’s opening words in fluent Hebrew and Arabic set the tone for the entire evening – we Israeli Jews
and Arabs together will no longer abide the crimes that the Israeli government is carrying out. “There is only one flag held aloft here today,” said Yehudit, “and it is the black flag
of pain, mourning, death, bereavement, and the immorality of war crimes that are being committed in our name.” At her words, hundreds of black flags were raised high by the crowd, symbolizing the
statement made years ago by an Israeli court that if a military order has “a black flag of immorality” hanging
over it, the order must be refused.
a rally in which the young men who refused to serve in the army of occupation were the heroes of the evening, receiving ovation
after ovation at every mention. “I once disagreed with refusal to serve
in the army,” said Uri Avnery to the crowd, “but today I salute those who will not serve. Refusal is the beginning of the end of the occupation.” Some
of these brave young men have been stripped of their command, demoted, and face court martial, but continue to answer to their
conscience. “How can we serve in an army that kills children?” asked
Yishai Rosen-Zvi, an Orthodox tank corps sergeant in the reserves, “How can we serve an army that demolishes homes,
does not allow the sick to get medical attention, seeks to humiliate an entire population, and reduces them to hunger and
speakers and sometimes during them, the crowd broke into chanting of familiar slogans:
“Fuad, Fuad, Minister of Defense, How many kids did you kill today?”
“Occupation, No! Peace, Yes!”, “Money for the poor,
not for settlers!”
a rally in which the stage was shared by Arabs and Jews, women and men, Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, young and old, religious
and secular. Distinguished elderly author Sammy Michael pointed out the futility
of the ongoing occupation: “Death is not a threat to people who willingly
give their lives for a cause.” And Shulamit Aloni, former government minister
and perennial conscience of Israel, called out her message of hope, “All of you here today are the harbingers of a mass
movement that already has begun. You will be the teachers of democracy to this
government. You will set an example of morality.
We shall clean out the crimes of this country and fill it with peace!”
many moments that brought tears to my eyes last night. I will tell you of two: Famed singer Ahinoam Nini (known as “Noa”, I believe, to her American
fans) took the risk of alienating her Israeli right-wing fans, and sang to the crowd a Hebrew, Arabic, and English version
of “Imagine” by the Beatles: “You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one; I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
other was the transformation of a beloved Zionist song “Ein li eretz aheret”.
Reciting this song in two languages, Hebrew and Arabic, suddenly infused it with new meaning: “I have no other country to go to. And even if the land
is burning under my feet, this is my home.” For the Arabs in the crowd,
the song suddenly became theirs, too, and for the Jews, it meant a land we both love deeply.
someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
Association of Arab University Students / Baladna / BANKI / Bat Shalom /
Coalition of Women for a Just Peace / Druse Initiative Committee
/ Du Siach / Gush Shalom / HaCampus
Lo Shotek, Tel-Aviv University / Hadash Youth / Israeli Committtee
Against House Demolitions / Kol Aher BaGalil / Kvisa Sh’hora: Lesbians and Gay Men Against the Occupation / Left
Forum, Haifa University / MachsomWatch / Meretz Youth
/ Monitoring Committee of the Arab Population in Israel / NELED
/ Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam / New Profile / Noga / TANDI / Ta’ayush: Arab-Jewish Partnership / Tajamu Youth / WILPF
/ Women and Mothers for Peace (formerly Four Mothers) / Women in
Black / Yesh Gvul
* * *
March 3, 2002
About Moral Backbone
winning? It’s been a blood-soaked weekend:
Since Thursday, Israeli army killed 26 Palestinians in refugee camps (and 230 wounded), and Palestinian extremists
killed 20 Israelis (and dozens wounded). Add that together and you have a staggering
amount of heartache, on either side. Everybody’s losing.
on both sides, needless to say, were also killed. A light has gone out, permanently,
for these families.
As I watched
the ultra-Orthodox walk around the area of the bomb in Jerusalem scraping stray bits of flesh off the sidewalk for later burial,
two Israeli commentators explained that this bomb was revenge for the attack on the refugee camps. This morning’s radio news, however, carried only the government spin:
The Palestinian bombing in Jerusalem last night would have taken place whether or not the Israeli army had invaded
the refugee camps. What are they saying?
Answer: That our killing has no relationship whatsoever with their killing. A theory of cause and no effect.
and his government actually believe that brutality will convince the Palestinians to give up?
Do the Palestinian extremists actually believe that suicide bombings will convince Israelis to leave the region? There is little evidence to support the unusual theory of human nature held by either
on the Israeli side, more and more people have begun to despair of the deepening sea of blood:
popularity rating, as measured by the polls, has dipped under 50% for the first time since his election. Smelling opportunity, a group of powerful businessmen and semi-political academics are brewing a new political
party, intended to present a liberal alternative to the current Likud-Labor regime (liberal in the original sense –
capitalist, pro-peace – it’s good for business – and quasi-democratic, meaning that women, Mizrahim, and
minorities are excluded so far – to be welcomed by tokens when the electoral blunder is brought to their attention).
* The Saudi
Arabian peace initiative is a wonderful opportunity. Although Sharon will easily
sidestep it politically, my hope is that his determination to brush it off will expose him to more Israelis as “not
a partner for peace” – unwilling to negotiate territorial compromise of significance, even in exchange for Israel’s
lifelong dream: peace with all its neighbors.
peace organizations and human rights movements have intensified their activity – marches, vigils, ads in papers, public
campaigns. A peace march last night organized by Peace Now, but attended by members
of many other peace organizations, continued its rally, despite the bodies exploding a few streets away, the speakers stating
boldly and courageously, in the Israeli reality, that the root of the violence is the brutal Israeli occupation. In a few hours, another rally with the same message will take place in Tel Aviv.
* The number
of Israeli combat officers and soldiers who refuse to serve the occupation has risen above 300, and continues to shake the
foundations of belief that Israel has been engaged in an “enlightened occupation”.
The army has launched a campaign to delegitimize them, so far jailing two, but voices in support have also been sounded.
close with one such voice – an excerpt from an op-ed in today’s Ha’aretz written by Michael Ben-Yair,
Israel’s Attorney General from 1993 to 1996, on the subject of occupation and whether or not the soldiers who refuse
to serve in the army are indeed lawbreakers:
is a harsh reality that is causing us to lose the moral base of our existence as a free, just society and to jeopardize Israel’s
long-range survival. Israel’s security cannot be based only on the sword;
it must rather be based on our principles of moral justice and on peace with our neighbors – those living next door
and those living a little further away. An occupation regime undermines those
principles of moral justice and prevents the attainment of peace. Thus, that
regime endangers Israel’s existence.
is against this background that one must view the refusal of IDF reservist officers and soldiers to serve in the territories. In their eyes, the occupation regime is evil and military service in the occupied
territories is evil. In their eyes, military service in the occupied territories,
which places soldiers in situations forcing them to commit immoral acts, is evil, and, according to their conscience, they
cannot be party to such acts. Thus, their refusal to serve is an act of conscience
that is justified and recognized in every democratic regime. History’s
verdict will be that their refusal was the act that restored our moral backbone.”
restore our moral backbone, amen.
* * *
March 14, 2002
Time to Help
is my country, but I do not recognize it these days. Here is an email that just
arrived from Zahira Kamal, a Palestinian woman who is truly committed to a peaceful future between our peoples:
Dear friends, I am calling all of you for
an urgent action to stop the Israeli attack against our people and to allow us to evacuate Palestinian injured people who
are bleeding in the streets of Ramallah to the hospitals. The Israeli army is
not allowing doctors and the ambulances to move and give the needed medical aid to them.
Please do something, you might give them the chance to live. Looking for
your immediate support, Zahira
just one of many desperate appeals that have come across the channels all day, together with reports of other inhumane acts
carried out by the Israeli army. These acts only feed hatred, extremism, and
peace and human rights activists have been working at a frenzied pace at every level – trying to extend specific aid
where needed, while trying to get the Israeli public to understand that violence is only the symptom, but the underlying disease
is ‘occupation’. It’s very hard to think about the disease
when the symptoms – bloodshed, death of loved ones, constant fear – are so palpable.
positive side are today’s UN Security Council Resolution calling for a 2-state solution and Kofi Annan’s calling
the occupation “illegal”. Most important, Israeli public opinion
is slowly changing. For details, see http://www.tau.ac.il/peace/Peace_Index/2002/English/p_feb_02_e.html.
a few ideas about how to help:
your government leaders to intervene to end the bloodbath at once, and then to work on bringing the occupation to an end. If you’re a Jewish American, say so. The
US Consul General in Jerusalem told a group of us last Friday that US Jews are key to the shaping of US policy in the Middle
East. If you are silent, then AIPAC is speaking in your name.
Call: George W. Bush (202) 456-1414. Colin
Powell (202) 647-6575. To call your congressperson through the Capitol switchboard, call (202) 224-3121.
a letter to the editor of the newspaper you read and express your views.
information about the situation to sympathetic friends, and ask them to speak up.
organizations that are working to turn the situation around: For humanitarian
aid, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society http://www.palestinercs.org/donations.htm or Physicians for Human Rights – Israel www.phr.org.il. To support work inside Israel to change people’s minds: http://www.coalitionofomen.org. Many organizations are doing important work now; find a longer list at www.ariga.com.
is shocking. We need help to bring this horror to an end.
* * *
Background: I returned
to Israel in the wake of a bloodbath of Palestinian terrorism inside Israel followed by a bloodbath of Israeli military terrorism
inside the West Bank. Jenin became the most famous, but killing was horrific
throughout the territories.
After the Outrage
returned to Israel from 2 weeks abroad, and took 2 more days to get a perspective on what I see and hear, which I would now
like to share with you:
the overwhelming picture before us is of death and destruction wrought by the Israeli army in the
Palestinian cities, Jenin above all. In addition to the
hundreds killed and thousands wounded, we have irrefutable evidence that the Israeli army
has barred ambulances from evacuating the dead and wounded, has bulldozed homes in large numbers (sometimes with the families
still inside), and has withheld access to water, electricity, and phone communication for periods of a week and more. Can you imagine life with no water, while men, women, and children are bleeding to
death around you? And finally having to bury the corpses in an empty lot nearby,
after days of keeping them at home?
well beyond the ongoing acts of brutality, mass arrests, vandalism, theft, and humiliations, which are also rampant. A senior officer was quoted in Ha’aretz
today as saying, “When the world sees pictures of what we have done there, it will cause enormous damage to us.”It’s
no wonder that the media are not given access. Listening to the report from the
field at the emergency board meeting of B’Tselem last night, I was not the only one with tears in my eyes.
no time for analysis, although I have much to say:
About the complicity of Peres, about the appalling anti-Semitism unleashed internationally
by legitimate anger at Israeli, and about how horrifying terrorism in Israel and the so-called “war against terrorism”
in the US have given license to what is happening. Introduce Bush-Cheney-Rice-Sharon-Mofaz,
and the recipe for Violence-Begets-More-Violence is complete. Today’s killing of 13 Israeli soldiers in Jenin only drives home the tragic
futility of Israel’s military might.
than analyze, this is a time to act. Here in Israel, the peace and human rights
movement is working tirelessly on every imaginable front. Soldiers who refuse
to serve the occupation are going to jail; convoys of food and medical supplies hastily collected have been distributed and
more are being collected; human rights workers are risking their lives to monitor action; peace activists have braved hailstorms
of teargas and stun grenades in facing army checkpoints; foreign activists have served as
human shields throughout the territories. In my history of activism, I recall
no parallel sense of urgency, in which lives and daily bread are being set aside to pursue a cause. But I also recall no parallel feeling that a calamity of our own making is unfolding before our eyes.
you to take action of your own. Contact relevant officials. If you’re Jewish, make a point of saying that.
monitors must be dispatched to the region at once to end the terrible violence.
root cause of the conflict is the Israeli occupation of the territories. This
must come to an end.
you can do, even if you have limited time:
§ If you have just 1 minute to give, forward this
letter to others on your list.
§ If you have 10 minutes to spare, write a check
to the organization of your choice (see the links at www.coalitionofwomen.org for
a few suggestions).
§ If you have 20 minutes, call, fax or write (make
it brief!) any of the officials below.
§ If you have an hour, write a letter to the editor
of your local newspaper (brief and from the heart).
§ If you have more time, get involved. See “Get Involved – Find an Organization Near You” at www.junity.org
for some suggestions. If you’re an American Jew, join the Tikkun Community (www.tikkun.org)
or the newly formed Brit Tzedek v’Shalom – Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace (www.jppi.org).
you can do is valuable.
Finally, I can’t help but note that Israel marked Holocaust Memorial Day today. When will we finally extricate ourselves from this trauma and apply ourselves to instilling its true lesson,
that of tolerance?
* * *
wanted to write this story to you since Saturday, but it’s not yet over.
a large group of us (at least 5,000 though the Israeli media reported 3,000) joined a convoy organized by “Ta’ayush:
Arab-Jewish Partnership” to bring humanitarian aid to the devastated town of Jenin.
People poured out their hearts and pockets, and an amazing 31 truckloads of water, food, medicines, blankets, and clothes
were collected. Thanks to the generosity of the Urgent Action Fund, we in the
Coalition of Women for a Just Peace were also able to purchase and add a very large quantity of sanitary napkins, diapers,
and wet wipes.
a mixed group of Arabs and Jews, women and men, from a dozen or so Israeli peace organizations, and we gathered at a highway
junction in the Jezreel Valley of Israel. It was a hot Saturday, but we loaded
the trucks and walked the final 2 miles to the border where the Jenin checkpoint is located.
This was quite an impressive array of peace activists, carrying signs and chanting slogans as we walked along the pastoral
country road. The loudest chants came when we passed a military camp. As soldiers came to the fence to watch the “parade”, marchers began to chant at them “The
occupation is terrorism; refuseniks are heroes”. It rhymes in Hebrew, but
could not have been amusing for them to hear.
reached the checkpoint, Ta’ayush representatives negotiated with the Israeli army to allow the goods to enter. The presence of thousands of us right there was a good source of pressure on the army,
and finally the last of the trucks passed through and were met by our Palestinian colleagues.
Our job done, we all went home.
news began to arrive: The Israeli army did allow the trucks to pass through,
but were keeping them at the checkpoint. Thus, despite the critical situation
inside Jenin, the Palestinians were not allowed to bring in these desperately needed supplies of food and water. Ta’ayush lawyers and activists did everything in their power, and finally the army announced that
it would allow UN trucks to move the goods. The UN was contacted, and they allocated
2 trucks to the task. The problem is, 2 trucks can remove only 30 tons a day,
and 300 tons await transport. (This includes an additional 10 truckloads from
a previous convoy, also held up.) At this rate, it would take 10 days…and
untold further suffering.
still working on increasing the transport capacity. Meanwhile, on this evening’s
state-sponsored TV program, an Israeli army spokesman, when asked about the distress of the Jenin residents, said that the
army is “making every effort” to allow in humanitarian aid. To illustrate,
he showed a film clip of our march on Saturday and a soldier “directing” the transfer of goods through the checkpoint.
the face of cruelty, and its cover-up.
Background: A gay journal asked me to write something about this subject,
though I have no idea where (if at all) it was published.
Lesbians and the Israeli Peace Movement
proud as a woman and a lesbian to be part of peace and human rights activism in Israel.
In fact, women in general, and lesbians in particular, have been at the forefront of this work. Israeli women not only comprise the largest part of the peace movement here, but the message of Israeli
women’s peace organizations has always been more progressive. The earliest
joint political agreements between Israelis and Palestinians were hammered out between women on both sides. The mixed gender movements caught up much later. The actions
of Israeli women’s peace organizations have always been varied, creative, and often daring – involving high-risk
actions and sometimes civil disobedience, in defiance of laws we consider unjust and oppressive.
are very visible in this movement. The two founders of the Coalition of Women
for Peace, composed of 9 women’s peace organizations, are lesbians, as are many of the activists. Lesbians are highly visible in Women in Black. The executive
director of Bat Shalom is a lesbian. And if you look around at any organizing
meetings of any of these organizations, lesbians provide a strong, central voice of leadership.
a group of Israeli lesbians founded Kveesa Shchora [black laundry]: Lesbians
and Homosexuals Against the Occupation. In their first action, this group marched
in last June’s gay pride parade dressed in black and carrying signs “No Pride in Occupation”. They also carried signs saying “Dyke LaKibbush”, a play on words of “Dai LaKibbush”,
which means “End the Occupation”. In recent days, this group also
staged a brave effort from within Palestinian homes in Jerusalem to prevent the Israeli army from destroying them, although
they were forcibly evicted and the homes destroyed.
has been horrible violence on both sides in this region, and none of it is acceptable, we must address the root cause of this
violence, and that is the Israeli occupation. The oppression of the Palestinian
people under Israeli occupation is untenable. As lesbians and women, we have
a special sensitivity to oppression, and therefore place ourselves at the heart of the movement to end the occupation.
the 1/4 Cup Full
seems to be our worst nightmare come true, but he’s not nearly finished. Since
this Intifada erupted, over 1,700 Palestinians and over 400 Israelis have been killed, with some 35,000 Palestinians and 4,000 Israelis wounded. So far. The terrorist attacks in Israel are horrible, but they have been used by Sharon to carry out deeds far
in excess of “destroying the terrorist infrastructure”. The Israeli
army deliberately trashed the inside of every Palestinian institution that it did not entirely destroy – schools, charities,
health organizations, banks, radio and TV stations, even a puppet theater…in addition to all the records of every government
ministry. In a few locations, Israeli tanks even rolled over mosques and cemetaries. How many new terrorists did the army create as it “destroyed their infrastructure”?
to Israeli society is another part of the nightmare: the unapologetic racism
(expelling Palestinians – the avowed plan of several cabinet members), the heightened militarization of our children
(encouraged by schools to write thank-you letters and send packages to our soldiers), the deliberate lies in the media (humanitarian
aid given to the refugees, when it wasn’t), the clampdown on criticism (an evening in honor of a famous, older singer
cancelled because she supported the military refuseniks), and the ongoing portrayal of foreign protest against Israel as anti-Semitic. And these are but single examples when many more could be given.
wars are violent and brutal, this war – compared with the others through which I have lived in Israel (Six Day, Yom
Kippur, Lebanon) and the ‘first’ Intifada – has seen more brutal attacks on civilian targets, more flouting
of international law, more looting by soldiers, more destruction of non-military property and goods, more humiliation of the
other, and more deliberate cover-up – denial of access to journalists, human rights workers, and relief organizations;
and opposition to the UN investigative commission – than any other.
me terribly. And Sharon has not said ‘no’ to the question of whether
or not Gaza is next on his hit list.
now, the quarter glass that is full:
march was called for 7 p.m. last night, and only a few hundred people had shown up by that hour. It didn’t surprise me: In the morning, a large peace
demonstration had been held in Nazareth, and in the afternoon refuseniks had held a vigil opposite Prison 6 to support those
brave men who were inside for having refused to serve in the army of occupation. Who
would have the energy for yet another big march and rally in the evening?
people, apparently, had the energy. The slow march through Tel-Aviv streets was
impressive, led by big banners proclaiming “The Occupation is Killing us All”.
Many loud contingents marched, and the presence of many Palestinian citizens of Israel could be heard in the mix of
Hebrew and Arabic slogans. The prize for most dramatic went to “Kveesa
Shchora [black laundry]: Lesbians and Gay Men for Peace”, who wore pink
scarves over black clothes and walked chained to each other and with their eyes blindfolded, carrying placards “The
media are keeping us in the dark”.
filled the Museum Plaza, and speaker after speaker – Jewish, Palestinian, women, men – gave impassioned pleas
for ending the occupation and negotiating a just peace. A particularly dramatic
moment was hearing the voice of Dr. Moustafa Barghouti, president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC),
who spoke from Ramallah by cell-phone pressed up against the mike. He received
an ovation when he said emotionally, “Sharon has destroyed our homes, our schools, our shops, our hospitals, but he
has not succeeded in destroying our unrelenting hope for a just peace, the state of Palestine side by side with the state
of Israel.” Rela Mazali struck a chord by declaring that women also refuse
– to raise our children to fight in war, to live in a military-state, to support our partners or children who serve
in the army. In a country where the army is sacred, these blasphemous thoughts
are a breath of fresh air. Refusenik Idan Landau reported that 45 men are sitting
in prison right now – an unparalleled number in this country – for refusing to serve in the occupation, with hundreds
waiting to fill up more jails if necessary. Idan said that the Israeli media
do not tell the full story, and that if we ever saw the reality of what the army has done, “we would not have one moment
a moment of respite from the endless chainsaw of anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, anti-European propaganda that grinds out at
us all day long, not just from politicians, but from hairdressers, teachers, talk-show hosts and callers, taxi-drivers (I’m
off buses for the duration), neighbors, and…well, even some of my best friends.
back to our separate peace actions tomorrow: vigils, aid convoys, checkpoint monitoring, guarding homes about to be demolished
(until they are demolished), relief work, leafletting, petitions, newspaper ads, and our many individual acts of refusal –
refusal to serve in the army, refusal to support violence as a way to solve problems, refusal to be enemies. And if all we accomplished tonight was to remind each other that we are not alone, that too was important.
And a word
of deep gratitude for all the hard work for peace that you do from outside the region.
We know that it comes from a place of caring. Together, we shall overcome.
This week had its measure of horrors – Palestinian
bombs in Rishon Letsiyon and Beersheba, the Israeli army re-invading Tulkarm and enforcing cruel curfews elsewhere –
but the potentially worst scenario seems to have been averted – an Israeli invasion of Gaza. The results of an attack on the Gaza Strip – one of the most densely populated regions in the world,
with abysmal poverty and already unbearable living conditions – would have dwarfed the tragedy of Jenin.
What stopped Sharon from this invasion? Commentators in Israel say that details of the action leaked by some generals and politicians gave the
terrorists a chance to hide and/or booby trap the path of the army. Or that Sharon
didn’t want to anger the world again, having squandered some international sympathy by blocking the entrance into Jenin
of the UN investigative team. So instead of the attack and world censure, Sharon
was granted $200 million more of US taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
The week was also filled with activity from the
Israeli peace movement. Members of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace held
a quiet but powerful conference, bringing together 200 leaders of peace and social justice organizations in Israel for strategy
talks about the link between the occupation and poverty here. As Israel pours
money into settlements and “security”, the Israeli economy is plunged into deep recession, 10% unemployment, and
the widest gap between rich and poor than any other developed country. Several
actions have already resulted (and others are being planned) under the general theme “money for the poor, not for occupation”.
The ranks of the refuseniks – soldiers who
refuse to serve the occupation – are growing. To date, over 450 have signed
this statement, and hundreds more have joined Yesh Gvul. Some have been jailed
(including my daughter’s close friend – we’re proud of you, Amichai!) and then released. The Israeli media now refrain from giving this phenomenon any publicity, as part of its policy of acting
as cheerleaders for the government, rather than reporters of Israeli current events.
The Ta’ayush organization continued its
cutting edge solidarity work, planning visits to a military camp deep in the desert where several thousand Palestinians are
being held in “administrative detention” – no trial, no due process, no exposure of the evidence –
under the accusation of being terrorists. As the invasion of Gaza became imminent,
Ta’ayush regrouped and went to Gaza in an effort to thwart that attack. Elsewhere, a brave group of Gush Shalom activists
entered Ramalla to defend against attempts to expel Arafat, as rumors to that effect reached the public.
But by far the most encouraging event of the week
was Peace Now’s rally last night in Tel-Aviv, as some 100,000 Israelis turned out to demand, “Get Out of the Territories
Now!” This was the largest rally since the al-Aqsa Intifada began 20 months
ago. (In fact, by the end of the rally, Peace Now announced that 150,000 were
The media have already begun to minimize it –
saying there were ‘only’ 60,000 or that many people showed up, but were not enthusiastic. This is not true. Those of us who attended can celebrate what
we saw with our own eyes – Rabin Square, that huge plaza in Tel Aviv where Rabin spoke his final public words before
being assassinated – was filled to overflowing with people from all corners of Israel who came to shout “Enough!”
about where the Sharon-Peres leadership is taking us – deeper into tragedy and further than ever from peace.
One political highlight from last night: Key speakers, including Labor party stalwarts, expressed their revulsion at the presence
of the Labor Party in the government, and called for formation of a “peace party” – a social democratic
party that would replace Labor in the next election. I believe we will see this
emerging in the coming months.
And several emotional highlights (at least for
me): Yaffa Yarkoni, the singer roundly condemned by the media and others for
criticizing the army’s behavior and supporting the refuseniks, received an ovation when she appeared and sang. In another, much different moment, the mother of a soldier killed two months ago declared
that not a single settlement is worth one drop of blood of our children. And,
last, Yossi Beilin declared, “They are trying to kill Rabin twice. Once
we were unable to protect him, right here in this square. But the current attempt
to kill him, we will not allow to happen.”
Last night’s demonstration was critical
in terms of affecting a broad swath of public opinion. This effort must be reinforced
by actions throughout the world, as well as locally, by Israeli and Palestinian allies of peace. The occupation can – and will – be stopped.
* * *
May 28, 2002
The Price of 35 Years of Occupation
In a week,
we mark 35 years to the Israeli occupation of “the territories” – the West Bank, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem,
and the Golan Heights.
and volumes have already been written about the price paid by Palestinians under occupation – the death of loved ones,
lifelong injuries, irreplaceable property loss, traumatized youngsters, and so much heartache that will not be expunged for
generations after the occupation (inevitably) comes to an end.
But the occupation has been destructive to Israeli
society as well, and not only in terms of the tragedy of lives lost through terrorism or military service. “Occupation corrupts”, we say in Israel, with reference to the moral deterioration of our society
as a result of being the oppressor of others. But there are additional ways that
the occupation has taken its toll in Israel:
Ø The troubled economy: Israel is currently
in a grave economic crisis – deep recession, severe unemployment (currently 10%), increasing poverty, widening socio-economic
Ø Under-funded social and environmental programs: Cutbacks
in the education of our children, healthcare, the special needs of the elderly and disabled, rational planning for water use,
development of public transportation;
Ø Threats to democratic norms and values: The
abrogation of freedom of speech, media censorship and self-censorship, open expressions of racism against Arabs, dehumanization
of the other; and
Ø The spillover of violence into Israeli society – the high rate of violence among
schoolchildren, increased crimes of violence, and violence directed against women.
This list could easily be expanded: What about the unbearable ease of pulling a trigger? Last
week, a security guard at the door to a Tel-Aviv disco who discerned a car being driven erratically toward him pulled his
revolver and shot the driver dead before he could plow into the club with a cargo of explosive devices. Clearly the guard is a hero. But what if that driver had simply
The next day, a soldier shot (but fortunately
did not kill) a retarded man (Israeli) who looked like he may have been wearing an explosive belt under his unseasonably heavy
coat and did not understand the demand to undo the buttons. And a mother and
her 12-year old daughter (Palestinian) were shot dead last week because they were running away from an exploding device, and
therefore assumed (incorrectly) to have placed it.
In the coming weeks, Israeli peace and human rights
organizations will be marking this sad anniversary – 35 years to occupation – with a plethora of protest and demonstration. Some will raise their voices about the social and economic burdens of occupation resulting
from the massive hemmorhage of Israeli resources and energy. Others will count
the thousands dead, the tens of thousands maimed, the hundreds of thousands with hearts frozen by trauma and hatred.
The many prices of occupation are unbearable,
and increasingly so. Anyone who cherishes Israel or Palestine, or the innocent
children who are growing up here, will do their utmost to bring this tragedy to an end.
* * *
June 9, 2002
Occupation and Social (In)justice
Yesterday I was particularly proud of being a
member of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace. The movement did what was
right, and said what should have been said. Some 1,500 Israeli peace activists
were enticed to hear a rather difficult message on a searing hot day – 99 degrees F. (37°C)!
Yesterday’s demonstration marking 35 years
of occupation focused not on the bloodshed or the rights of the Palestinians – though these points were also made –
but on the price paid inside Israel for a costly and internally destructive military occupation. In particular, the speakers, most social justice activists in Israel, pointed out that the Israeli peace
movement, heavily Ashkenazi, had failed until now to address the other burning issues in Israeli society.
“You are always asking ‘Where are
the Mizrahim in the peace movement’?” said Vered Madar, an activist in Ahoti [my sister], which seeks to empower
working women at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. “In fact, we
have been asking, ‘Where are the Ashkenazim in the social justice movement?’”
The Coalition events began with a conference in
early May examining the link between occupation and social justice issues. It
went into full swing last week with a media campaign in every local newspaper in Israel as well as the national press, calling
upon Israelis to notice the internal damage wrought by the absence of peace with the Palestinians. “The occupation is hurting us all,” said the text, “draining billions of shekel from
us, forcing cutbacks in social and educational programs.” What’s
more, said these ads (and flyers and posters distributed in the thousands), the occupation inculcates the belief that “violence
is the only way to solve problems”, and “allows militarism to run rampant in our lives”.
Yesterday began with buses and cars decorated
with signs “End the Occupation” and “The Occupation is Hurting Us All” starting out in 4 locations
throughout Israel, and slowing wending their way to Jerusalem, finally entering the city together. (The Haifa group claims honors for best decorated bus, but we are not judging…) Those already at the demonstration site cheered as the buses drove right up to the speaker’s stand
and emptied their passengers.
We filled the street opposite the Prime Minister’s
residence, and compelled the police to stop traffic there, although the commander threatened to “disperse us with force”
if we did so. Most women came dressed as Women in Black, but it was a colorful
crowd, with many posters left over from Jerusalem’s first gay pride day, held the day before, and bearing provocative
anti-occupation slogans such as “Free condoms, Free Palestine”, “Transgender, not Transfer”, and the
simple “Dykes and Fags Against the Occupation”. Bless Kvisa Shchora
[black laundry] for their ever-imaginative and defiant resistance to the combined oppressions of occupation, social injustice,
Four of the planned speakers were women in their
20s, and all are grassroots activists – Nabeha Morkus, a veteran Palestinian activist from a village near Acre; Vered
Madar, a young feminist-Mizrahi activist in Ahoti; Ruth Elbilia, whose parents from Morocco were shunted to the slums of Beit
Shean; Clarina Spitz, who grew up in a poor neighborhood of Jerusalem to immigrants from the Caucasus and recently finished
the army; Daphna Strumza, a third year medical student and activist in Kvisa Shchora; and Yana Knopova, a Russian immigrant
now here 6 years and a Haifa University student. “It’s a shame,”
said Yana, “that Russian immigrants from a totalitarian society fall into the arms of a militaristic society, reinforcing
those values. And it’s a shame that all Russian immigrants are assumed
to be right-wingers.”
The crowd included many internationals who had
come to express solidarity, and were invited to speak – representatives from peace organizations in France, Belgium,
Japan, and elsewhere. Perhaps most moving was a man from Algeria, who spoke in
both French and Arabic, and compared the liberation movements in Algeria and Palestine.
The moderator, Edna Toledano Zaretzki, a Coalition
activist from the north of Israel, made space for everyone. The feeling in the
crowd was that this was a different kind of demonstration, one in which the people were speaking and saying what hurt them,
and where we could work together on behalf of each other’s needs. “We
have had 35 years of occupation,” said Vered, “but 54 years of neglecting the social issues within Israel.” This was also the first demonstration in Israel where someone signed for the deaf
throughout the program, which sends another important message, especially at a time when the deaf are striking for their rights
The price of occupation within Israel was also
cited in the closing moments, when a Coalition member noted that the Israeli government is demanding “democratic reform”
of the Palestinian Authority, while our own democracy has been severely eroded. Three
women, she said, turned down our offer to speak about how their jobs were in jeopardy because of their political views. They were afraid that appearing at this demonstration would lead to being fired from
their jobs. And, last, a choir of Jewish and Palestinian children was scheduled
to end the demonstration with peace songs in Hebrew and Arabic. The conductor,
however, decided not to have them appear – not because they disagreed with the message, but because they feared a loss
of government support. Meanwhile, the children of settlements have been bused
to right-wing demonstrations in school groups and during school hours.
“Therefore, to end the rally about the price
of occupation, we shall have the sounds of silence of the children’s choir that will not be singing here today.”
It was a somber demonstration, but a meaningful
and poignant one, and one that set several important precedents. Thank you to
the four Knesset members who attended even though they knew they would not be asked to speak – Tamar Gozansky, Naomi
Chazan, Anat Maor, and Roman Bronfman. And thank you to the women who stood on
stage and shared a small part of what is in their hearts.
* * *
June 15, 2002
Wanted: Living Rooms
while standing on the weekly vigil of Women in Black, I noticed a young man get out of the car and stand near us for a while,
then chat with Ruth Elraz, one of the veterans of the movement. A few minutes
later, Ruth came over to me and asked me quietly if I wouldn’t mind having my living room ransacked. I looked at her, and she handed me a paper that he had given her.
This is what it said:
people of peace, My name is Ron ________ [withheld], and I am a fourth year student in the Department of Visual Communication
of my final project, I am looking at the issue of the occupation, and using the living rooms of Israeli citizens as a central
motif. I turn the living room into an arena where I demonstrate what takes place
during a typical search by the Israeli army – I overturn the bookcases and shelves, dump everything onto the floor,
overturn all the furniture, and create disorder. I also tie up the residents
of the home in the usual army way, all for purposes of the filming (which takes about an hour).”
across at Ron, handsome and hip looking in jeans, a tight black t-shirt, and shaved skull, but looking shy and embarrassed
about this odd request. I continued reading:
final projects in Bezalel will be seen by the public at large and covered in all the media.
I see this as a way to demonstrate the injustice of the occupation. For
the peace movement, this is a golden opportunity to present our views, views that are considered anti-patriotic during these
militant times, and do not get into the media…
with blessings for peace now, Ron”
than Ron’s idea is the shocking reality in which it is rooted – this kind of search and destroy mission is carried
out on a daily basis in many homes throughout the occupied territories. Ron will
not (I imagine) demonstrate the beatings that accompany the visits, when someone has the courage to protest them, nor the
occasional tear gas. These events are not recorded, except in the collective
memory of the victims and in human rights publications; no one hears of them who relies on the Israeli or international media
army now enters at will every major city, every tiny village, in the occupied territories, ransacking homes and terrorizing
families. It can do this because it has tanks and troops surrounding each of
the 8 enclaves into which it has split up the West Bank. This system keeps the
population of each area under siege, and prevents the free passage of Palestinians from one area to another. This, as you can imagine, destroys all semblance of normal life – preventing access to medical attention,
schools, jobs, and loved ones, unless these happen to be inside your home area. Some
Palestinians can obtain permits to move back and forth, but these must be arranged in advance and are short-term. They do not allow for either routine movement or emergency needs.
be startling to hear, if all you do is rely on Israeli media or government sources, but did you know that 91 Palestinians
were killed by Israelis in the last 40 days alone? Yes, some of these died in
combat with Israeli soldiers, but how about the 18 children under the age of 10? the
5 who died at military ‘checkpoints’ trying to get access to medical attention?
or the 55 year-old man who was just trying to stop the soldiers from ransacking his home?
as an Israeli, both are awful – the ongoing terrorization of a civilian population and the dehumanization of us as a
people by authorizing this behavior in our name…and then averting our eyes from the awful scenes.
home from the vigil yesterday and proposed to my family that we participate. “Anyway
we’ll soon be starting the expansion,” (our flat is now a tiny 45 sq.m.), “so everything will be disrupted
anyway. “Nobody said ‘no’, but that evening I looked around
the living room and saw the books, the photos, the fruit bowl from my daughter, the bird sculpture from my parents, now dead. As careful as Ron would be, these felt like too much to risk.
don’t have the choice.
me if you live in Israel and feel you can participate, and I’ll send you Ron’s phone number. And then, pick up the phone and tell your representative in the Knesset, Congress, or Parliament that you’re
sick and tired of your government averting its eyes from what the Israeli army is doing in the territories. Because it’s bad for Palestine, and terrible for Israel, too.
* * *
July 4, 2002
One of the best kept secrets in Israel is that
most Israelis are fed up with the occupation, and just want to get out.
According to June’s findings by Mina Zemach,
Israel’s foremost pollster, 63% of Israelis are in favor of “unilateral withdrawal”. In fact, 69% call for the evacuation of “all” or “most of” the settlements.
Mina’s numbers are corroborated by everybody
else: The Peace Index of Tel-Aviv University’s Tami Steinmetz Center found
that 65% of Israelis “are prepared to evacuate the settlements under a unilateral separation program”.
A poll commissioned by Peace Now a month earlier
revealed that 59% of Israelis support immediate evacuation of most settlements, followed by a unilateral withdrawal of the
army from the occupied territories.
Here’s another “secret” revealed
by Mina Zemach: 60% of Israelis believe that Israel should agree to the establishment
of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement.
Is this too much good news all at once? To temper it, here are a few more findings by Mina Zemach: 74%
of Israelis say that Sharon is doing a good job and 60% believe that the Israeli army should be allowed to attack the refugee
camps in Gaza.
To quote Mina Zemach’s closing remarks (at
a lecture I heard her give in Tel Aviv yesterday, sponsored by the New Israel Fund), “Similar trends appear on the Palestinian
side in surveys conducted by my Palestinian colleagues. Both sides want their
leaders to be very aggressive, but most are willing to have a peaceful, two-state solution.”
The findings alone are impressively pro-peace,
but there are two more amazing aspects, in my opinion. The first is that most
Israelis are not aware that the majority want the occupation to go away. To illustrate,
I report an informal experiment conducted by peace activist Ron HaCohen in his Tel-Aviv University class. When asked what opinion the students believed was most common among Israelis, they guessed “dismantle
most” or “dismantle only a few” of the settlements. Little
did they suspect that the category “dismantle ALL the settlements” was the one most commonly chosen. Ron’s students guessed that the Israeli public was much more pro-settlement than it actually is. Most people, I believe, feel this way.
The second amazing aspect relates to the fact
that the government can get away with ignoring this information. To quote columnist
Hannah Kim in yesterday’s Ha’aretz, “This has been and still is one of the great mysteries: How is it that there is no political expression of the fact that most of the Israeli
public is in favor of evacuating the settlements?” For months, I have been
asking people their thoughts about this. The following answers seem to sum up
the views I heard:
(1) First, Mark Mellman, one of the top political
consultants in Washington, was not surprised. He said that it’s not unusual
for policymakers to ignore majority views, and that it’s our job to get them to sit up and notice.
(2) Ron HaCohen said, “Our main source of
information about what people think, feel or believe is the mass media. The media
portray the Israeli people as much more pro-settlements than they really are.”
(3) Hanna Kim suggests that the power of the settlements
is a combination of their integration into the Israeli economy [Boycott settler goods! – GS] and the effectiveness of
their Knesset lobby. This fits into what is generally known about the power of
small, but determined lobbies…on many issues and in many countries.
To all the above, I would add the determination
of the Sharon government to play deaf to this view. When asked about abandoning
even remote, isolated settlements, Sharon sidesteps the question. When pressed,
he recently responded that Netzarim – the Gaza settlement that everyone loves to hate – is as dear to his heart
as Tel Aviv. In other words, not a single settlement is negotiable.
I was privileged to hear a great panel discussion
this evening, sponsored by Bat Shalom, on the subject of the “fence” that Israel has begun to erect between Israel
and Palestine. All the panelists (five Israeli and Palestinian women professors
who are also peace activists) felt that the fence would conceal the real issue – the Palestinian suffering on the other
side as a result of the occupation – and would replace a negotiated peace agreement.
Galia Golan also pointed out that the fence was being used to grab more land, as it was not being built on the Green
Line, and that it ultimately would provide little protection, as mortars and rockets could go right over it. Other speakers were Rima Hamami, Inas Haj, Naomi Chazan, and Tanya Reinhart.
The most impassioned plea of the evening came
from Tanya, who begged the audience to listen to the polls and trust that people mean what they are saying. “Now is the time to call for leaving the territories immediately, unilaterally,” said Tanya,
“just as we did in Lebanon.”
I think she’s right.
* * *
July 16, 2002
some of you do not know that a convoy of supplies for women (sanitary napkins, diapers, and wet-wipes) went to women of the
Jenin refugee camp recently, thanks to the efforts of several Coalition women from Bat Shalom – North. They included Samira Khoury, Lily Traubmann, Yehudit Zeidenberg, Jessica Weinberg, and others (sorry I
don’t know who else).
part of the report I wrote to the Urgent Action Fund, which gave the money that made this possible.
Getting the Supplies to Jenin – and its Obstacles
almost two months for the full amount of supplies we purchased to actually enter Jenin!
we received word that our grant request was approved, we sought to purchase the supplies, only to discover that the wholesaler
used for the convoys did not carry large quantities of sanitary napkins. This
was a Friday, which means in Israel a full day of rest for Muslims and half day for Jews, making it impossible to access other
suppliers. We decided to purchase and deliver as much as we could at once, and
provide the remainder during the course of the week. A small amount was purchased and added to the convoy, scheduled to leave
the following morning. It was important to us to send over even a small initial amount, to tell the women that we had not
forgotten them and their needs, and that more would be coming.
day (Saturday, April 12th), women of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace co-sponsored a convoy to Jenin togethr with Ta’ayush.
A total of 31 fully-packed trucks made their way to Jenin, most filled with water, food, medicines, blankets and clothes,
and these were escorted by approximately 5,000 Israeli peace activists. After
long negotiation, the Israeli army allowed the trucks to pass through the checkpoint, where they were met by Palestinians
prepared to accept them. It was only later that evening that we learned that
the army refused to allow the Palestinians to unload the trucks, but demanded that a UN vehicle move the supplies into Jenin. Only two UN trucks were assigned to the detail, extending the time of supply to over
the large convoy of April 12th, representatives of the Coalition identified a different supplier for the balance of the goods
and made contact with women’s organizations in Jenin, with whom we had not been in touch since the violence had escalated
in September 2000. Making this contact was difficult due to the emergency situation
in Jenin and breakdown of normal life – mass destruction and rubble, ongoing siege of the town, ongoing curfew confining
people indoors, limited communications, and unwillingness of the Israeli army to allow our supplies to pass through the heavily
guarded checkpoint. After two months of delay, we finally coordinated our entry
into Jenin on Friday, June 14. The delay actually made it possible to have a
more organized shipment of the goods into the area, as women’s organizations by then had resumed functioning.
was a very emotional one between the heads of Jenin’s women’s organizations and Coalition members. It was held on the Jenin side of the checkpoint, at a gas station where previous meetings had been held,
before the violence erupted in September 2000. Our delegation – two carloads
of women – was composed of both Jewish and Arab Israelis. Their delegation
– six Palestinian women and a baby – had to reach the site on foot, a walk of over an hour on the hot and dusty
roads. The group talked for over an hour in a mix of Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Here
are excerpts from the report written by Yehudit Zeidenberg, one of the participants:
Friday, after many delays due to the closure, the army activity in Jenin, etc., we were finally able to meet. A truck loaded up with sanitary napkins and disposable diapers, and we, Palestinian and Israeli women (who
came in two carloads), passed through the Jalameh checkpoint in a convoy, after advance coordination with the soldiers there. We drove to the gas station at the entrance to Jenin, where 6 women were waiting for
us from various women’s organizations in the region. We greeted each other with hugs and kisses and tears in our eyes.
quickly found a few chairs and sat together. They thanked us for the contribution and asked that we convey to the others that
the supplies are in very good hands. The sanitary napkins will be distributed to women in the refugee camps of Jenin, Nablus,
and elsewhere. We told them about the work of the Coalition on behalf of peace, and they told us stories of survival and the
struggle to exist. They spoke in a rush of words, and their testimonies were
painful to hear. They said that they had heard about our resistance and our actions
against the occupation and the cruelty.
there we sat in the abandoned gas station – listening to these brave women and hearing their clear, strong voices –
they want to continue to meet with us, they want peace and still believe in it. We
heard stories of survival and courage of women in the Jenin refugee camp, they told us about children who still suffer from
terrible trauma, about their efforts to support people who were left with nothing, about sharing and solidarity and much more.
felt so surrealistic sitting in that gas station, the stillness surrounding us, to recall that only a few years ago, at exactly
this place, we had sat together, Israeli and Palestinian women in a large joint event, talking about our common plans and
future.” End Yehudit’s report.
trucks finished unloading their goods, the women embraced and parted. It is not
clear when we can meet again, although only a few miles separate us. In terms
of daily realities, the populations live on two distant planets.
these women of Jenin still believe in peace, despite the terrible things that have happened to them in recent months. Some of this is due to solidarity efforts of many Israelis. We profoundly thank the Urgent Action Fund for making possible this important action.
letter in Arabic was presented to the women who accepted the supplies:
sisters in Jenin,
Coalition of Women for a Just Peace represents nine different women’s organizations in Israel that call for an end to
the occupation, and a just peace with Palestine. We are Jewish and Palestinian women, all citizens of Israel, and we are engaged
in an ongoing struggle on behalf of an independent state of Palestine side-by-side with the state of Israel. We look forward to the day when the citizens of both countries will live in good neighborly relations with
in the Coalition have been horrified to hear of the recent actions of the Israeli army throughout the territories, particularly
in Jenin. With the help of an American foundation, the Urgent Action Fund, we
have been able to purchase for you these supplies for women and infants, and we hope that this will be helpful to you.
extend to you our solidarity. We also pledge to continue our efforts until the
occupation ends, and both nations live in peace with each other.
solidarity, The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace
From the Peace Front in Israel
On the one hand…
one hand, things have gone from bad to worse: On the Israeli side, we have terrorism
that spreads tragedy from house to house, family to family, striking at random and eating away the desire of many to make
peace with the Palestinians. And on the Palestinian side, we have a level of
persecution that replaces normal life with tanks pointed at doors, preventing innocent people from getting to jobs, schools,
doctors, food. A quarter of the Palestinian children in the territories are malnourished,
according to figures just released by the US Agency for International Development. And
if you need dialysis, chemotherapy, a baby delivered by Cesarian, or just treatment of a toothache – curfews and closures
make all that impossible.
to the bad news, we have the unholy syzygy of George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon in simultaneous office, both spinning their
brutal deeds as a ‘war against terrorism’. Will striking back at
the terrorists lead them to set down their arms and apologize? It amazes me that
Israelis don’t yet see the futility and counter-productivity of our invasions, sieges, and curfews. Fear and revenge draw a veil over our vision.
On the other hand…
peace movement plods on, knowing full well that we can only chip away at the edges, not get to peace, so long as Sharon remains
in office. Here are a few nuggets of news from a busy summer:
Movement: Army officers and
soldiers continue their refusal to serve in the occupied territories, and pay the price of imprisonment and public censure. The Supreme Court is still weighing the request of David Zonshein (co-founder of the
‘Courage to Refuse’ movement) for a full court martial, in which he wants to put the occupation on trial to justify
his decision not to serve. Meanwhile, a prestigious rabbi in the settlers’
movement publicly declared that such refusers are worthy of death, thereby declaring open season on them by any self-appointed
implementer of God’s will.
Crimes: On Sunday, the Israeli
army disclosed the fact that letters had been received by several senior army officers, sent by the Gush Shalom peace movement,
telling them that some of the military exploits they had bragged about in the media are war crimes and punishable by international
law. The army was incensed and the media were vicious. Interviewers called them “informers” and one compared them to those who had turned in fellow
Jews during “dark moments in history”. Sharon instructed the Attorney
General to investigate the legality of threats that seek to deter officers from performing their duty. Bravo, Gush Shalom! If only this does deter some from performing
their duty! May these letters instill the fear of prosecution for war crimes
into the hearts of Israeli soldiers!
– no longer an obstacle to peace:
Peace Now has published a very important survey revealing that almost 80% of the settlers moved to the territories
for economic reasons, not ideology or religion. Most said, in fact, that they
would return to Israel if compensated for their loss of property. This survey
completely confounds the right-wing threat that evacuating the settlers would lead to civil war in Israel. Only 3% said they would take up arms to avoid leaving. It
is crucial to spread this information.
peace movement: Women peace
activists have had a very busy summer, highlighted by the Women Refuse campaign. This
subversive movement, launched by New Profile, calls upon women to stop cooperating with militaristic solutions, and to oppose
the participation of their loved ones in military actions. “We refuse to
be part of the machine that promotes war and sustains occupation…We refuse to be enemies.” Machsom Watch women are monitoring checkpoints at the crack of dawn, and deterring soldiers from brazen
acts of humiliation. And the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace held 2 days
of seminar to a packed house, where many political analysts predicted elections next spring, half a year earlier than planned,
as the Sharon government flounders on its handling of Israel’s economic crisis.
Now the object is to create a decent – and electable – alternative.
aid: Many peace and human rights
movements have joined together to rebuild demolished homes, bring water to the Negev Bedouin, refurbish a school in the unrecognized
Arab village of Ein Hud, provide support for a summer camp in Jenin, and prevent the passage of some particularly anti-democratic
bills in the Knesset. Speaking of humanitarian needs, many Palestinian homes
in Hebron have not had water in their faucets for months…though the settlers still enjoy their watered lawns and swimming
a troubling story from B’Tselem:
A fieldworker of 10 months in this prestigious human rights organization was arrested by the Palestinian Authority
and charged with collaboration with the Israeli Shin Bet (secret services). After
prodigious efforts, B’Tselem managed to meet privately with him in jail, where he admitted the charges. B’Tselem issued a statement saying that if the charges are true, the use of human rights activists
by the Shin Bet “is very grave and could endanger both the work of B’Tselem and the lives of its investigators”. It also demanded that he be given a full and fair trial by the Palestinian Authority. One wonders: Did the Israeli Shin Bet
deliberately seek to harm B’Tselem’s good name by recruiting one of its workers?
Did the man really collaborate? Or was he persuaded to “confess”
as part of a plea bargain, lacking hope that he would get a fair trial? One thing
is certain: Once a confession is made, this man is no longer safe, perhaps not
for the rest of his life. Mercy on his soul.
From Jerusalem to Bethlehem Today
us who marched toward Bethlehem today came back home in wet clothes and disappointed at not having entered this Palestinian
city. And yet, to quote Tamar Gozansky – the only Knesset Member at the
event – as we were starting out, “Events like this make you feel good about getting up in the morning.”
came in chartered buses from all over Israel, but mostly from Jerusalem, as our cities are separated by only a few open fields…and
a built-up checkpoint [=border crossing] manned by Israeli soldiers. We were
about 700 activists from Israel, Jewish and Palestinian, and a handful of internationals.
The organizers from Ta’ayush carefully briefed everyone about the importance of maintaining non-violence, even
in the face of provocations. The briefing was necessary: At a previous checkpoint event, army resistance to our presence was brutal, landing over 20 activists in
knew we were coming, and had prepared themselves in large numbers. A water-truck
was also waiting, its turret directed right at us. As we approached the line
of border police who were blocking our advance with their bodies, they began to get very rough. Several used excessive force, hurling activists back even though we used no force to get past them. Suddenly the water truck opened fire and drenched most of the demonstrators. I ducked behind a police car and avoided the dousing, though the car got well washed.
water did not dampen our spirits or forward drive, a much more lethal weapon emerged.
Suddenly horses with helmeted riders charged in from behind us and plunged directly into the crowd, the riders flailing
at demonstrators with their whips, and driving the horses directly onto us. It
was terrifying to be charged by horses, and this did stop our further progress. Several
demonstrators were hurt, but none seriously, I believe. One woman was taken to
the emergency room and others sat down to tend their wounds. It was infuriating
to see this violent police response to our peaceful action (never used at right-wing demonstrations, by the way). Finally, when the melee died down, we all sat down on the road and blocked the entry of more army vehicles
to the site.
hour was one of waiting while appointed activists tried to negotiate our passage. Meanwhile,
one local and several international TV stations interviewed participants. One
“activist” grabbed the camera’s attention and shouted crazily that we were the beginning of a left-wing
underground and that our next step was to assassinate the political leadership of this country. The organizers quickly announced that these are not the views of Ta’ayush, which believes in democratic
action and nonviolent methods. The police hauled the guy off soon after. I did a small investigation, and no one there knew who he was. Which strongly suggests that he was a provocateur, planted by someone (the right? the Shin Bet?) to discredit
this peace group. Or simply deranged.
an hour of sitting on the hot asphalt in the August sun, we regrouped and began to walk arm in arm toward the main checkpoint
into Bethlehem, where the border patrol and soldiers now awaited us in full force, plus water truck, and now four horses. With the checkpoint in full view, we still could not get there, despite our steady
chanting of “Peace – yes! Occupation – no!” and other
slogans. We were stopped right there, and chanted endlessly while our negotiators
talked to the army and police.
those chants was a rhymed version (in Hebrew) of “Our partners for peace are on the other side of that checkpoint”. Did I mention that a crowd of Palestinians was waiting for us for hours on the other
side, in the plaza of the Church of the Nativity? This was meant to be a joint
Israeli-Palestinian event, held with several Palestinian peace and political organizations.
The intent was to meet in Bethlehem and declare our joint commitment to a just peace between our peoples.
not get in and, needless to say, there had never been any hope of their getting out to us.
Too much closure. But the mobile phones did get through, and soon we had
speeches directly into the mike by two senior Palestinian officials on the other side: Muhammad al-Madani, the governor of
Bethlehem, and Suliman al-Himri, a Fatah-Tanzim activist. What they said was pretty similar:
for you here in Bethlehem are hundreds of Palestinians, some of whom have had their homes destroyed and their relatives killed. And yet all of us have gathered to express our appreciation for your efforts to reach
us, and our desire to end the bloodshed and reach a peaceful agreement between our two nations.” And on their side, a speech prepared by the Ta’ayush group was read out loud in Arabic. Probably with similar sentiments.
a very encouraging day. Yet we had to close it with a moment of silence for Dafna
Shpruch, veteran peace activist and Jerusalem Woman in Black, who had been seriously injured in the Hebrew University terrorist
bombing two weeks ago, and died as we were on the way to the action today.
moderator from Ta’ayush before we dispersed, “This call for peace – it will not be stopped.”
September 7, 2002
Update: Jerusalem Women in Black
For years, right-wing
extremists have harrassed Women in Black at vigils throughout Israel, shouting racist and fascist slogans. Although Women in Black in Jerusalem have consistently out-numbered those who come to harrass us, the right
is particularly violent in this city, and therefore the Jerusalem police recently caved in to them and proposed a Solomonic
course of action: that we each demonstrate at Hagar Square on alternate Fridays. Women in Black immediately rejected this proposal.
The right – represented by a man who has frequently been arrested for assault of Arabs and us – accepted
The following week,
thanks to an amazing response from supporters in Jerusalem, we were 160 women and men at the Jerusalem Women in Black. As a result, the police declared that Women in Black could have the vigil that Friday,
but that the right would have it the following week.
Jerusalem Women in
Black met a few days later and decided the following: We will continue to hold
our vigil at Hagar Square every Friday. Until further notice, however, the Jerusalem
vigil would be held at 12:00 noon – one hour earlier than usual – thereby leaving the right without any reason
for demonstrating – we would be gone.
In parallel, and
after consulting with human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel, we faxed a letter to the Jerusalem police with the following message
(in Hebrew): “Your proposal is totally unacceptable to us. It is inconceivable that the Israel Police would forego protection of our right to express our views.” We asked for a meeting with the police to resolve this matter ‘in good spirit’.
Yesterday, we held
the vigil at noon, one hour earlier than usual. Despite the change of hour and
the fact that it was the eve of Rosh Hashana, almost 100 people showed up. Several
policemen present asked us if we had changed the hour. We said that we had not,
but that we were demonstrating at noon that day to show the police that we do not want confrontation with the right. Nevertheless, we demand to continue at Hagar Square every Friday at 1 pm, as we have
had for 14.5 years.
The vigil dispersed
early, as planned, just as carloads of police arrived to handle the anticipated battle between Women in Black and the right. The patrolmen looked surprised to see us leaving.
I sat in my car at some distance and watched as 7 right-wing demonstrators showed up at 1:00 p.m.; I counted more police
than demonstrators. I don’t know how long the right remained, but they
must have felt bereft without us.
The coming vigil
is planned for Friday at 12:00, even though the police ‘allow’ us to use the square at 1 p.m. A small group of Women in Black will meet with the police this week to demand our rights. If the right shows up at noon, that will strengthen our case they their only raison d’etre
is our presence, and the police should protect our right to demonstrate at 1 pm.
Meanwhile, we ask
women and men to join us this coming Friday, in black, at noon.
We ask veterans of
the movement to call (or e-mail) Judy Blanc or me to prepare affidavits that we will need for the anticipated legal battle.
* * *
Solidarity with Victims of Sabra and Shatilla
I’d like to draw
your attention to an article in today’s British newspaper The Independent.
The Coalition did not consider our act extraordinary at all, as it has been part of our ongoing work. But
somebody finally noticed.
Below is an introduction
by Rela Mazali of the New Profile movement, and then the article itself, followed by our not-so-unusual statement that made
the headlines. The Israeli
authorities have always kept close surveillance of us; we’ll see what they do now.
like to thank our tireless friend and supporter, Ronit Lentin, for forwarding the following report. Below, Robert Fisk
reports on a letter from the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace to the survivors of the massacres of Sabra and Shatilla
in Lebanon, on the 20th anniversary of the event. The Coalition condemns the Israeli leaders who must be held accountable
for these war crimes, first and foremost among them, Ariel Sharon. Fisk calls the letter ‘astonishing’ and
quotes reactions describing it as unprecendented in brave solidarity for the survivors.
of you may know, Fisk is a leading reporter on the Middle East, and one of a handful who refuses to toe the administration(s’)
line. What you might be less aware of is the constant uphill struggle of the peace movement in Israel, and particularly the
feminist part of it, to achieve visibility and turn its work into effective public knowledge. For those of us who have
been working for a real and just peace since before, and right through, the present Intifada, there is no doubt that the women’s
peace movement has proved to be the leading, and steadily largest body doing and guiding this work. When reports from
both Israel and abroad repeatedly state that ‘there is no Israeli peace movement’, they not only erase us as individuals
and organizations, and not only dismiss our difficult day-to-day efforts, they also actively detract from the potential effectiveness
of our work.
fully and painfully aware that our action has not deterred Israel’s legally elected government(s) and its military
from increasingly inhuman suppression of the Palestinian nation. But it is precisely their interests that
are served when our work is altogether obliterated, and Jewish Israeli society portrayed as unanimously supportive of government
policy. The existence of a stubbornly dissenting opposition, even if it is a largely extra-parliamentary one, is at
least some grounds for holding onto hope, on either side and from afar. The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace
has taken numerous strongly non-consensual steps since the outbreak of the Intifada. Its recognition by a journalist
of the stature of Robert Fisk is a meaningful and precious asset towards achieving greater effectiveness.
for war crimes, Israeli women say
Fisk in Beirut
In an astonishing letter to the Palestinian survivors
of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila camps massacres, nine Israeli women’s peace groups have told Palestinians in Beirut that
they support their efforts to indict the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, for “war crimes’’ committed
against them almost exactly 20 years ago.
The women’s letter, which was sent via
the United States, has amazed the Lebanese lawyer representing the survivors of the massacre, for which Mr Sharon was held “personally
responsible’’ by an Israeli inquiry. “It is a wonderful gesture,’’ Chibli Mallat said yesterday.
“It is a wonderful message to receive in these very dangerous and violent times.’’
The letter, from the Coalition of Women for A
Just Peace in Israel, speaks movingly of the suffering of the Palestinians in 1982. “Our hearts ache to recall the terrible
massacre that took place in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps 20 years ago, which Israeli leaders allowed to take place,’’
it says. “We condemn the brutal murderers of your loved ones and we condemn the leaders who must be held accountable
for these war crimes, Ariel Sharon above all.’’
A Belgian court ruled earlier this year that
it could not indict Mr Sharon for the killings, but more than 20 survivors of the massacre, whose lawyers include Mr Mallat,
are now appealing against this decision.
Up to 1,700 Palestinians were butchered in the
massacre by Lebanese militiamen allied to the Israelis. Israeli troops surrounded the camps as the killings went on, but were
told by their commanders not to interfere. Mr Sharon was Israeli Minister of Defence at the time and was forced to resign
after the Israeli Kahane Commission condemned him and several senior Israeli officers for not preventing the slaughter.
The women’s letter recalls how the Palestinians
were forced to flee their homes in 1948. “ We join you in mourning for those who were killed and maimed [in 1982] and
we condemn those who are responsible,’’ it says. “We hope you will accept the sincerity of our words and
allow us to stand in solidarity with you as we strive to build peace with justice between Israel and Palestine.’’
Mohamed abu Rudeina, who as a seven-year-old
boy saw his father and other relatives murdered 20 years ago, described the Israeli women’s letter as a “moving
act’’ that would greatly encourage other Palestinian survivors who are seeking justice for the deaths of their
The specific mention of Mr Sharon’s name
is likely to cause considerable discomfort to the Israeli Prime Minister, who hired lawyers to defend him in Brussels and
who has not previously experienced any attempt by Israelis to indict him.
Mr Mallat said it was the first gesture of solidarity
to the camp survivors from Israelis, 20 years after a lone Israeli, Emile Grunzweig, was killed by a hand grenade thrown into
a crowd of protesters in Tel Aviv. “We regard Mr Grunzweig as an Israeli who died for Sabra and Shatila,’’
Mr Mallat said. “Now at last, we seem to have got support from Israelis about the terrible crimes against humanity which
occurred in Beirut two decades ago.’’
The letter we sent:
To the Palestinian community in Lebanon:
the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace in Israel, write to you on the occasion of the twentieth year commemoration of the
massacre that took place in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. Our group is comprised of nine women’s peace organizations,
whose members are actively working on behalf of peace with justice between Israel and Palestine.
We know that you have suffered greatly as a result of the war with Israel and ensuing
occupation: You and your families were forced to flee during the 1948 war, and then, for generations, you have been consigned
to live as refugees in other countries. In particular, our hearts ache to recall the terrible massacre that took place in
the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps twenty years ago, which Israeli leaders allowed to take place. We condemn the brutal
murderers of your loved ones and we condemn the leaders who must be held accountable for these war crimes, Ariel Sharon above
We join you in mourning those who were killed and maimed, and we condemn those who
are responsible. We hope that you will accept the sincerity of our words and allow us to stand in solidarity with you as we
strive to build peace with justice between Israel and Palestine.
The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Israel
October 4, 2002
Olive Picking for Peace
If your only sources of information about the
Middle East conflict are media reports, you would undoubtedly never hear about the important work for peace that goes on here.
Despite the discouraging times, Israeli activists
continue to struggle on many fronts. I report here on just a few:
Women in Black
continue the vigils throughout Israel – one hour every week, dressed in black and carrying signs ‘End the Occupation’. It’s hard to imagine that we have been standing for almost 15 years, but we
really have (my two daughters who vigiled with me as children are now grown women).
In fact, our numbers have increased in recent months, in response to organized assaults by extreme right-wingers in
Jerusalem. In testimony to the import of this international movement, an Israeli
representative of Women in Black was invited to address the UN Security Council in a few weeks.
Partnership organized a major rally last Saturday to protest the growing racism and discrimination inside Israel
against Arab citizens of the state. This is critical, especially when our Minister
of Education orders all schools to devote one hour of class time to studying the ‘legacy’ of assassinated politician
Rehavam Ze’evi – a racist legacy that advocated the forcible expulsion of Israeli Arabs from Israel. It’s no wonder that activists from both Ta’ayush and the Coalition
of Women for Peace have engaged in artistic midnight forays to counteract a wave of racist graffiti.
brought dozens of Israelis to the courtroom yesterday for the show trial of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, demanding
that Barghouti be brought to the negotiating table, not put on trial. This courageous
group continues to be threatened and harassed by Israeli political leaders, such as Knesset Member Michael Kleiner who called
them “anti-Semites who are a cancer in the heart of the nation”.
There is a growing alliance of Palestinians and
Israelis for a shared peace. The Coalition of Women
for a Just Peace just received a communication from the Palestinian Committee for
Inter-Communication in Gaza, saying, “We convey to you our desire for peace and co-existence.” And in tomorrow’s Arabic newspapers in the occupied territories, the Coalition
is publishing an ad that says, “We extend our heartfelt solidarity during this difficult period. We pledge to continue to educate our children and leaders that the Occupation and all violence must end,
and that a just peace is the key to the well-being of both nations.”
It would not be hard to continue with reports
from New Profile, Bat Shalom, Machsom Watch, Courage to Refuse, Peace
Now, and many others, but I will just add the translation of a report by Yaakov Manor about yesterday’s (3
October) peace action in Kfar Yassuf:
Picking Olives for Peace
By Yaakov Manor
In the wake of ongoing
attacks by settlers from Tapuah against the residents of the nearby Palestine village of Kfar Yassuf, and following several
recent shooting incidents and the theft of olives, we decided to quickly organize help with the olive harvest.
This action was called
by Rabbis for Human Rights and the Israel Committee Against Home Demolitions, but activists from many organizations
The first thing we saw
at the entrance to the village were three mounds of dirt and boulders blocking the road – preventing vehicles from entering,
and thereby forcing villagers to walk several hundred meters from the road to their homes, often carrying heavy packages. The next thing was graffiti: “Death to Arabs”, presumably painted by the
Kahanist settlers of Tapuah.
At the entrance to the
village, hundreds of residents met and welcomed us, and many more joined as we walked through the village. We quickly went to the olive orchard near the Tapuah settlement where the olive groves had been raided
by settlers. Palestinian villagers and Israeli peace activists set to work at
once with great energy, out of fear, soon confirmed, that we would soon be interrupted by settlers and security forces.
At first, about 15 soldiers
and police stood on the hill between us and the settlement, and allowed us to continue the harvest. A short while later, some 20 settlers gathered above us, some of them armed. The settlers began to advance toward us shouting and cursing. At
that point, the senior officer approached and requested that we leave the hillside to avoid clashes. Since we had almost completed the harvest in that location, we complied.
A short while later, the district army commander arrived and demanded that we entirely evacuate the area on the grounds
that it was a ‘closed military zone’… After discussing this with the villagers, we agreed to leave out of
concern for their welfare.
Our request that the
security forces disperse the settlers and allow the villagers to complete their harvest was jeeringly denied… “Let them harvest their olives when there’s a Palestinian state”, said the commander.
Documenting this event
were a Canadian TV crew and a reporter from [the Israeli newspaper] Yediot Aharonot.
An Italian TV crew arrived late, but interviewed the village residents and peace activists…The action was reported
on the radio, and participants were interviewed on [Israel’s popular] midday radio news magazine.
We subsequently learned
that the village has another large orchard to which they do not have access. We
decided to consider holding another action, and we discussed what to do in the event of attacks by settlers or reactions by
the Israeli army.
We also decided to lobby
Knesset members to use their good offices to enable Palestinians to harvest their olives in locations where they are threatened
The above report is a perfect example of how a
small group of Israeli peace activists can act effectively to bridge the divide with Palestinians, and also work to change
Israeli public opinion and affect policymakers. All these groups deserve your
Despite these difficult times, more and more people
on both sides have come to understand that violence is not a solution. And it
is important to keep the vision in mind: Like every occupation in history, the
Israeli occupation too is doomed to failure, and will come to an end sooner or later.
And at the end of that occupation, two vibrant states – safe, secure, independent of each other, and cooperative
for the benefit of all – will inevitably emerge.
* * *
October 14, 2002
Olives – We Need Your Help!
Amidst all the killing,
destruction, and wanton brutality, we would like to ask for your help with regard to the olive harvest – a tragedy-in-the-making
for large numbers of people, which can be averted if we act immediately.
Olives are central
to the lives of Palestinian families in the West Bank. Almost half of all cultivated
land is used to grow olives, and it is a critical source of income for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
The olive crop is
particularly important in a devastated economy. Just yesterday, Major General
Amos Gilad, Israel’s coordinator in the territories, conceded that 60% of all Palestinians live in poverty – on
less than $2 a day! – although none, he added, are actually starving. The
US Agency for International Development tells a different story, reporting that the territories are “in the grip of
a humanitarian crisis”, with a quarter of Palestinian children actually malnourished.
The olive harvest
in Palestine runs from early October to late November. In ordinary times, this
is a period of bustling activity, when everyone sets aside other pursuits, returns to the family home, and works together
to harvest the crop.
These days, however,
the harvest cannot take place in many villages, especially those in proximity to settlements.
Beyond the deliberate destruction of trees that has happened over recent years and the ongoing constraints of closure,
curfew, and gouged-out roads to prevent free movement, this year’s harvest has been marked by numerous attacks by settlers. Shooting incidents are rife, leaving Palestinians fearful of entering their orchards. Many have been wounded in these attacks, and one man was killed last week. In other cases, settlers simply enter the orchards and systematically pick all the fruit from the trees. No one stops them, not even the soldiers watching from the hilltops, whose defined
job is “to protect the settlers”.
As in previous years,
the Israeli peace movement has been organizing groups to join in the harvest – this weekend activists will be going
to 3-4 villages in the West Bank. But this does not even begin to meet
the needs. To really make the harvest possible for all Palestinians, pressure
must be placed on the Israeli government to issue orders to the army to prevent the harassment of the Palestinian harvesters
Will you take a moment
to write? A sample letter and addresses are given below. If you live in Israel, join us this Saturday.
According to Maimonides,
a revered Jewish philosopher of the 12th century, the very highest form of charity is making it possible for a
someone to make a living. This is an opportunity.
Olive Picking in a Firing Range
Just a few corrections/additions
to the Ha’aretz story below:
We were over 300
Israeli peace activists, not ‘dozens’, based on the number of buses that went out (amazing how many were willing
to put themselves in harm’s way). One Israeli man was slightly injured
by a stone that ricocheted against him after being hit by a bullet.
face settler brutality on a daily basis, from shootings to inequitable water supply – 80% of the water from the aquifer
in the occupied West Bank goes for Israeli use!
sporadically for about an hour yesterday, just to prevent the villagers from harvesting their olives. I cannot imagine anyone, no less whole groups of people, being that vicious. And I cannot imagine an army that does not intervene. It’s
action was co-sponsored and co-organized by the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, the Committee Against House Demolitions,
Gush Shalom, Peace Now, and Ta’ayush.
Ha’aretz, Sunday 20 October 2002
Settlers attack olive pickers
Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
Dozens of settlers yesterday attacked West Bank villagers and prevented them from picking their olives by firing guns
in the air and toward the Palestinians and dozens of peace activists who had thronged to support them.
The peace activists
circumvented military roadblocks to join the Palestinians from villages south and east of Nablus, who for the past two weeks
have been unable to pick their olives or till their land due to settler attacks. The activists bypassed military road barriers
in private vehicles and minibuses, and arrived at Aqraba village, where settlers shot dead a Palestinian picking olives last
week, and the villages Dir Elhatab, A-Asawiya, Inabus and Yasouf, near the Jewish settlements Elon Moreh, Yitzhar and Itamar.
The settlers, who saw the peace activists arriving, also headed toward the olive groves, shouting at the Palestinians
to get out. The armed security officers came first, then dozens of settlers driving toward the Palestinians and activists
in cars and dune buggies, followed by the women and children.
Arguments soon turned to blows and the settlers fired
in the air and then aimed near the Palestinians and activists to get them to flee from the area. At least in one place, near
A-Asawiya, shots fired apparently by Yitzhar settlers endangered the life of both olive pickers and activists.
activists said the settlers were aiming and firing at them. Those who had fired were found and claimed they had coordinated
the shooting with the army. IDF sources said the settlers’ security officer and other armed settlers were permitted
to shoot in the air in two cases in the Itamar area – if the olive pickers were close to a settlement and if they wandered
outside the plot the Palestinians were allowed to work in.
At no time did the activists and Palestinians approach
the settlements’ borders and all the clashes took place in the Palestinian agricultural plots.
Army troops and
the area’s military commanders were not prepared for the incidents and showed up at only some of them. The soldiers
and policemen who did arrive were in many cases at a loss and confused. They tried in vain to separate the fighting sides
and kept the Palestinians and peace activists away from the olive groves, but the violent clashes continued for several hours.
Tsali Reshef, MK (Labor) yesterday presented an urgent parliamentary question about the settlers’ violence and
charged that police are deliberately failing to take action against them.
The Palestinians have had difficulty getting
to their plots that are nearer to the settlements. Many are also afraid of tilling land close to their villages for fear of
being assaulted or even shot.
Every day there are clashes between the settlers and Palestinians, often accompanied
by gunfire and physical and verbal attacks on the Arab farmers.
October 29, 2002
On the Streets of Israel and New York
just returned from an intensive 4 days in New York and discovered – after catching up by phone and e-mail – that
the frenetic pace of peace activism in Israel has not eased, and perhaps even increased.
olive harvest, with Israeli and international solidarity, continues apace, despite ongoing settler attacks. In response, the army first declared that the Palestinians must refrain from picking olives, then it rescinded
the order, thanks to local activism combined with outraged messages from many of you.
Nevertheless, several olive-pickers were injured by settlers in recent days, and the struggle continues, much of it
organized and led by Rabbis for Human Rights, Ta’ayush, and the ISM. Activists
from many organizations have pitched in, and a group accompanied the villagers of Khirbet Yanun as they returned to their
homes, from which they fled last week after repeated settler attacks. Writes
Hannah Safran of the Coalition of Women for Peace, “If you’ve never been in a Jewish shtetl [Yiddish for
“small town”] in Eastern Europe during a pogrom, why not try it now with home-made Cossacks.... you will never
forget the event and your politics will regain its anger and zest.”
violence against both Palestinians and soldiers (as the army attempted to remove new settler outposts) has had the useful
by-product of again making settlers look like extremists and thugs among mainstream Israelis.
Not surprisingly, Defense Minister Fuad Ben-Eliezer finds this the propitious moment to call upon his party to vote
against Sharon’s proposed new state budget on the grounds that the budget “gives too much to settlers and not
enough to the poor”. That’s certainly true, despite the demagoguery. If the result is that the Labor party finally leaves the government coalition, we
can expect elections before the scheduled date next November. But don’t
get your hopes up: The line of succession is dismal.
missed many important actions this weekend, in addition to the olive-picking:
· An inter-organizational rally protesting the impending war on Iraq (in international
· A Gush Shalom demonstration opposing the so-called ‘security fence’
– which grabs even more Palestinian land and seeks to further erase the border with the Occupied Territories.
· A Peace Now march marking 7 years to the assassination of Rabin, and calling
for an end to the ‘government of settlements’.
· The opening of a moving exhibition of photos taken at checkpoints by Elisheva
Smith, sponsored by Machsom Watch.
· The jailing of several courageous young men who refuse to serve in the territories.
· An action in the south Hebron hills region, where Ta’ayush activists walked
kids home from school, kids who have not been allowed to attend during the long months of curfew.
is a really frenzied pace for one weekend, as you can see. Which is why the Coalition
of Women for Peace took time out for a long day of strategic planning – to get perspective, prioritize our goals, and
decide on the best strategies for reaching them. I wish I could have attended.
In New York
I had the good fortune to be invited, representing Women in Black, to address the UN Security Council on the subject of women
at peace negotiations. This session was intended to spur compliance with Security
Council Resolution 1325, which mandates the participation of women in all decision-making, including negotiations for peace. Also invited to speak were women peace activists from 3 other countries – Burundi,
Uganda, and India – and one representative of the organizing group, a coalition called the “NGO Working Group
on Women, Peace and Security”. At the very last minute, the Syrian delegation,
currently members of the Security Council, objected to a presentation by Israel, and others objected to a women from Gujarat,
India, who (they imagined correctly) would be critical of the Indian government. Despite
two of us being ‘disinvited’, the lot of us filed into the Security Council conference room and seated ourselves
opposite the 15 members (and their advisors) at the so-called “experts table”.
(It’s striking, isn’t it, that NOT shooting or throwing a bomb requires expertise.)
Indira Kajosevic of the “NGO Working Group” delivered her remarks, she cleverly presented summaries of the talks
that the Indian woman and I had prepared, so I didn’t feel altogether left out.
But as the Security Council delegates discussed the issue – oh, in complete agreement about equality for women,
wouldn’t you know – I was sitting there wondering what would happen if I simply raised my hand, so I did. Almost at once the Chair recognized me, which astonished me and nearly left me speechless. After a fumbling beginning, I found my voice, distanced myself from the policies of
the present Israeli government, talked about the accomplishments of women making peace with each other and the wisdom of including
representatives of civil society (peace activists) at the negotiating table, and then said quietly that, actually, the conflict
in the Middle East was not between Israelis and Palestinians. I should have paused
longer for effect right here, but I waited as long as I thought I could without closing the window of opportunity. The conflict, I said, was actually between Israelis and Palestinians who long for peace, on one side, and
Israelis and Palestinians who don’t want peace, on the other. When I finished,
the only speaker following me was the Syrian delegate, and – to tell you the truth, my heart started to pound just then
so I didn’t hear a word – I was later told that my final words headed off the usual Syrian broadside against Israel.
“NGO Working Group” had also done a great job of arranging a press conference, briefings of senior UN officials,
and a public reception, so we did have opportunities to get the message across. I
also had the privilege of participating in not one, but two New York vigils of Women in Black – the so-called Wednesday
and Thursday groups – and was moved to think of the large and spontaneous movement that is building across the globe.
here for the full text. Many thanks to Ruth Linden for her help in polishing and paring it down to
5 short minutes. I do think they got the message, though.
December 27, 2002
A Protest Happening in Tel Aviv
Things are so terrible here, one could weep. Or sit home and do nothing. Or move to
Tel-Aviv and get lost in the café crowd – galleries, gourmet food, and a political party called Green Leaf pushing for
the legalization of marijuana. Now that’s one way to cope with reality.
So, we decided to bring reality into the heart
of affluent, artsy Tel-Aviv, and to do it on their terms – using music, art, cinema, and street theater, all set into
a mass Women (and Men) in Black vigil.
We were about 1,500 people from all over Israel
as well as Europe and North America, most of us dressed in black and spread out on the five corners of one of the busiest
intersections of Tel-Aviv. Our twin slogans – ‘End the Occupation’
and ‘No to Racism’ – called out from every direction: white lettering on black smocks, black umbrellas,
black banners, and the traditional black ‘hands’ of Women in Black. (Thank
you, Dita, for those great graphic items.)
The day was meant to convey a serious message,
but the sudden bright, hot sun after a week of cold winter rains, our own need for respite from the horror, and the Tel-Aviv
escapist state-of-mind all seemed to get the better of us, turning a protest demonstration into a protest happening, with
action every few meters:
Two drummers, doing Middle Eastern rhythms;
Five “Raging Grannies” singing subversive political lyrics they had written
to nursery rhymes and Zionist foot-stompers;
A group from Portugal doing much loved peace songs with guitars and hand-clapping;
Black Laundry: Lesbians and Homosexuals Against the Occupation with an art installation
that defies simple description;
Crates of olives and olive oil, packed into empty soda bottles, sold by peace activists
that had helped in the harvest (ah, they taste best when you have picked them yourselves…)
To counter the racist ‘Transfer = Security’ stickers that have sprouted all
over the country, there were ‘Transfer = War Crime’ stickers, on the background of the yellow Jewish star that
had been used by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The Fifth Mother Movement (carrying on the tradition of the Four Mothers Movement that
got us out of Lebanon) sold shirts saying ‘War is not my language’.
But best of all was the public screening of the
film ‘Jenin, Jenin’ (director Mohammed Bakri), an account of the actions of the Israeli army this spring in the
West Bank town of Jenin. The film had been banned by the Israeli censors, but
showing in private homes and offices around Israel. We – the Coalition
of Women for Peace – decided to rent equipment and defy the censor, showing it on a big screen we set up in plain view
The police knew of the plan and approached Yoni,
one of the main organizers, to tell her that the Chief of Police gave strict orders that the film must not be shown. No way, said Yoni, we’re showing it, and gave orders to run the projector. The police couldn’t stand it. They
went up to the man who rented us the equipment and was operating it, and told him to turn off the projector or they would
smash it. He turned it off. That
was too much for Debby, another organizer, who also happens to be Yoni’s mom.
Debby pulled out her checkbook, put her signature onto one of them, and handed it to the video equipment owner. “Hold onto that check,” said Debby, “and if the police smash your
equipment, write in the amount that it’s worth. Now turn it on.” He still hesitated, but pointed to the button.
“You turn it on,” he said, which Debby gladly did. The crowd
gathered in great numbers and the film ran for over an hour, no equipment smashed, with the TV news this evening reporting,
“The film ‘Jenin, Jenin’, banned in Israel by the censor, was shown on a giant screen in the heart of Tel-Aviv
this afternoon,” followed by an interview with Yoni who simply explained that one should not hide the truth. Well done, Yoni.
Special guests at the event: beloved Knesset Member Tamar Gozansky, now retiring; dear Luisa Morgantini, “our” member of
the European Parliament; local and international peace activists Shulamit Aloni, Simone Susskind, Uri Avnery, Dan Almagor,
Many local and international media also came,
thanks to ‘Jenin, Jenin’, and half the people there seemed to be making videos of the other half.
Special thanks to the many of you in Europe and North America who held your own vigils in solidarity with ours –
some in great gobs of snow, we hear. By the way, exactly one hour after our own
event ended in dazzling sunny weather, the sky opened up and poured down buckets of rain.
Well, in some ways, it was more a protest carnival
than a march of mourning, like last December. Did we get through to the Tel-Aviv
crowd? Maybe. And maybe they got
through to us a little bit, too.