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At-Home with Gila Svirsky
18 February 2001
Subject: Women for a Just Peace in Israel
Our worst nightmare is about to unfold: Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel and Barak has agreed to be his minister of defense. With the Labor Party joining the Likud in a so-called unity government, the potential voice of opposition has been wiped out. Whats left are the smaller parties, and the growing grassroots movement for peace.
I am writing to let you know that the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace has not given up on our dream of living in peace with our neighbors. We began last November, as the violence entered high gear, and we have not stopped since:
- After 13 Israeli Arabs were killed in demonstrations, we staged a mass protest and called upon Israel to treat its Arab citizens with the same dignity and equality as its Jewish citizens.
- We held a mass march through the streets of Jerusalem 2,000 Israelis and Palestinians together under the banner We Refuse to be Enemies and called for an end to the occupation and the era of generals.
- We enacted a closure in the heart of Tel Aviv, blocking the entrance to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, to illustrate the plight of Palestinians under closure (ending in the arrest of 17 of us).
We condemn violence of all sorts, by both sides, and we believe in a peaceful resolution through negotiation. We are appalled that not a single woman was involved in the negotiations, but only men, most of them military professionals.
For the past 13 years (since the formation of Women in Black), women have been the most vibrant, daring, and progressive part of the Israeli peace movement. Before anyone else, we advocated a two-state solution, sharing Jerusalem, and creative solutions to the refugee issue. We engaged in dialogue with Palestinian women; broke through the closure to bring food, medicine, and a message of coexistence; paid condolence calls to the families of victims (on both sides); and spoke out in a clear, forthright voice and with our bodies to demand a just solution. And, yes, we have had partners on the other side Palestinian women committed to peace.
The Coalition met last week and the room was crowded with women from all over Israel (Jewish and Arab) who wanted to join our cause. We agreed on, and have begun to organize, a full slate of activities for the next few weeks alone:
This Saturday (February 24), well stage a Peace and Justice March in Israel in solidarity with a Peace and Justice March being held simultaneously by Palestinians (in Bethlehem) with plans to meet at the border crossing between us.
During the upcoming swearing-in ceremony of Ariel Sharon, we will demonstrate outside the Knesset with some advice for him and the new ministers: We Demand Peace!
In three weeks (on March 8), well mark International Womens Day with a mass march of Israeli Jewish and Arab women, with delegations from Italy, Spain, England, and possibly other countries. The issue is the plight of women inequality, violence, the exploitation of factory workers, etc. and its connection with security issues.
We do Checkpoint Monitoring, with groups of 4-5 women visiting checkpoints and seeking by their presence to reduce the violence and abuse that often takes place here.
And we are planning direct action, not for the faint-hearted, whose details I cannot discuss.
We have no paid staff and no offices. Everything so far as been funded by a combination of the women themselves, a growing group of supporters outside Israel, and several foundations (New Israel Fund, Bydale Foundation, Samuel Rubin Foundation, Heinrich Böll Foundation, and Max & Anna Levinson Foundation).
We need your support of all sorts. This cannot be just an Israeli activity, but must resonate internationally. It was women (the Four Mothers Movement) who successfully advocated for Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. Women can also end this conflict. Please read below if you would like to help.
Shalom / Salaam from Jerusalem,
The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace member organizations
Bat Shalom; Mothers and Women for Peace (formerly Four Mothers Movement); New Profile: Movement for the Civil-ization of Society in Israel; Neled: Women for Coexistence; TANDI: Movement of Democratic Women; Women Engendering Peace; Women in Black; and WILPF - Israel chapter.
- An end to the occupation.
- The full involvement of women in negotiations for peace.
- Establishment of the state of Palestine side by side with the state of Israel based on the 1967 borders.
- Recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of two states.
- Israel must recognize its share of responsibility for the results of the 1948 war, and find a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.
- Equality, inclusion and justice for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
- Opposition to the militarism that permeates Israeli society.
- Equal rights for women and for all residents of Israel.
- Social and economic justice for all Israel's citizens.
- Cultural, economic, and social integration of Israel into the region.
How You Can Help Support Us
- Join our e-mail list by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. We dont write very often, but forwarding e-mails from the Coalition is crucial for creating a mass international demand for peace. And sometimes well ask you to e-mail your elected officials.
- Stage solidarity demonstrations when we do ours.
- Join us in our actons next time youre in Israel.
- Make a contribution by one of three ways:
- Send a check to the New Israel Fund, Department WS, P.O. Box 91588, Washington DC 20090-1588. Please add a memo that this is for the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace. This is tax-deductible in the US.
- Send a check to US/Israel Women to Women, 275 Seventh Avenue - 8th Floor, New York, NY 10001. Again, please add a memo that this is for the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace. This is also tax-deductible in the US.
- Send a check made out to Bat Shalom and mail it to Bat Shalom, P.O. Box 8083, Jerusalem 91080. Again, please add a memo that this is for the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace.
- Or, you can pay with your credit card to my internet account in PayPal, and I will transfer the money to the Coalition. To do this, copy my e-mail address email@example.com and click on www.paypal.com. You will have to sign up, but there is no charge and its a secure transaction.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, its the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)
Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
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