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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

18 January 2002
Subject: A Two-Demonstration Day


The cycle has begun again.

After a 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 M-16 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?

The senseless and tragic blood-letting 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.

Thus, we 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 Fierstone, a veteran peace activist who is severely disabled herself, was holding up one end of our banner.

After an 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.

From the 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 drive-by shooting-off-at-the-mouth passersby, but nothing exploded. That is a victory of sorts.

So it was an efficient, two-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” (19 January, 7 p.m. at Hagar Square, Jerusalem). What are weekends for, anyway? Let’s hope it’s a quiet one.

Gila Svirsky

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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2002 Gila Svirsky.

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