In Israel, the concept of “security” is a powerful one. It
is used to justify all military activity, including the occupation of Palestinian territories and the vast budgets applied
to it. Indeed, a mystique has developed around security – “national
security” is a phrase invoked not just to increase military budgets, but also to silence criticism and prevent transparency. Recent efforts to prevent the publication of testimony about the Second Lebanon War
were pursued on the grounds of “security”. “Security risks”
can be used as a rationale to prevent defendants from seeing the evidence against them in court. Only the highest officials are privy to full information about security related matters, and they prevent
this information from seeing the light of public scrutiny and debate.
Security, however, once meant something
much broader than its military definition. Sometimes it’s hard to remember
that older use of “security”, but efforts to revive it have been made in recent years. It is called “human security” and includes areas of activity such as:
* economic security (having
a job, a roof over one’s head, access to health care);
* personal security (safety
from gender-related violence, protection from crime, having one’s children safe from drugs); and
* environmental security
(knowing that one’s tap water is clean and pure, having access to clean beaches, having clean air to breathe).
For several generations, however, neither
the Palestinians nor the Israelis have had security, not in its narrow nor in its broader sense. Both societies have lived in an ongoing state of fear and insecurity for many years. And although Palestinians have paid a higher price than Israelis for this conflict, it is quite clear that
Israelis also live in a perpetual state of fear and insecurity.
Yet if you talk to Israelis about the occupation,
they will tell you that Israel cannot leave the occupied territories because of “security”. Security, they will say, is best served by remaining in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, constructing
a huge “security fence”, and laying siege to the Gaza Strip. Oddly,
few Israelis stop to think if these military measures are providing the long-sought security…or in fact have been counterproductive,
only deepening the fear and insecurity.
The women’s peace movement in Israel
has begun to work on this problem. We call it a campaign to “reframe security”
– to broaden our conception of it. We seek to demonstrate to Israelis that
security is not the end-result of having a strong, aggressive army, but rather the