Gila Svirsky: A Personal Website

We Refuse to be Enemies

Dispatches from the Peace Front
Women in Black: A Book
Women in Black: Conference 2005
Security Council Address
Other Stuff by Me
Stuff by Others
A Tad About Me
Links I Like
Contact Me
Search this Site!
Bookmark and Share

We Refuse to Be Enemies

Dr. Sumaya Farhat-Naser and Gila Svirsky

Although the information has not yet reached the international media, we would like the world to know that women in Israel and Palestine are ready to make peace.
For almost two decades, women have been the most vibrant, daring, and progressive part of the peace movement on both sides of our divide. Palestinian and Israeli women have been meeting and negotiating with each other for years, even when the very act of speaking to each other was illegal in Israel and prohibited in Palestine.
These negotiations began in secret years ago in local homes and churches. Then we felt safer meeting in Basle, Berlin, Brussels, Bologna, and other European cities. Today, we meet openly when we can, often in symbolic venues, such as the Notre Dame Center on the border between Palestinian and Israeli Jerusalem.
While there have been dissension and debate, and while the context in which we have held our discussions has often been painful, we have always held aloft the common vision of peace. Were it left to us, we would long ago have had a peace agreement that settles the difficult issues between us.
We women advocate an end to the situation of occupier and occupied. We want to see Israel and Palestine as two separate states, side by side, with Jerusalem the shared capital of both. We want a just solution to end the suffering of the refugees. We believe that each nation has equal rights to statehood, independence, freedom, security, development, and a life of dignity.
And a crucial point of agreement: We condemn all forms of brutality, violence, and terrorism - whether by individuals, political groups, governments, or the military. We have had enough of the killing, on both sides. Too many Palestinian and Israeli children are now dead or orphaned or maimed for life, and too many of our own sons, fathers, and brothers have done that killing. For war victimizes not only the innocent, it also brutalizes the perpetrators.
Israeli and Palestinian women have engaged in educating our own peoples about the validity of both claims to this territory, and have sought to counteract the demonization in which both our societies engage. We have promoted dialogue between women, paid mutual condolence calls to the families of victims on both sides, been arrested for protesting what is outside our national consensus, and spoken out in a clear voice to demand a just solution.
And, apart from our public, organizational activity, we women also operate as secret agents. We are not just the mothers, teachers, nurses, and social workers of our societies. We are also secret agents serving up politics with dinner, teaching the lessons of nonviolence to every child in our classrooms, every patient in our care, every client we advise, every son and daughter that we love. We plant subversive ideas of peace in the minds of the young before the agents of war have even noticed. This is a long process, whose results are not visible overnight, but we believe in its ultimate efficacy.
The women's peace movement in Palestine and in Israel believes that the time has come to end the bloodshed. The time has come to lay down our weapons and our fears. We refuse to accept more warfare in our lives, our communities, our nations. We refuse to go along with the fear. We refuse to give in to the violence. We refuse to be enemies.

Bookmark and Share

Dr. Sumaya Farhat-Naser, a Palestinian woman, is co-founder and former director of the Jerusalem Center for Women, a Palestinian organization committed to Middle East peace based on justice, human rights, and women’s rights. Gila Svirsky, a Jewish Israeli peace activist, co-founded the Coalition of Women for Peace, which brings together nine Israeli women’s peace organizations to advocate for a just peace with our neighbors and justice and equality within Israel.

Gila (left) & Sumaya, beginning an all-night vigil with others, June 2001. Photo: Judy Kirshner

“Really, I’m fine.  It was just a fleeting sense of purpose – I’m sure it will pass.”

     Tom Cheney.  The New Yorker, February 21, 2000