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Standing for Peace: Chapter 4 1996

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Why Women?

   

[Were I to write this chapter today, it would be very different and examine the deeply feminist nature of the current movement and its broader agenda. GS 2006]

 

When the contemporary feminist movement first began in Israel, most feminists never addressed the question of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs.[1]  In the 1970s when the movement began, most feminists never thought about the issue, while in the 1980s, they thought about it and made a deliberate decision to avoid it.  Although one plank basic to international feminist ideology has always been a pro-peace stance, many Israeli feminists (with several salient exceptions) felt that the fledgling Israeli movement would never get off the ground if it assumed this controversial position.  In those years (and even today to some extent), “peace talk” alienates many Israelis who might otherwise be interested in a more narrow agenda of equality for women.  Thus, although the ideological inconsistency was obvious and painful, Israeli feminists sought ways to mute the geo-political issues and to highlight women’s rights narrowly understood, leaving peace issues to peace organizations, even women’s peace organizations, and excluding them from the general feminist agenda.

 

Before the intifada began, there were three women’s organizations in Israel dedicated to “peace and coexistence”: TANDI (The Movement of Democratic Women in Israel); Gesher; and the Israel branch of WILPF (the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom).  A much higher proportion of Israeli-Arab than Israeli-Jewish women participated in these organizations, and the latter were drawn from circles of women who had been highly committed and long-involved politically.

 

Soon after the start of the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation (in December 1987), an additional seven women’s peace organizations suddenly appeared, and they managed to recruit many women who had never previously been politically active.  These were Shani (Israeli Women Against the Occupation); the Women’s Organization for Women Political Prisoners; the Peace Cloth; Neled (Israeli Women for Coexistence); Reshet (Women’s Network for the Advancement of Peace); the Women and Peace Coalition; and Women in Black.  (For brief descriptions of these organizations, see the Appendix)

 

These women’s peace organizations, known collectively as the Israeli women’s peace movement, became the most vibrant and persistent part of the peace camp in Israel, with conferences, rallies, lectures, parades, humanitarian activity, and a seemingly endless series of vigils.  The incredible variety and frequency of activity often left women feeling that peace work had taken over all areas of their lives.

 

Why did this happen?  Why did women in Israel feel the need for peace movements and organizations of their own when the intifada began, rather than operating within traditional mixed-gender structures?

 

Entire books have been and will be written about the connection between women and peace in general, but that is beyond the purview of this book.  Some attention has also been paid to the prominent role of Palestinian women in the struggle for their independence, but I will not deal with that here.  I would like to look at the specific connection between the intifada and Israeli women’s peace activity:  Why did Israeli women feel the need to create their own movement, specifically Women in Black; how was it different from mixed-gender organizations; and why did it inspire such passionate loyalty?

 

Feeling Invisible in Other Peace Frameworks

 

Prior to the intifada, fewer women than men were active in Israeli peace work, and most of these in mixed-gender organizations, not independent women’s groups.[2]   From the outbreak of the intifada, however, women seemed to form the majority of the rank and file in the mixed peace organizations, as well as setting up their own peace movement.  If you went to almost any peace demonstration in Israel, whether 30 people on a street corner in Haifa or 100,000 in the municipal plaza of Tel-Aviv, the predominance of women on the street was obvious.  I have heard researchers make this observation,[3]  although I found no data about it one way or the other.  Why women were catalyzed into action during the intifada will soon be addressed.  First, though, the point should be made that although women were often the foot soldiers of the peace movement, few headed these peace organizations or represented them publicly.

 

Peace Now was and is the largest and most visible peace organization in Israel, and the absence of women was sorely glaring from the speakers’ platform during the first dozen years of its existence.  (Also missing were Jews of Mizrahi origin – from Muslim countries – and Arabs.)  Peace Now was founded in 1978 to advocate for Israeli flexibility during the Camp David negotiations with Egypt, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that women became a regular part of those who addressed their rallies.  Let me be perfectly clear:  Women did have key roles inside the movement: Janet Aviad has headed Peace Now for years, and other women have had major roles in setting policy and decision-making.  But when it came to speaking publicly from the stage to the gathered masses, Peace Now either had no woman at all, a token woman, an unnamed woman moderator, or a woman whose job was to sing the song of peace at the end.  There were no serious panels of female speakers, as there were panels of male speakers.  We were invisible.

 

There is one infrequently cited detail in the story of the famous “Officers’ Letter” that marks the birth of Peace Now.  This was a public letter to the Israeli government signed by 350 army reservists admonishing then Prime Minister Begin to embrace the opportunity to make “peace now”.  It was the first time in Israel’s history that a bloc of army reserve officers had, albeit tactfully, linked the motivation of soldiers to fight with the government’s willingness to pursue peace policies.  Less known, however, is the fact that the name of Lieutenant Yael (Yuli) Tamir, one of the officers in the founding group and a key organizer, was deleted from the list prior to its publication.  Why?  Because Lt. Tamir is a woman.  The presence of a woman, they felt, would detract from the impact of an all-male line-up.[4]

 

Peace Now did begin to incorporate women (and Mizrahi Jews and Arabs) into the list of speakers around the third year of the intifada.[5]   Some of this democratization was a reflection of their decision to do outreach to the non-Ashkenazi, non-privileged sectors of the population, and some of it had to do with the persistent complaints filed by many, including Women in Black, to the leaders of Peace Now.  But long before Peace Now got around to changing its patterns, women felt alienated.

 

This did not prevent all members of the peace camp – whether women or members of the more radical left wing organizations – from attending Peace Now rallies.  Everyone understood the need for numbers.  And this also does not prevent me from acknowledging the fact that, because of its size and its closeness to the political and military establishment, Peace Now had the greatest direct impact on the changes in government policy of all the peace movements.  Radical left wingers might correctly claim that the radicals set the agenda that was later adopted by Peace Now, or that Peace Now was plugged into the establishment, but none of this in any way diminishes from their signal contribution to peace.

 

Nevertheless, when the intifada broke out, women were not visible among the Peace Now leadership, let alone in political parties or the Knesset.  Naomi Chazan, a peace researcher and member of Knesset, considers the invisibility of women to be one of the main factors in the rise of women’s peace activism:

 

           ...women have been blocked from leadership positions in other political organizations...It is crucial for women to have the power to express themselves politically.  That’s why they’ve gravitated toward these new movements.”[6]

 

And with regard to women in power:

            "Women’s representation in political life in Israel has been eroding for a number of years, and many of the formal channels are now blocked to women...Any woman who wants to seriously express her opinion must do it through an extra-parliamentary process.  That is why you are seeing all of these groups.”[7]

 

This invisibility of women in Israeli political life is one of the most frequently cited reasons for the need felt among women to organize on their own.  The women who joined the vigil of Women in Black were certainly aware of this invisibility, and incensed about it.  But this is only part of the story.

 

Buttons Pushed by the Intifada

 

Another reason sometimes cited for the increased activism of women during the intifada has to do with the nature of the intifada itself.  It was clearly a popular uprising in which children and women were full participants.  Just one month into the conflict (on January 3, 1988), the first Palestinian woman was killed in the uprising, shot by Israeli soldiers as she tried to rescue a child from being struck by a soldier.  This had a powerful impact on Israeli viewers, especially other women.  The scenes of children being beaten, of women marching in front of the stone-throwers, of poverty and oppression brought about by the sins of Israeli society, whether by omission or commission, all evoked strong feelings among Israeli women, some out of rising defensiveness and others out of compassion.  These were compounded by the distress that it was “our men” – brothers, sons, fathers – who were sent to put down the teenagers, the women, the mobs.  Whether one regarded the Palestinian stone-throwers as freedom fighters or not, they were surely not armed troops, and sending Israeli armed troops against them raised complex feelings of confusion, if not shame.

 

Professor Galia Golan, co-researcher with Naomi Chazan and also a Peace Now and feminist activist, phrased it as follows:  “Perhaps the intifada spoke to women in a way that other wars had not.  This was not only husbands and sons making war, not armies, but a rebellion of women and children.  Perhaps this spoke to the hearts of women.”[8] 

 

I don’t know if women have characteristic feelings about peace, a special sensitivity that we bring to situations of hostility – motherliness, nurturing, aversion to suffering.  Opinions have been expressed in both directions,[9]  but clearly the intifada pushed a lot of buttons for women everywhere, feminist or not, evoking the human side of the conflict.  One interesting observation was made by a (male) journalist about this:  “While Peace Now and other left wing movements agonized over what the occupation was doing to Israeli society, women peace activists entered the territories in the early days of the intifada to see what the occupation was doing to the local population, to express sympathy for their suffering, and to understand and dialogue with the Palestinians, based on personal contact.”[10]   Few male peace activists were engaged in this kind of peace work.

 

Women joined the Women in Black vigil for various motives.  Some, especially those who came from the more radical left groups, had espoused the Palestinian cause for many years, and used the intifada as an opportunity to raise the volume on the demand for Palestinian self-determination.  The motivations of others who were relative newcomers to political activism (and before becoming further politicized on the vigil) were more vaguely humanitarian (to end the violence) and self-centered (to protect our loved ones).  We all talked about “the corruption of the occupation”, meaning what it had done to us Israelis, but only some in the early period conceded the Palestinian right to a state.  “End the violence” was a slogan useful for both camps – the more humanitarian and the more ideological.

 

Many analysts have lumped these together in listing the motivations for Israeli women’s peace activism.  Naomi Chazan has said, “This is not a struggle of tanks but a people’s struggle.  And the issues of self-determination and equality have special meaning for women.”[11]   Similarly, Ronit Lentin, who wrote an incisive analysis of the women’s peace movement in Israel, observes that Israeli women could get “tuned in to the specifically feminist themes of that particular phase of the Israeli-Arab conflict: oppression, self-determination, human dignity, justice and security.”[12]  Debby Lerman of the Tel-Aviv vigil strongly believes that “Women in Black was a specifically feminist response to political reality”,[13]  though many women less familiar with or committed to feminism called it a “humanitarian response”.  But we were all represented at the Women in Black vigil and maintained an amiable coexistence.

 

For some, specific feminist alarms did flash them into action during the Israeli occupation.  The vigils throughout Israel had disproportionate representation of women from the rape crisis centers, the battered women’s shelters, the women’s health hot lines, and the anti-pornography groups.  Those who were sensitive to the issue of violence against women applied that lesson to all forms of violence and oppression.

 

Excellent analyses have been written by several women (Naomi Chazan, Erella Shadmi, Simona Sharoni, inter alia) pointing out the connection in Israel between the status of women, the ongoing conflict, and the growing militarization of society.[14]   A number of observers have suggested that domestic violence dramatically increased in Israel with the attempts to quell the Palestinian uprising.  Rachel Ostrowitz has noted, “Rape and violence against Israeli women are on the increase, and I have no doubt that it was the iron-fist policy that created the atmosphere and legitimacy for this.”[15]   The explanation was that violence becomes a way to solve problems:  An Israeli soldier cannot club a demonstrator in the morning and not club his son or wife in the evening.  I have not found research to substantiate these claims, although instinctively it seems logical that violent behavior in one area carries through into all areas of life – personal interactions and domestic relationships.  On the other hand, one Israeli reserve-duty soldier guarding Palestinian detainees in a Gaza prison told me, “The intifada is great for my marriage.  I get out all my aggression on the prisoners, then come home to my family on the weekend completely relaxed.”  Personally, I would not rely on this soldier to have “used up” his aggression on the Palestinians.

 

Whatever the truth about the connection between different forms of aggression, discussions about this were not a significant part of Women in Black discourse and not a prime motive for the activism of most women.  Nor were motherly or nurturing feelings what kept women involved in peace work, though they may have prepared the ground for the activism of some.  On the other hand, most of us felt that we as women did have a message to convey about the geopolitical situation, and that Women in Black was one way to convey that message.

 

The Structures and Formats of Women in Black

 

Women in Black was run very differently from mixed peace organizations, and most women found this difference to our liking.  I group these different structures and formats into three categories:

 

First, the vigil form of demonstration.  This was a brilliant idea, and hats off to those who thought it up.  The concept of women dressing in black and standing in silence was not only a simple and easily implemented tactic, it bestowed a powerful symbolism – mourning, dignity, conscience – upon the event.  A vigil could easily be organized far from the city centers.  Women also appreciated the calm, unaggressive nature of the vigil form of protest.  You didn’t have to be pushy or shout or have slick, eye-catching slogans.  And we all gradually realized that our commitment to nonviolence was a source of strength.  The more we practiced nonviolence, the more we felt empowered by it and the stronger we looked to outsiders.

 

Second, the non-hierarchical nature of the movement:  Every woman was a peer.  What a relief not having somebody else tell you what to do.  Not having a leader enhanced the individual commitment and increased the sense of collective responsibility.  On a rainy day, more women would show up to the vigil than on a nice day, not wanting the women who came to feel alone.  We had no official leadership, no official spokesperson, even no official steering committee.  The most well-developed of our institutional structures was a phone list, separate for each vigil.  During intensely violent periods, some of the vigils met to deal with pressing issues (asking for a police presence, buying a first-aid kit, making sure at least one woman present was experienced in first-aid, etc.), but any woman could attend these meetings.  If the police chief wanted to speak with or meet “our leader”, a group of women would go – whoever wanted to – and the group would then share his words with everyone.  If the media wanted to interview “the spokeswoman”, we talked among ourselves about who the right person would be to represent us for that particular channel.  And each Woman in Black, in speaking about the vigil, was expected to preface her remarks with the statement, “I represent only myself; there are many different points of view among Women in Black.”  In the Women in Black newsletter that I edited for two years, every issue carried the words: “This newsletter is an individual initiative and does not necessarily represent the views of Women in Black as a whole.”

 

Third, decision-making for the vigil, whether informal or at meetings.  Women in Black, like any movement, was often called upon to make decisions, and these decisions sometimes concerned major issues:  Should the vigil fly an Israeli flag?  Should we add new slogans?  Should men be allowed to join us?  These were matters of heated concern and potentially very divisive.  However, a culture of discussion and consensus-seeking decision-making evolved in almost all the Women in Black vigils, and this averted confrontation, invited full participation, and was a source of great pride to us.  As noted by Naomi Chazan after observing one meeting, “I was very impressed by how well they listened to each other, the mutual support, and the absence of competitiveness.  About sixty women participated, and just about every one asked a question or expressed her opinion.”[16] 

 

One tacit presumption underlying all our decisions was not to adopt anything that would alienate a sizable group of women from the vigil.  This already contributed to a supportive climate of decision-making.  Another basic principle was the format of the discussion itself.  Many vigils developed a system that we called “making a round” – going around the room and allowing each woman to express her opinion unhindered.  It would not be an overstatement to say that, by and large, women who spoke were not interrupted and there was a fundamental respectfulness for each point of view.

 

I don’t know how we reached this format of decision-making.  How was it possible for Women in Black to have such amicable decision-making, though we all come from a culture of stormy battles over every trivial issue?  Perhaps the women who came from feminist circles introduced some of the basic ground rules (e.g., not allowing someone to speak a second time until every woman who wishes to speak has already spoken once).  Perhaps the women had built up enough trust for each other during the course of the vigil to enable a less ego-driven form of discussion.  Men seem to be encumbered by expectations of them to be strong, resolute, and decisive, and not given room to be reflective, let alone uncertain.  Whatever the source, the climate of discussion was open and thoughtful, and one would frequently hear women say that they had changed their opinion in light of the points that had been raised.  The way our decisions were made fostered a strong sense of loyalty to the group.

 

Women in Black was a heterogenous movement in terms of political background and involvement.  Although the Tel-Aviv and Haifa vigils were comprised of veteran feminists and peace activists, for most of the rest of us, the Women in Black vigil was a first political involvement.  And clearly the structure and format of the movement made it possible for veterans and rookies, flaming radicals and comfort-zone liberals, to work together in harmony.  And very often, it was the rookies and liberals who instilled their concepts of structure, while the veterans and radicals managed to sway towards a more politicized content.  But more about that later.

 

Was Women in Black a Feminist Movement?

 

Several of the founders of Women in Black were early and ardent feminists, but most were not.  The Tel-Aviv and Haifa vigils were avowedly feminist, but the other vigils were not.  Thus, statistically speaking, feminists were a minority in the early months and years of the Women in Black vigil.

 

This gradually shifted during the vigil years as our feminist consciousness was raised.  However, many women resented being designated “feminist”, and that was sufficient reason for us to eschew the label on most vigils.  Nevertheless, although Women in Black never defined itself as a feminist movement, the themes of feminism eventually found their way in.

 

There is considerable evidence that a feminist awareness began to permeate the Women in Black movement.  Many studies of the Israeli women’s peace movement, including the sharp analyses of Simona Sharoni, testify to the conscious search for a feminist discourse among Women in Black.[17] 

 

For example, at the first vigil in proximity to International Woman’s Day (in March 1988), a group of women came to the Jerusalem vigil with balloons bearing feminist slogans.  No one questioned their right to use the vigil to add a statement about women’s issues.  On the second International Woman’s Day a year later, participation in the festive vigil surged to 160 women, and appropriate signs were added.  This was already an initiative of the vigil as a whole.

 

Another example was the message sent by the national conference of Women in Black to the Israeli and Arab participants in the Madrid Peace Conference held in October 1991.  This message read in part:  “We note with dismay that women are under-represented in all the delegations; we believe that increased participation of women would significantly enhance the efforts toward dialogue and peace.”  This is certainly the statement of women who are aware of themselves as a force for “dialogue and peace”, if not an out-and-out feminist message.

 

But I think the best evidence comes from the national Women in Black conferences that were held annually.  With each passing conference, more and more sessions explored the connections between the occupation and feminism.  Indeed, a feminist perspective was pervasive in the international Women in Black conference in December 1994, from the opening session (“The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process: Feminist Views”) through many of the workshops (“Peace, Pacifism and Gender”, “Pacifism in Feminist Theory”, “Revolutionizing Motherhood Toward a Culture of Peace”, and “Feminist Views of the Peace Era and the New World Era”, to mention just a few).

 

The growing feminism of participants in the Women in Black vigil was not coincidental, and it’s not hard to explain.  In my view, the following elements raised the feminist consciousness of participants in the Women in Black vigils:

 

First, the sexual- and gender-oriented curses helped alert women to the fact that we were being attacked not only for our political views, but for holding views at all.  A strong woman or one with a political opinion was equated to a whore.  The most polite chauvinist reaction was, “Get back into the kitchen.”  This can hardly fail to signal a woman that something is fundamentally distorted between women and men in society.  In the words of one journalist who witnessed it, “A woman has only to wear black and go to Paris Square to instantly become an ardent feminist.”[18] 

 

Second, the fact that the Women in Black vigil was virtually ignored by the media, while smaller and less interesting mixed demonstrations were garnering media attention, was another wake-up call.  And when the Israeli media did find their way to us (inspired by seeing Women in Black appear in the foreign media), they often had questions that should have been embarrassing to pose: “Do you like the color black in your wardrobe?” asked one male reporter in an interview.[19]   Being consistently ignored or patronized will eventually make any self-respecting woman sit up and take notice.

 

Third, the formats, structures, and principles of the Women in Black movement (the vigil, nonviolence, non-hierarchy, consensus decision-making, etc.) were not only comfortable for us, but were preferred to the formats, structures, and principles of the mixed peace organizations.  Many of us had never previously been active in all-women’s organizations, and we found it a welcome change.

 

Fourth, inevitably (in my opinion), we were making the connection between war and the oppression of women.  Some of the feminists among us helped us notice this, such as Nabila Espanioly and Dalia Sachs from the Haifa vigil:  “War creates and legitimizes the norms of discrimination and oppression of women and other minorities in the personal, political and societal levels.  For us women on all sides, this is not victory.  We pay the price.”[20]

 

Hanan Ashrawi credits the intifada with helping women link gender and geo-political issues:

 

             "I think the most determining factor in the emergence of Israeli women’s consciousness – of making the link between gender issues and national/political issues – came with the intifada.  The prominent role that Palestinian women played was, in a way, a challenge to Israeli women.  They started trying to reach us on a feminist basis...to work together on common agendas – gender self-determination and national self-determination."[21] 

 

Fifth, many of us were appalled by the militarism of the Peace Now message.  Some of this was passed off as packaging, the exigencies of having to market a plea for peace in a militant society, but much was rooted in Peace Now’s fundamental agreement with military solutions, its belief in the Israeli army as an antidote to the enemies of Israel.[22]  Some examples: The male leadership of Peace Now made a point of publicizing their army rank to prove that they were not shirkers of duty; leading Peace Now figures took public pride in their sons having combat roles (a few recoiled from service in the occupied territories, but most did not); and the speeches and ads of Peace Now reflected their acceptance of the underlying assumptions that wars do resolve conflicts, that strength – with peace – is the best defense.  Was it really necessary for the leading lights of a peace movement to publish a statement during the Gulf crisis in support of Bush’s military violence in Iraq?  In the words of Tsali Reshef, spokesman for Peace Now, “We are not opposed to this war – strangely enough, a peace movement that is not opposed to war...We never argued that Israel should not fight [or that] there’s no such thing as a justified war – and this war, in our eyes, is a justified war.”[23]   Could Peace Now not imagine a response to Iraq’s violence other than massive bombardment?  Didn’t anyone in Peace Now recall that in war, no one is the victor?  Again, Nabila and Dalia capture well the alternative position of the woman’s peace movement:

 

            "We are now even more strongly convinced that wars cannot solve conflicts; that they only create an illusion of power and victory, which creates more problems and conflicts.  This illusion continues the cycle of death, destruction and male military dominance."[24]

 

Throughout the intifada, Peace Now failed to condemn the demolition of homes of the families of the terrorists.  More recently, following the series of suicide bombs inside Israel, the main speaker at its rally in Jerusalem (the noted author David Grossman) called such demolitions “a necessary evil”.[25] 

 

The growing awareness of the differences between Peace Now and Women in Black in our attitudes toward the conflict was an important element in our growing feminist convictions.

 

The Second, Not-So-Hidden Message 

 

The message of Women in Black was “End the Occupation”.  The medium was women dressed in black standing on a weekly vigil.  The latent message was the medium itself:  These are independent, tough mommas.  Erella Shadmi, a Jerusalem Women in Black, was one of the first to examine this in writing:

 

            "...[The Women in Black vigil] would appear to be a simple act of protest with a clear message.  But under the surface, there is a layer in which the message is not the words but the act: the medium is the message.  The unconventional combination of being a woman, being in the public realm, and engaging in a struggle undermines the conventional perception of what is a woman and what is a political struggle, and redefines them."[26]

 

Erella, a lieutenant-colonel in the Israel Police, joined the vigil just days after taking early retirement from the force.  A radical feminist theorist,  Erella’s analysis of the Women in Black movement helped make sense of the deep-seated opposition to us:

 

          "Women in Black pulls the rug out from under the old symbols, founded on passive and dependent womanhood, whose honor is within the gates, and puts cracks in the wall between the public sphere, which belongs to the man, and the private, that of the woman.  The concept of womanhood is juxtaposed with concepts believed to be competitive and contradictory – like politics and publicness – and this reawakens what human and Israeli history prefer to forget – the role of women in arenas of social and national struggle.  In this way, Women in Black thwart conventional perceptions, break the traditional image of womanhood, and redefine the concept and its social context."[27] 

 

Thus, the feminist consciousness of Women in Black was raised during the course of the vigil, both by reactions to us and by our own analysis of the political situation.  And as our feminist consciousness expanded, so did our pride in what we were doing and our courage about our convictions.  It was not surprising that we evoked hard feelings among some onlookers:

 

            "It is sufficient to attend one vigil to understand the advantage of Women in Black over their attackers.  It is easy to understand the terror evoked by dozens of women wearing black, intelligent and fearless, among those accustomed to seeing women as weak, inferior creatures, easy prey, cozy and worthy of being tamed by humiliation, threats, spitting, and actual blows."[28]

 

There is something about strong women that drives a certain kind of man to extremes:

 

            "SEEING BLACK: What is it about Women in Black that drives the average Kahanist [Kach] scum out of his mind?  Not so much their politics as their stubborn perseverance, their vaunted arrogance, and the sense of sisterhood that leaves no room for men."[29]

 

Women in Black were not only perceived as strong and proud; in many ways, that is what we had become.

 

Men in Black on Our Vigil

 

And since we were accused of Women in Black being anti-male, let me simply state out loud that we were not.  The time has come for all-woman groups not to have to defend ourselves about this.

 

Some vigils had regular male participation (see next chapter), but in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel-Aviv, we welcomed men to stand with us on the vigil once a year every year in early June, to mark the anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  The first time we invited men to join us was 2 years after the vigil began, on June 8, 1990.  From then on, every June as we commemorated the date of the beginning of the occupation of the territories, we invited men to dress in black and join the vigil, and they were responsive in great numbers.  Letting men in on the sisterhood of the vigil felt, in a way, like giving them the opportunity to give birth.  We all felt happy for them.

______________________
[1] There were some important exceptions to this, but the thrust of the women’s liberation movement in Israel was then – and generally still remains – to avoid the issue of peace.  For a fascinating overview of the early years, see Gilberte Finkel, A History of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Israel, unpublished manuscript, June 1981; or Gilberte Finkel, “Von der Kibbuz: Bewegung zum Schweigemarsch” in Argument-Sonderband 176, 1990, pp. 56-80.

 

[2] For data on this, see Gadi Wolfsfeld, The Politics of Provocation: Participation and Protest in Israel, Albany: State University of New York, 1988.

 

[3] See Naomi Chazan, “Israeli Women and Peace Activism”, in Calling the Equality Bluff: Women in Israel, Barbara Swirski and Marilyn P. Safir (eds.), New York: Pergamon Press, 1991, p. 153.

 

[4] Based on an interview with Yuli Tamir from June 21, 1996.

 

[5] This strategic decision was taken in December 1988 (see Kaminer, The Politics of Protest, p. 110-114), but it took time to implement.  Roni Kaufman, who took on some of the organizing duties at Peace Now for three intifada years (1989-92), helped Peace Now diversify its public self and shared some of his observations in an interview on June 20, 1996.

 

[6] Randi Jo Land, “A Separate Peace?”, Jerusalem Post, June 29, 1989.

 

[7] Tom Hundley, “The Vigils Are Black and White, Not the Issue,” Chicago Tribune, July 17, 1990.

 

[8] Michal Sela, “Five Years of Roses and Rotten Eggs”, Davar, January, 1993 [Hebrew].

 

[9] See, for example, Betty Reardon, Sexism and the War System, New York: Teacher’s College Press, 1985; Adrienne Harris and Ynestra King (eds.), Rocking the Ship of State: Toward a Feminist Peace Politics, Boulder, San Francisco, and London: Westview Press, 1989; and Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace, New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.

 

[10] Yoram Harpaz, “They Don’t Shoot, They Don’t Cry”, Kol Ha`Ir, March 10, 1989.

 

[11] Randi Jo Land, “A Separate Peace?”.

 

[12] Ronit Lentin, “Woman – The Peace Activist Who Isn’t There: Israeli and Palestinian Women Working for Peace”, the Irish Peace Institute Research Center, University of Limerick, [undated, but issued in 1995], p. 26.

 

[13] In an interview on May 2, 1996.

 

[14]See Naomi Chazan, “Gender Equality? Not in a War Zone!”, Israeli Democracy, vol. 3, no. 2, 1989; Erella Shadmi, “Occupation, Violence, and Women in Israeli Society”, Women in Black National Newsletter, No. 5, Spring 1993; Simona Sharoni, “Homefront as Battlefield: Gender, Military Occupation and Violence Against Women”, in Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change, Tamar Mayer (ed.), London and New York: Routledge, 1994, pp. 121-137; and, again, Simona Sharoni, “Every Woman is Occupied Territory: The Politics of Militarism and Sexism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 447-462, 1992 (Special Issue: Gender and Nationalism). 

 

[15] Rachel Ostrowitz, “Dangerous Women: The Israeli Women’s Peace Movement,” in Jewish Women’s Call for Peace: A Handbook for Jewish Women on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict, Rita Falbel, Irena Klepfisz, and Donna Nevel (eds.), Ithaca, New York: Firebrand Books, 1990.

 

[16] Yoram Harpaz, “They Don’t Shoot, They Don’t Cry”.

 

[17] See Simona Sharoni, “Search for a New Feminist Discourse”, Challenge, Vol. 4, No. 5, September-October 1993. 

  

[18]Livne, Neri, “Letter from the Front: The New Israeli Left: It Looks Like a Comeback for Jerusalem”, Koteret Rashit, April 20, 1988 [Hebrew]. 

 

[19] Arnon Lapid, “Just a Question”, Davar, October 31, 1991 [Hebrew].

 

[20] Nabila Espanioly and Dalia Sachs, “Peace Process: Israeli and Palestinian Women”, Bridges, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall 1991, pp. 112-119.

 

[21]“The Feminist Behind the Spokeswoman: A Candid Talk with Hanan Ashrawi”, Ms. Magazine, Vol. II, No. 5, March/April 1992, pp. 14-17.  The interview was conducted by Rabab Hadi, cofounder of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Associations in North America.  

 

[22] In The Politics of Protest, his excellent survey of Israeli protest movements during the intifada, Reuven Kaminer provides an astute and balanced evaluation of the strengths and flaws of Peace Now.

 

[23]Vernon Loeb, “A Cause at a Loss”, The Philadelphia Inquirer: Daily Magazine, February 11, 1991.

 

[24] Nabila Espanioly and Dalia Sachs, “Peace Process: Israeli and Palestinian Women”.

 

[25] This was at the Peace Now rally on March 9, 1996 in downtown Jerusalem, following a succession of bombs in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, and Ashkelon that took the lives of almost 70 people.

 

[26] Erella Shadmi, “Politics Through the Back Door”, Ha-aretz, February 24, 1992 [Hebrew].

 

[27] Ibid.

 

[28] Neri Livne, “Seeing Black”, p. 25 [Hebrew].

 

[29] Ibid., p. 24.

 

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Haifa vigil. Photo: Yair Gil
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Yocheved Gonen, Haifa vigil. Photo: Yair Gil

1996 Gila Svirsky, Standing for Peace: A History of Women in Black in Israel available on www.gilasvirsky.com.  Please cite this full reference if you quote passages from the book.