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Famished for Peace: Remarks to the UN Security Council
Terry Greenblatt, Israel
May 7, 2002
I represent Bat Shalom (Daughter of Peace), an Israeli feminist peace
organization. I also represent Israeli women and mothers who are
famished for peace. We are women working for a genuine peace
grounded in the just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
respect for human rights, and an equal voice for Jewish and Arab
women within Israeli society. Since 1994, Bat Shalom has been part
of a bi-national institution called The Jerusalem Link, and the joint
declaration that I will read at the conclusion of my talk was
developed with our sister partner, a Palestinian women's NGO, the
Jerusalem Center for Women. We work in coalition with more than one
hundred women's peace and anti-occupation initiatives around the
world that have mobilized in response to the insufferable situation
in our region. I stand before you this afternoon, in the presence of
the enormous power you represent, and with the terrible awareness of
how dangerous that power can be. As a woman I know that anyone, with
even the smallest advantage over another, is capable of abusing or
misusing that power. I stand here as an ally and advocate of those
women in Israel, Jewish and Arab, who ask of you to use your power
wisely and with a moral compass whose needle is uncompromisingly
pointed toward justice.
We ask that you fulfill your responsibility as set out in the United
You are mandated to save succeeding generations from the scourge of
war—for until you do, we women living in a militaristic society
are destined to continue raising our children to perpetrate war and
become messengers of hatred, and of racism, and of destruction.
You are mandated to reaffirm faith in fundamental human
rights—for until you do, the soul of our society will never heal, neither
from our fear of global anti-Semitism, nor from the inhumanity of our
subjugation and dehumanization of the Palestinian people. For until
you do, the extremists on both sides will rejoice, both those who talk
of the transfer of indigenous populations and an eternal occupation,
as well as those who walk into a coffeehouse or a supermarket, and
blow themselves and others up, leaving our joint future smoldering in
the rubble. For until you do, those of us who are struggling to
promote a human rights agenda inextricably embedded in an effective
political solution cannot possibly further our mission.
You are mandated to establish conditions under which justice and
respect for international law can be maintained. This includes
ensuring the security and well being of Israelis. But is also
includes insisting on a standard of behavior and compliance to
international law on the part of Israel, be it a fact-finding mission
to Jenin or the dismantlement of illegal settlements in the West Bank
and Gaza. For until you do, we Israelis will continue to be driven by
our fear and mistrust, and insist that this war we are waging is for
our very survival as a nation, even though it is not.
And lastly, you are mandated to promote social progress and better
standards of life, for until you do, until there is the degree of
humanitarian aid for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the
devastation of Palestine and her people, until the Israeli people can
fully trust that international bodies are committed to ensuring our
survival, neither nation will be able to begin to address the ultimate
challenge of creating a culture of peace in our region.
Next year we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Oslo
Accords. Few remember anymore the exhilaration of daring to believe
that we could possibly be nearing the end of this hundred-year
conflict. For us, Israeli and Palestinian women, and the
international community of hundreds of thousands of women who along
with us have remained steadfast in their solidarity for and commitment
to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, there
will be no celebration of this anniversary. There will be no
candles lit in jubilation—rather, a collective global mourning for a
region that is burning, wreaking destruction on a magnificent land and
her 2 peoples, and leaving the most dangerous ashes in its
wake—ashes of profound fear, hopelessness and despair.
This month Israeli and Palestinian women have once again jointly
declared what a just and sustainable peace must look like. I
look around this room and, but for ourselves, I do not see any
women/see too few women. And I cannot but be aware of the
failure of both our local leadership as well as you, the international
community, to productively navigate our peoples on a path towards
peace. How much of the reason for this is the absence of women
in this room, in the countless rooms where decisions are made that
affect the daily lives of Israeli and Palestinian men, women and
children? I cannot help but be aware that the slim glimmers of
hope in this terrible situation have consistently been provided by the
grassroots women's peace activists on both sides. Given this dismal
history of past performance, it is unthinkable not to include women,
large numbers of women, in the upcoming peace process.
You need us, because if the goal is not simply the absence of war, but
the creation of a sustainable peace by fostering fundamental societal
changes, we are crucial to everyone's security concerns.
You need us, because wars are no longer fought on battlefields. You
have brought the war home to us. Many more civilians than soldiers are being killed in ours and other conflicts around the world. The wars are being waged now on our doorsteps and in our living rooms and in our sacred houses and ceremonies of religious worship, and women have a vested interest in keeping families and communities safe.
You need us, because to honorably comply with your own legislation,
Resolution 1325, we must be included.
You need us because we continue to hold human rights and the sanctity
of life as paramount values, and unfortunately today, they are too
easily being bartered away as either obstacles to security policies or
as incongruent with national liberation aspirations.
You need us because we have developed a process and socio-political
fluency that keeps authentic and productive dialogue moving forward,
even as the violence escalates and both sides continue to terrorize
one another. Women's characteristic life experience gives us
the potential for two things: a very special kind of intelligence,
social intelligence, and a very special kind of courage, social
courage. We have developed the courage to cross the lines of
difference drawn between us, which are also the lines drawn inside our
heads. And the intelligence to do it safely, without a gun or a
bomb, and to do it productively. And most importantly, we are
learning to shift our positions, finding ourselves moving towards each
other, without tearing out our roots in the process. Even when
we are women whose very existence and narrative contradicts each
other, we will talk—we will not shoot.
You need us because we women are willing to sit together on the same
side of the table and together look at our complex joint history, with
the commitment and intention of not getting up until—in respect
and reciprocity—we can get up together and begin our new history
and fulfill our joint destiny.
There is much talk now about an International Peace Conference.
Colin Powell has already prepared us for the outcome, when he said
this week that no one should have high expectations from the
conference. Women in the peace and anti-occupation movement in
Israel are recommending that expectations must remain higher than ever
before, because we cannot afford them not to be. We suggest now
just might be the moment to realize how critical our contribution is.
We have never had a voice or power at these tables, and quite possibly
we will get it wrong the first few times. But we would come with
what we believe are innovative and creative strategies, grounded in
democratic and feminist ideology and experience, and exemplified by
what women have managed to accomplish in civil society with little
resources and insignificant power.
We would change the discourse from the "for or against" model,
pro-Israeli/anti-Palestinian or pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli.
This kind of inadequate and restricted thinking would be appropriate
if we were rooting for a football team, but we are not playing a game
any more. More than 2000 people have been killed during the past
20 months, and countless more disabled. Positions, conditions,
policies, and decisions must be evaluated as being pro-justice,
pro-life, and pro-dignity. Participating partners must be
challenged to conduct a moral impact analysis of their positions, and
a new and critical dimension of transparency must be introduced into
the negotiation process. What gets said and decided upon in the
sessions gets documented, and what gets documented gets disseminated
to both peoples, to be discussed and debated in uni-national town
meetings, and then to serve as a the basis for civil society
The upcoming peace conference, if it is to be held, must be
international, not regional. The international community shares
responsibility for the deterioration of the situation, and must be our
partners in fashioning and implementing a solution. My country,
Israel, has a long-standing fear of international intervention,
because we Jews have had a long and bitter experience of suffering
as the world stood by, not noticing. Now the Palestinians,
unfortunately, have come to share that kind of experience.
My government fears that international intervention will prevent it
from carrying out its agenda. We, the peace activists of Israel,
are insisting that you do just that.
We women would determine that the ultimate goal of the peace conference is a final status agreement and an end to
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A long-term intermediate
agreement can translate into only one thing—continued occupation and
prolonging the status quo. Both sides must commit to a series of
meetings, with the understanding that while 100 years of conflict
cannot be satisfactorily resolved immediately, each stage of the
agreement gets implemented without delay. Changes in the realities on
the ground will serve as "acts of honor", each side demonstrating to the other that while each is most certainly paying a "price" for peace, each also most certainly has a trustworthy partner for peace. These "peace facts" on the ground are a necessary condition for re-building trust, for creating
the climate in which the people on both sides will choose and support
leaders who can bring them to peace and not to war.
We in the Jerusalem Link don't have all the answers. In fact,
all we have is the next step, a step that might potentially move us
forward rather than backward, one that comes with demonstrated
efficacy, durability, and integrity. But at this point, that does seem to be a lot more than your various governments have. So, if this body is genuinely committed to bringing some sort of peace and security to the Middle East, you need to bring us women to the center of all your deliberations.
Should we continue to be ignored (which is quite different than
ignorance, because one really has to work at it), we shall all be held
responsible for the evil we may have prevented.
I thank you for your time, and your attention. I would like to
leave you with the Bat Shalom & Jerusalem Center for Women Joint
Declaration, published 3 weeks ago in Israel and in Palestine.
Palestinian and Israeli Women Demand
Immediate End to Occupation
Israel has launched a war against defenseless Palestinian
communities. The terrorization of innocent civilians, the unlawful
killings and arrests, the siege imposed upon President Arafat, and
the destruction of property, infrastructures and institutions, can
only lead to further escalation, prolonging the sufferings of both
nations and destroying any prospects for peace. The climate of fear
and the obsession with reprisals that grips our two peoples obscure the true cause of this cycle of violence—the continued and unlawful Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and their land.
It is our role, women on both sides, to speak out loudly against the
humanitarian crimes committed in order to permanently subjugate an
entire nation. Right now, in the face of uncontrolled military
turmoil, we jointly ask the international community of states to
accept its duty and mandate by international humanitarian law to
prevent abuses of an occupying power, by officially intervening to
protect the Palestinian people.
Beyond the immediate crisis, we know that there is one future for us
both. The deliberate harming of innocent civilians, Palestinian or
Israeli, must not be condoned. By working together we improve
our chances for a better future. We believe that women can develop an
alternative voice promoting effective peace initiatives and sound
approaches. We undertake to work for this goal together.
Women have already begun to give substance to the recognition that a
just peace is a peace between equals. When we call for a Palestinian
state (on the territories occupied on 4th of June 1967) alongside the
state of Israel, we envision true sovereignty for each state,
including control over land and natural resources. We envision a
settlement based on international law, which would endorse sharing the
whole city of Jerusalem, the dismantling of the settlements, and a
just solution to the question of refugees according to relevant UN
resolutions. In continuing our joint work together, we want not
only to achieve an end to the occupation; we want to help create the
conditions for a life of security and dignity for both peoples.
We call upon all women and men, young and old, to join us in our
sincere quest to preserve life, human dignity and freedom in our
region. Dehumanization, hatred, revenge, and oppression
contribute nothing to the resolution of a century of conflict.
Mutual recognition and respect of each other's individual and
collective rights will pave the way for peace making.
The Jerusalem Center for Women and Bat Shalom
Terry Greenblatt is director of Bat Shalom, a feminist peace organization that is the Israeli half of the Jerusalem Link. She delivered the above remarks to the UN Security Council, May 7, 2002.