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Working to Break the Silence
Gila Svirsky, Israel
June 6, 2004
Last week probably set a record for demonstrations in Israel against
the occupation—a result not only of the 37th "anniversary" of the
occupation, which we mark in June, but also of the ongoing violence
in Gaza: Some 30-40 more Rafah homes were destroyed this week,
while many Palestinians were arrested and some killed. Comparatively
speaking, the army is now showing restraint compared with the original
onslaught, thanks to the outcry from people all over the world.
If you ever lose faith that your faxes and phone calls make a difference,
remind yourself that hundreds of homes, maybe even thousands, were
saved as a result of your efforts in this campaign. Keep them coming.
The streets of Tel Aviv had "walking exhibitions" this week, as
protesters donned "sandwich boards" showing photographs of
Gaza and the so-called "security wall". On Wednesday, shoppers
downtown and university students got to see these graphic scenes
and, on Friday, a big beach day in Tel Aviv, the exhibitors snaked
through beach chairs and blankets, bringing some reality into the
sunbathing. More reality was brought to Tel Aviv's cultural set on
Saturday night, as women brought the photos of Rafah's destroyed
homes to the lines of people waiting to get into the Philharmonic,
Habima Theater, and a movie theater. "How can you watch movies
when homes are being destroyed in Gaza?" chanted the women.
Just in case people in cars missed the sights, the women also
blocked the streets, and a car accompanying them projected
slides onto the shutters of buildings along the road.
A remarkable photo and video exhibit opened on Tuesday in Tel Aviv,
showing not art, but the abuse of Palestinians committed by Israeli
soldiers in Hebron. And who were the photographers? 30 soldiers
who themselves had served there. Through their stories and photos,
this exhibit tells terrible tales of violence, physical abuse, and property
vandalism during their tours of duty. Yehuda Shaul, a 21-year old,
organized this exhibit after completing his service in Hebron as an
officer of a high level combat unit. (After his release from the army,
Yehuda stood with us several times on the Jerusalem vigil of Women
in Black.) When asked if the photos showed isolated incidents, Yehuda
replied, "Breaking silence about this subject is exceptional, not
the acts themselves."
At Thursday's gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Kveesa Shchora
("black laundry"), the anti-occupation movement of lesbians
and gay men, marched separately carrying their own signs.
The ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemites turned out to insult and curse
them, with a prominent Kabbalist rabbi declaring that homosexuals
were "subhuman" and would be "reincarnated" as rabbits. "Be careful
what you wish for," said a lesbian friend, thinking perhaps
of the procreation patterns of these sweet animal friends.
On Friday morning, we held a bus tour for women attending
the Feminist Conference in the north of Israel, bringing participants
to see the "Security Wall", which most had never seen before.
This was followed by a large Friday vigil of Women in Black,
in which many conference participants took part.
Saturday morning saw a joint Palestinian-Jerusalem demonstration
at Aram, just north of Jerusalem, where the government has just
begun work on the Wall. Fortunately, this demonstration went
smoothly, with no violence from the border police, which was
another exception to the rule, unfortunately.
Saturday night, Peace Now held a demonstration in Jerusalem,
where several thousand people showed up to demand that the
government leave the territories. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former
army Chief of Staff, called upon everyone to go see the photo
exhibition of the Hebron-based soldiers (good for you, Amnon!).
Less nice was the part where Peace Now told the police to shut
down the video screening of "Women Resist the Occupation" that
we were showing on a side street—in no way interfering with the
main body of the demonstration, which we supported. If you
would like to order a copy of this amazing film, see the end
of this e-mail.
Finally, beautiful purple posters bloomed like flowers all over Israel
this week, calling out "Dai Lakibush, Yad l'Piyus", meaning
"End the Occupation, Seek Reconciliation", and having the
women's symbol on it. We simply can’t imagine who would have
illegally pasted posters in 3 cities, covering the walls, traffic signs,
garbage cans, billboards, bus stops, & fences . . .
I end with a translation of the flyer we handed out all over
Israel this week:
They tell us not to speak of unemployment, because
the security situation is so bad.
They tell us not to talk about the municipal workers
who haven'treceived their salaries, or sexual violence,
or hungry children,not right now, because we're at war
and there's no one to talk to.
And not about the corruption of politicians, because
we'll soon be leaving Gaza.
And not about selling the country to the World Bank
at end-of- season prices,
because who knows anything about that bank
and anyway we're in the midst of war.
And not about foreign workers,
clean air and water,
selling women into bondage,
or breast cancer.
WE ARE FURIOUS
ABOUT THE OCCUPATION
The capitalists who create this war,
The generals who continue to sleep well at
And the governments of occupation that
bring us more and more
destruction, killing, and hate,
37 YEARS OF OCCUPATION AND OPPRESSION
37 YEARS TOO MANY!
The women’s actions this week were all organized and
carried out jointly by the various member organizations of the
Coalition of Women for Peace. They are listed below. In addition,
we worked in alliance with our friends in many other wonderful
organizations. It’s not easy to bring reality into Israel, especially
when the local media do not do their part, and we need all
the friends and cooperation we can get.
Shalom from Jerusalem.
Documentary: "Women Resist the Occupation"
This 20-min. video documents some of the bold and creative
actions of the Coalition of Women for Peace, sometimes
in cooperation with Palestinian women, in efforts to resist
occupation and achieve a just peace. Produced by experienced
Israeli filmmaker Claudia (Cala) Levin and a team of 4 women from
Israel's Indymedia. Available in US or European formats
(NTSC or PAL). To order, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
and we'll mail it out at once. Then send cash or a check for $25
(or 20 Euro), less if this is too much for you, more if you can, to support
our work. If you send a check make itout to Bat Shalom, and mail it to:
Coalition of Women for Peace
P.O. Box 10252
Jerusalem, Israel 91102
Members of the Coalition of Women for Peace:
Bat Shalom; The Fifth Mother; Neled—Women for Coexistence;
New Profile; Noga Feminist Journal; TANDI—Movement of
Democratic Women for Israel; WILPF—Israel chapter; and Women
* An end to the occupation.
* The full involvement of women in negotiations for peace.
* Establishment of the state of Palestine side by side with the state
of Israel based on the 1967 borders.
* Recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of two states.
* Israel must recognize its responsibility for the results of the
1948 war, and find a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
* Equality, inclusion and justice for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
* Opposition to the militarism that permeates Israeli society.
* Equal rights for women and for all residents of Israel.
* Social and economic justice for Israel's citizens, and
integration in the region.
2 ways to make a donation—we need your support!
(1) For a US-tax deduction, make out a check to "US/Israel
Women-to-Women", write on the memo line (or separately) that it is
"For the Coalition of Women for Peace", and mail it to US/Israel
Women-to-Women, 45 West 36th Street, NY, NY 10018.
(2) If a US-tax deduction is not relevant, make out a check to
"Bat Shalom" and mail it to the Coalition of Women for Peace,
P.O. Box 10252, Jerusalem, Israel 91102. Any currency is welcome!
Gila Svirsky is an Israeli peace and human rights activist.