Occupation Is the Root (Extract)

Extract from an article in Issue 20, January 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe. Peace activist Gila Svirsky, a founder and leader of Women in Black, calls for a negotiated, mutually acceptable peace agreement In late December, some 250 women stood in Jerusalem's Paris Square, near the prime minister's official residence, dressed in black and holding up signs in the shape of traffic stop signs, calling for "an end to the occupation." Members of the Women in Black movement, they have stood in that square, every Friday at the same hour, for exactly 20 years. The movement was born in late 1987, just weeks after the outbreak of the first intifada, as a grass roots feminist peace movement. Initially focused in Jerusalem, Women in Black quickly spread out to other parts of Israel and then to other parts of the world. Loosely organized, primarily through e-mail lists, Women in Black currently exists in close to 400 locations abroad, where it usually takes on the political context of the country, although some vigils also focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Svirsky, 60, a founding member of Women in Black and a well-known peace activist, describes herself as "a writer and an Israeli Jew deeply involved in peace and human rights activism." In an interview with The Report, Svirsky discusses the occupation, women's political roles, and the possibilities for peace in the region. The Jerusalem Report: As a movement of feminist women, do you believe that women are inherently more peaceful than men? Gila Svirsky: No. There are men who support us, just as there are women who vote for racist parties. There is nothing intrinsically peaceful about women. But on both sides of this conflict, it is mainly the men who make the decisions to go to war and serve in the military. As women, we have different experiences and so we have different points of view. And I do believe that when the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is written - as long as it isn't written only by men - women will figure prominently in the story of those who were willing to take a stand, to make their statement, to tell the truth for peace. You make a single statement - end the occupation. Isn't your message a bit simplistic? We are women with a variety of political views, united by a common denominator. We all agree that the occupation is the root of the conflict and must come to an end. The occupation is not merely a symbolic sovereignty; it's an oppressive regime of human rights violations and personal violence. The occupation is un-Jewish and inhuman, and it does not speak well of our country, which should know better. But Israel has evacuated the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinians are still continuing to attack Israel. Ending the occupation won't bring an end to the violence, if it's merely a unilateral withdrawal, as it was in Gaza. That's not an end to the occupation, and Israel is still effectively in control of most of what happens in Gaza. To end the violence we have to negotiate an acceptable peace deal that leads to the establishment of two states. Extract from an article in Issue 20, January 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe.