How can women ‘wage peace’ without talking about occupation?

Last week’s rally organized by ‘Women Wage Peace,’ may have looked momentous, yet it ignored 50 years of military occupation, while recycling the same old tropes about the role of women in violent conflicts.

Women from the 'Women Wage Peace' movement take part at the final part of the peace journey in Jerusalem, October 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Women from the ‘Women Wage Peace’ movement take part at the final part of the peace journey in Jerusalem, October 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

I arrived early at the rally organized by “Women Wage Peace,” in Jerusalem’s Independence Park last week with many reservations. It was the culmination of a two-week “Journey to Peace,” in which thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women marched through Israel and the West Bank to demand a peaceful resolution to the conflict. I had been following the group since it was formed after the last Gaza war in the summer of 2014. On the one hand, a mass movement of women in support of peace is a welcome change. On the other hand, what are they actually saying? And even more importantly: what are they not saying? How can it be that the word occupation is entirely absent from a group that aims to end the conflict?

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I came early, deciding to sit in a cafe along the route of the march to the rally. After a few minutes, two women dressed in white and speaking in Arabic sat next to me. I asked if they were from the march, they said yes. After a brief conversation, I asked one of the women, a Palestinian-Israeli from Jaffa, if she isn’t bothered by the fact that Women Wage Peace never even hint at the word “occupation.”

“This was the decision that was made,” she responded evasively. When I asked once more whether or not it bothers her, she said, “Of course it bothers me. It bothers me as a woman, as a Palestinian, as an Israeli, but this is what they decided. That we must speak about the future, we’ve already spoken plenty about the past.” But the occupation is not the past, I insist. It is very much the present. “You’re right, but what can we do? Keep sitting at home? We need to do something to change reality.”

Our conversation was cut off by the march, which suddenly grew very close to us. We pay and hurry outside. The sight was enthralling: thousands of women, and men, dressed in all white, marching while singing songs of peace in central Jerusalem. This was, of course, not a common sight. There were so many people that passersby just gaped; the usual right-wing chants well known from other protests — generally far smaller, especially in Jerusalem, were hardly hear. As a Jerusalemite, it was strange and exciting to be part of it all.

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Wombs in the service of peace

With utmost ease, an estimated 30,000 women — the vast majority of them Jewish — into the park, waiting for the rally to begin. After the crowd amassed, the rally began with a trilingual (in English, Arabic, and Hebrew) singing of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah,” led by Yael Deckelbaum and the Prayers of Mothers ensemble. Very quickly I learned that “mothers” is the key word here. Nearly every woman who spoke during the rally, aside from the younger ones, spoke about motherhood. Adi Altschuler, an educational entrepreneur, used the mantra “heart to heart, womb to womb,” causing me to break out into an uneasy sweat in the Jerusalem cold. We live in a country where women’s wombs are deployed by the regime as an incubator for future soldiers (Altschuler, who gave birth to her first child recently, also spoke about being a mother to a future soldier), while on the other hand our wombs are deployed for the sake of speaking about our place as mothers who want peace. This as opposed to, say, women who simply demand justice. Equating womanhood and motherhood was, to put it mildly, enraging.

Another motto that was bandied about was kulan, all women. The movement, it turns out, includes all women — Jews and Palestinians, religious and secular, Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, residents of central Israel and the periphery, LGBTQs, right wingers, left wingers, centrists, immigrants and veterans. All women including the settler who lives, according to her, in “beautiful and bleeding Samaria.” Yes, even she wants peace. But how does she see us achieving that peace? “When tens of thousands of women will be able to talk about the difficult things, our leadership won’t be able to ignore us.” But what are those difficult things we must talk about? Perhaps the defiant and growing presence of settlements, like the one she lives in, which prevent any chance of establishing a Palestinian state? No. So perhaps the occupation and the checkpoints she passes through on the way home? Human rights violations? War crimes? No. The settler from Samaria can so easily stand on stage and speak about the need “to talk about the difficult things,” because she knows they won’t actually be talked about. Otherwise, perhaps, she wouldn’t be able to take part in the movement from the get go.

That pesky word

In fact, the movement’s demands are so unclear that even Netanyahu could join it. Their demands can be summed up as such: peace negotiations that include women. And that’s it. But what will these women say when they sit around the negotiating table? What are their demands? Their red lines? It’s a mystery. Even the Palestinian speaker — the only one who came from the occupied territories, from Hebron, a city that lives under apartheid — did not mention the word occupation even once. She did not even speak in Arabic, for God’s sake, but rather in English. Not a word about the checkpoints or the hardship she endured just to get a permit form the Israeli army to enter Israel. Occupation? Forget it. We are talking about the conflict — a much nicer, more symmetrical word than occupation. Almost ironically, the only time the word occupation was used onstage was by the only man who spoke, former MK Shakib Shnaan, whose son Kamil was killed in the bloody attack on the Temple Mount three months ago. Perhaps the fact that he is a man allows him to speak this way. Us women need to speak about the womb, wear white, and hope for peace. How do we achieve peace? Ask the men.

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man during a raid on the West Bank city of Hebron, September 20, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man during a raid on the West Bank city of Hebron, September 20, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

I write these words with a great deal of sadness. In the political reality of the last few decades, there is nothing trivial about the fact that a few dozen of thousands women demand to change that reality and are willing to march in the streets of every town and city in order to gain more supporters. The fact that this is a women’s initiative gives it even greater potential. And yes, there is such a thing as women-led politics, and it can be revolutionary and powerful — a politics that first and foremost challenges existing hierarchies and social structures.

However, the women-led politics I saw in Jerusalem was the complete opposite of that — the kind that only strengthens those power structures. A politics in which being a woman means wearing white, singing and dancing. It means being a mother and a womb, to sit at home and take care of our soldier sons. It means gently asking men to make peace already. Instead of a woman’s revolution, we got women who are demanding change but cannot for the life of them decide what kind of change they want to see. Women who only entrench the view that politics is a dirty word that women shouldn’t bother with — that it’s reserved for men alone.

No symmetry

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

There is something simplistic, even childish, about speaking of “negotiations” and demanding a “peace agreement” a quarter century after the failure of the Oslo Accords. Negotiations? On the contrary: Israel would love to enter into another endless round of talks that will stave off inter nation pressure and allow it to continue dispossessing, just as it did during all previous rounds of negotiations. The women seek to jump into this vacuum, filling it with lots of emotional words and a desperate attempt to create some semblance of symmetry between Israelis and Palestinians.

As thousands of women sang songs of peace and sisterhood in Jerusalem, a rocket was fired from Gaza at Israel, to which Israel responded by attacking the Strip. Can we even begin to grapple with this reality without, for example, speaking about the siege? Without using the word occupation?

Yes, speaking about the occupation is not popular, and it may even drastically decrease the number of participants in the next march. But perhaps this is when we should listen to the words of the settler from Samaria: until we are unable to speak about the difficult things, it is doubtful whether we will be able to change anything in the real world. Even if we all wear white and talk about our wombs — in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

This post was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

University of Cincinnati to allow white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus – Columbus – Columbus Business First _ UC President not smart enough to realize that no one invited him to speak – but it’s ok that a UC Policeman murdered a local Black-American neighbor and got away with it?

University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto issued a statement Friday evening saying that the university had a First Amendment obligation to allow a white nationalist, Richard Spencer, to speak on campus.

Source: University of Cincinnati to allow white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus – Columbus – Columbus Business First

Seychelles MOH: Update On Plague Alert

Public health is hard and complex.

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Unlike in Madagascar, where the number of confirmed and suspected plague cases is approaching 700, the news from the Seychelles continues to be positive. 

After their  MOH  Reported 1 Imported Plague Case ex Madagascar early last week we’ve seen an aggressive public health response (see Seychelles Implements New Measures Against Pneumonic Plague) and so far, at least – no additional confirmed cases have been reported. 

As the following update (released about 6am EST today) from the Seychelles MOH describes, new arrivals are being screened, hundred of contacts are being monitored and are receiving prophylactic antibiotics.

Press Release: Update on Plague Alert

The multisectoral IDSR committee met again this morning Saturday to discuss the current alert on the plague. The outbreak in Madagascar is expanding into new districts with new cases and deaths reported daily. 

Suspected Case update (A total of 13 people remain admitted in isolation)

  • •The index patient (probable case) is still admitted on the hospital ward and has no symptoms and is stable. Today is the 6th day of treatment and as per clinical guidelines, the patient is no longer infectious. He remains to complete his antibiotic course
  • •The other eleven (11) patients in the hospital remain stable on treatment and asymptomatic. This includes the foreign national.
  • •One person was admitted yesterday with relatively mild symptoms; dry cough and history of fever. She is asymptomatic today.
  • Contact tracing and surveillance
  • •None of the 320 contacts (which include mostly teachers) related to the probable case and receiving antibiotic prophylaxis has developed symptoms. They are all off surveillance as of today. They however need to complete the antibiotic prophylaxis course.
  • •The total number of people admitted at the military academy for active surveillance are 19. None of them have developed any symptoms.

– Eleven (11) family members of the first probable case, presently at Perseverance military training academy will be discharged home tomorrow at 10:00 am if no one develop symptoms.

– One (1) family member on active surveillance at Baie St Anne Praslin hospital

-Three (3) Seychellois nationals returned from Madagascar via Nairobi on 12th October. They remain well and are receiving prophylaxis.

-Two (2) Italians who arrived on 12th October will be leaving Seychelles tonight

-Two (2) Australian and one (1) Japanese arrived last night from Mauritius after having spent time in Madagascar. The Japanese will leave the country tomorrow and the Australians will remain in active surveillance for 7 days before being released on 20th Oct if they do not develop any symptoms to continue their holiday until 29th October.

•A total 577 children and 63, (640) teachers at Anse Boileau Primary School and crèche have been given antibiotic prophylaxis. This is a precautionary measure in view of a potential contact with an admitted child.

•Should anyone who is on prophylaxis develop fever, cough or other symptoms, they should contact their health centre, the Hotline 141 or Dr Jastin Bibi on 2723739 or Dr Naomi Adeline 2711818

•Regional Health facilities (Beau Vallon, English River, Les Mamelles, Anse Boileau health centres and Anse Royale and Baie Ste Anne Hospitals) are being used to assess contact and provide prophylaxis.

•The PHA is reinforcing the advisory to prevent people to travel to Madagascar for the time being.

•Hotline 141 is active and people can call for information and advice.