Letter from Jerusalem
In the midst of the war, world pride events for LGBT dignity were held in Jerusalem last week. The march was cancelled because of the war, but all the other events took place.
The march had faced an overwhelming, negative religious reaction—a product of Jewish-Muslim-Christian fundamentalist unity. Why don't they find this unity for creating a process of justice, reconciliation and peace for all? Why do they unite in hating lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people? Of course, inter-religious Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups meet in search of peace. But the power is not in the hands of people who would change basic values and end oppression and suffering.
Yesterday they declared a ceasefire. In my worst dreams I did not imagine a war so long and painful. We, in the radical left, were out in the streets from the first days confronting hate and racism—and regarded as traitors more than ever. Our historic role is to be catalysts of the mainstream peace movement. The Zionist parts of the movement started to wake up last week, although individual Zionist peace activists took part in our demonstrations from the beginning.
In the first two weeks I went everyday to the antiwar vigils in Jerusalem, which is not part of the current war zone so it is possible to continue our regular lives. But I hardly can concentrate on my work because of sorrow and pain at the widespread suffering. I am taking part in feminist organizing concerning the war. We who work with women from disenfranchised communities—who disagree with us politically—are looking for ways to discuss security and war from feminist perspectives based on their experiences. We also plan a gathering of activists for political discussion, besides our constant demonstrations that are marginalized in the media.
Every Saturday, Jews and Palestinians in Israel march in Tel Aviv against the war. Among other slogans, we shout that we refuse to be enemies. A Palestinian friend, asked what sustains her, immediately said the Jewish Arab demonstrations in Tel Aviv. We insist on marching together, on saying that: We are against the war; we don't want to kill and be killed in the service of the U.S.; in both Haifa and Beirut, children want to live; we refuse to be enemies. I go out to the streets to express my views publicly. I go out to oppose solving conflict with arms. I go to express solidarity. I go to be with my Palestinian friends.
So much pain on both sides. The suffering in Lebanon is greater, and I feel horrible about it. It is done in my name. I mourn the pain of the wounded, the dead and their families, the refugees in Lebanon, those whose houses were destroyed, women, men and children in the war zone who were thrown into anxiety and greater poverty. Two friends of mine have parents in Haifa, survivors of the holocaust, who didn’t want to leave their homes. Lately we hear of old and sick people who cannot go to the shelters. The horrible situation in Gaza and the West Bank is not at the center of public attention. This is also done in our name.
Feminist groups in our cities organize around the needs of single mothers, of poor women. Finally the media has begun to mention the feminist critique of the war, but our world-view is still in the margins. Everywhere there are stickers in the streets claiming Israel will win. What does it mean to win a war? The division between Jews and Arabs or Israelis and Palestinians is growing. We are going to face more hate and even worse economic and social problems. More money will go to the army and less for health, education and welfare. We still cannot imagine the inner social destruction that the society in Israel is going to face. Our hope to take part in a process of justice, reconciliation and living in peace for Jewish and Palestinian people in the Middle East is perhaps years away. No matter how important the struggle against any kind of religious fundamentalism, the core of the problem here is the national conflict.
As feminists we should discuss the concept of enemy. Once again, widespread, one-dimensional racist attitudes dehumanize a large community—this time the Muslim Arabs. Only through the deep notion that all humans are connected can we create real change. Men in power, men in the arms industry benefit from systems of patriarchy, militarism, fundamentalism, capitalism. How do we relate as feminists to those enemies?
I hope that the cease-fire will help me to get back to my everyday work with women directors within the welfare office and social change organizations. In our project, we want to extend a feminist critique of social rights and change as they face the special burden of new social and economic challenges for disenfranchised communities.
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