INTERNATIONAL RADIO ENDEAVOUR/ FIRE/
International Conference of Women in Black
"Women Resisting the Occupation and the War
Shows Power of Solidarity with Palestinian Women at Checkpoint
Exhausted but with far greater knowledge and understanding about the intensive conflict and war in Israel and Palestine, many of the 735 mostly women who attended the 13th International Women in Black conference in Jerusalem are committed to returning to their countries to encourage their governments and people to support efforts to seek peace and justice in that Middle East region. A draft declaration presented at the closing session of the conference calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and a halt of the construction of the Separation Wall, which winds like an ugly cement snake through Israel and Palestine .
And as the Israeli and Palestinian organizers of the conference said farewell, many of them said they feel more energized and hopeful to know that they are not alone in their struggles for peace, to know that their message will be taken to 44 different countries by the women who attended the event.
Yvonne Deutsch, an Israeli, talked about the challenges of bringing together Israeli and Palestinian women to organize this conference, when neither group could travel easily to meet with the other. Also, the organizers wanted the event to be a forum for solidarity with the occupation and oppression of Palestinians. But questions about power differences face many activists such as the Women in Black doing solidarity work with others living under repression.
Deutsch noted, “In the case of the relations between Israeli and Palestinian women, how do we conduct solidarity, as women from the occupying society with women of the occupied society? As we come together with our feminist values and priorities on the one hand …how do we understand and have empathy for the constrictions of women who live under occupation? …[And as an Israeli], although neither I nor my family are taking an active part in the occupation, I belong to the occupying society and that puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.”
Deutsch continued, “For the international community, the big question is, what is your role in solidarity? On the one hand, to be a catalyst for change because we here are stuck in this conflict …but it is also important to deconstruct colonialist attitudes which are so easy to have. It’s also very important to discuss these differences.”
March and Vigil With Palestinian Women at Checkpoint
Earlier on the last day of the conference, over 500 Women in Black marched through Al-Ram along the Separation Wall that now divides this Palestinian town. One international activist told FIRE that she had visited this town just a year ago to join local residents in protests against the Wall, and was so shocked because now she could only see half of it because of the Wall. The Wall, which is 25 feet high, prevents Palestinian residents from crossing over to go to school, to the hospital or to jobs and their businesses without going through a security checkpoint, and only if they have permits.
The Women in Black marched to the Qalandia Checkpoint north of Jerusalem where they held a vigil to express their opposition the occupation and the Wall, and to express solidarity with local peace activists.
Arabiya Mansour explained to FIRE that the purpose of the vigil was to support the Palestinians and to oppose construction of the Wall, because “it is destroying Palestinian families by separating people who now live together. We are here marching to support them, to bring our voice to the international community, because the international community doesn't don’t do anything about the Wall or the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
There are 600 checkpoints in the Israeli-occupied territories. Aribiya also explained why the Qalandia checkpoint was selected as the site of the Women in Black vigil: “We are marching here because this will be the main checkpoint [between Jerusalem and the West Bank]. So the most suffering of people will happen here for Palestinians who need to go to the hospital or their jobs or visit relatives. They cannot pass through if a young soldier stands here and says no, so they will make a lot of decisions in the lives of Palestianians. There’s no sense to that.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the checkpoint over 100 Palestinian women also held a vigil, accompanied by several of the Women in Black from different countries who had crossed over to meet them earlier that morning. Women at the vigils on both sides said they could hear each other singing and chanting on the other side. One Palestinian woman was arrested by soldiers who threatened to put her in jail unless the protestors left, and although they refused to leave, the woman was eventually released.
Aanchal Kapur of India was with the group who demonstrated on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint. She told FIRE that “a lot of Palestinian women told us thank you for coming and giving us support and solidarity. That is what I take back to my country, that as women we are there to give strength to each other, particularly in conflict situations.”
The Women in Black draft declaration that was presented during the closing session of the conference calls for an end to the occupation and a halt to the construction of the Separation Wall. Debates will continue via email and with the drafting committee about whether the activists should call for a boycott or sanctions against the Israeli government. The draft declaration will be posted in the near future on the Women in Black website at: www.womeninblack.org/jerusalem.htm.
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Radio International Feminista/Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE) at: www.radiofeminista.net
Photos by: Katerina Anfossi & Margaret Thompson
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Fuente: Radio Internacional Feminista/www.radiofeminista.net
Fotos: Katerina Anfossi y Margaret Thompson