History of WILPF Israel
The members of WILPF Israel, Jewish and Arab women, are active in many areas and various organisations. We work for the promotion of human rights, and the end of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, bringing about peace between two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, living as neighbours. Our important activities are:
- Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch, Women against the Occupation and for Human Rights: The organisation is composed of four basic groups of women: the Jerusalem group monitors the checkpoints around Jerusalem and Bethlehem; the southern group monitors the area of Hebron and the Gaza Strip; the central group monitors what is happening in the area around Nablus and south towards Ramallah; the northern group monitors the checkpoints in the area of Jenin and eastward. A few intrepid women go out for a whole day to monitor what is happening in the Jordan Valley. The women go in groups of two to five women, either with a paid driver or in one of the women’s car. The monitoring usually takes a couple hours. One woman in each group takes on herself the job of writing a report of what they have seen and heard while in the Palestinian territories. These reports are posted on the organisation’s website in English and Hebrew. We know that the Israeli military read these reports. Some of the groups, at the invitation of Palestinian women in some villages, teach the village women English and/or Hebrew.
- Women in Black: This is a women’s movement which began in Jerusalem in 1988 with the beginning of the first Intifada – the Palestinian people’s grassroots uprising against the occupation – as the Israeli women’s solidarity with the Palestinians. The movement spread to many towns in Israel, with the basic demand: End the Occupation. Women, dressed in black, as a symbol of mourning for all the lives lost, hold a vigil every Friday for one hour, holding a black hand on which their demand appears in 3 languages, Hebrew, Arabic and English. The movement, which arose in protest to the military actions in the Palestinian territories, has spread all over the world as a women’s protest movement against militarism and for peace.
- The Coalition of Women for Peace: The Coalition was formed in November 2000, at the start of the second Palestinian Intifada. Originally 11 women’s organisations decided to work together for peace between Israel and Palestine. WILPF Israel, Women in Black, and Machsom Watch were among the original founders of the Coalition. It’s a feminist framework dedicated to the struggle to end the occupation and the creation of a more just society. One of the goals is to widen and deepen women’s participation in the civil discussions in Israeli society. Its activities and campaigns have a wide spread and include: the position of women in society, regard for human rights, ending the siege of Gaza, non-violence as a tool for change, and, of course, peace in Israel and in the world.
- Gisha (Access): This is an organisation which provides legal and non-legal aid to Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip who need permits to enter Israel or to pass through Israel in order to go to the West Bank (Palestinian area). It may be for medical or educational needs, or for family reasons. The process of obtaining a permit may be long and involve various Israeli institutions and/or government bodies. The organisation does all it can to help these people.
Equality and freedom of speech in Israel have not been made illegal, but in practice these rights have been narrowed in scope by the harassment of Arab citizens and peace and human rights activists, Jewish and Arab. This harassment comes from grassroots groups and organisations who have taken on themselves the characteristics of fascism. These groups act almost without restraint. Various articles and reports have pointed up the noticeable increase of these forces during the military action in the Gaza Strip during July-August, 2014. There were people who lost their jobs for having voiced their opposition to the attack on the Gaza Strip; many others were warned to keep their opinions to themselves or they would be fired. Israeli Arab citizens and left-wing activists were accosted and roughed-up on the streets by gangs that followed them home after the activists had participated in a protest demonstration. The public arena had become threatening. The rift between Jews and Arabs in Israel has deepened.
As women, as activists we refuse to give in to this damaging blow to our civil society, within which the occupation has intensified. Our way is the way of peace. Our way is the way of cooperation and supporting possibilities. This is a critical period for human rights in Israel, and without international support our task will be much more difficult. To our Palestinian sisters we say that talking with us isn’t ‘normalisation’ or the ‘white-washing’ of Israel. Talking with us is the combined struggle for human rights, peace and freedom.
President: Aliyah Strauss