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Seeing through the Politics of Fear

22 November 2012

This morning, I opened my laptop with sleepy eyes to find that Hillary Clinton and Mohamed Morsi had announced a ceasefire in Gaza; “The United States welcomes the agreement today for a ceasefire in Gaza. For it to hold the rocket attacks must end and a broader calm must return.”

With that, Clinton placed herself as one of the central peacemakers of current times. She had been dispatched to Israel late Tuesday night before travelling to the West Bank and then finally to Cairo on Wednesday, brokering peace along the way.

She also noted in her statement that the US will not only “work for the security of Israel, but for the improvement of conditions for the people of Gaza”. As it happens, the conditions of the people of Palestine were exactly the topic of a lecture by Roni Hammermann, another strong female peacemaker, the WILPF interns attended last night.

Organised by Amnesty International and held in a typical Geneva University lecture hall, Hammermann spoke to the packed room about her experiences with her organization Machsomwatch.

Machsomwatch (‘machsom’ meaning ‘checkpoint’), is a movement of about 300 Israeli women peace activists, who monitor and document IDF checkpoints in the West Bank on a daily basis. They oppose the Israeli occupation and the denial of Palestinian’s right to move freely.

Photo of barbed wire fence in West Bank

Facing fierce opposition by the Israeli government and society as a whole, Hammermann told us about the means of both physical and invisible control Israel exercises over the people of the West Bank.

Among the physical belong the classic checkpoints, road barriers, trenches, concrete blocks, agricultural gates, and of course the (apartheid) wall. These forms of control also include the complete segregation of roads and other infrastructures.

However, according to Hammermann, these only form the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

The even more draining element of the Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank is the ‘invisible’ permit system. In short, with more than 101 different types of standard permits required in the West Bank today, the Palestinians now need permits for every aspect and action of their life.

Means of Control, not Security

Most importantly and with everyone’s attention in the room, she explained that the goal of the checkpoints and permit system was never the security of the Israeli people, but rather control over the Palestinian population.

In fact, she argued these measures are part of a concerted effort to harass, embarrass and (religiously) humiliate the Palestinian population to such a degree that they leave the area, pushing out those they feel do not belong in their promised land.

Hammermann further explained how the military courts are merely a tool for sustaining and legitimizing the current status quo, where militarization is at its all-time height and the culture of fear is absolutely overwhelming.

Inspired by her grandfather who was killed at Auschwitz, she ended her lecture asking us all to think about what fear can do to people, and the decisions they make. For seeing through the politics of fear, we salute you, Roni Hammermann!

By Emma Bürgisser

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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