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Where is Peace for Palestine?

In the wake of Israel’s latest attacks on the Gaza Strip, we spoke to two Palestinian feminist peace activists to learn more about how the ongoing occupation is impacting the lives of Palestinians – and what the international community must do to ensure a future of peace and freedom in the region.

Image credit: Ömer Yıldız
WILPF International Secretariat
17 August 2022

On 5 August, Israel launched a series of surprise airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, sparking several days of fighting and the worst outbreak of violence since May 2021.

By the time a truce was called on 8 August between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, a total of 49 Palestinians had been killed – including 17 children – and more than 300 were injured. On the Israeli side, 13 people sustained minor injuries.

The flare-up of violence is the latest act of aggression by Israel against the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which has been under Israeli occupation for more than 50 years.

Over the past 15 years, a series of military aggressions have wreaked havoc on the lives and well-being of the 2.2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip – a population that is being denied the right to peace, freedom, and self-determination in the face of blockade and occupation, human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

WILPF condemns this latest act of aggression and stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“For more than five decades, the people of Palestine have endured intolerable circumstances under Israeli occupation,” says Sylvie Ndongmo, WILPF’s President. “Like all people, Palestinians have the right to live in peace, free from fear and oppression. WILPF will continue to call on the international community to advance a just and sustainable solution to the ongoing conflict and occupation. We believe that a just solution that ensures the full enjoyment of human rights and dignity for the Palestinian people is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region and ensure the well-being of the Palestinian and Israeli people alike.”

To learn more about the current crisis, how it’s disproportionately impacting women, and the role of the international community in enabling a future of peace in the region, we spoke to Randa Siniora, General Director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), and Hanan Awwad, WILPF’s Regional Representative for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and President of WILPF Palestine.

Q: This latest exchange of rocket fire is an example of long-lasting aggression against Palestine. What does it tell us about the broader Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Randa: The latest incident is an example of endless military aggression of a powerful occupying authority against a civilian population, which has been directly impacting over two million people living under blockade in the Gaza Strip for over 15 years now, on top of 55 years of Israeli military occupation.

It further confirms our position that the international community must address the continued Israeli occupation and absence of a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hanan: This incident has left me asking: Who are we? Are we human or not? The international community does not do anything, while being very enthusiastic to help people in other places in the world. Where is democracy? Where is justice? Where is freedom? Where are human rights for Palestinians? Why does the international community remain silent and refuse to deal with the occupier – essentially serving in the role of occupier itself? We cannot continue to live in this situation.

Q: How do you think this latest event could exacerbate the existing socio-economic crisis in Gaza and how might it have a disproportionate impact on Palestinian women in the long-term?

Randa: For over 55 years, Israeli military and colonial occupation have controlled all aspects of Palestinians’ lives, including the land, the water, the borders, and the movement of people within the occupied territory itself. It has had an adverse impact on every aspect of our lives. Gaza is essentially an open-air prison where two million people are being constrained.

Many homes have been destroyed, as well as schools, hospitals, and other key institutions. Yet because the occupiers prevent most construction materials from entering the Gaza Strip, there are no resources available to rebuild. Meanwhile, unemployment rates are extremely high, with around 85 per cent of people without jobs. Most people in the Gaza Strip are refugees who depend heavily on humanitarian aid. Most live in poverty on less than $2 a day.

Women and children are suffering in unique ways. Women are the ones primarily responsible for caring for households and family members, particularly those living with physical disabilities and psychological trauma as a result of the occupation. They are attempting to manage households without access to clean water, without electricity.

So every time an Israeli aggression takes place, it’s increasing the suffering of the Palestinian people and the suffering of women and children specifically. Life in the Gaza Strip cannot be tolerated. It’s at the edge of a catastrophic situation.

Hanan: Imagine a child waking up in the morning and finding that some of their friends have been killed, and others are in prison, and houses around them have been destroyed, leaving people without shelter. How can a child, who is supposed to live and love and act his age, wake up to face guns each day?

There is no security for any place in Palestine. At all times of day, Israeli soldiers enter cities and catch people, kill people, take them to prison. How can people feel secure? Whenever you turn on the TV, you see these scenes. And it’s killing the heart. But nobody is stopping the occupation. No one is accusing them. Where is punishment?

When Ukraine was invaded, the entire world came together to help the Ukrainian people. Where is the support for the Palestinian people? Don’t we deserve care and support?

Q: From your perspective, what are some of the next steps needed to achieve a just and sustainable peace in the region and what role should the international community play?

Hanan: First, the international community must fully recognise the State of Palestine. And the international community must also commit to international protection of the Palestinian people. Sanctions should also be placed on Israel in response to the occupation and war crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

We demand that the UN Security Council immediately implement all resolutions related to Palestine as well as consider serious measures to stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land. And steps must be taken to evacuate the prisons and treat Palestinian prisoners as prisoners of war.

Randa: This occupation must be addressed seriously by the international community. It’s not our responsibility as Palestinians alone; we must activate all support and solidarity groups in Europe, the United States, and worldwide to advance our cause for a just and durable solution.

We believe that an international conference sponsored by the United Nations is required, where Palestinian leaders and activists can sit at the table and negotiate a solution to the conflict. We also think accountability is very important. We are very pleased that the International Criminal Court has started investigating Israeli war crimes committed against Palestine since 2014.

For more information about WILPF’s work in Palestine, please visit our dedicated webpage and read our call for action against the Israeli Annexation Plan of the West Bank. You can help make a difference for the people of Palestine by sharing this article on social media or becoming a member of WILPF to help advance a future of feminist peace for people around the world.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

PRESIDENT

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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Demilitarisation

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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