Palestinian and Israeli Women Demand Immediate End to Occupation

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The Jerusalem Link comprise two women’s organisations: "Bat Shalom", an Israeli women’s peace organization and "The Jerusalem Center for Women", a Palestinian women's peace organization.  The Jerusalem Link has been working  to promote dialogue, and to make these women’s vision of a just and lasting peace between their two peoples a reality. The statement below was sent last week by Samia Bamieh  and    Debby Lerman to Members of the European Parliament.

 

Israel has launched an aggressive war against undefended Palestinian civilians.  The Israeli army is attacking and terrorizing entire communities, killing hundreds of civilians, and destroying and looting Palestinian civilian property, infrastructure and public institutions.

 

The criminal use of military force is a legally and humanly unacceptable response to the Palestinian people's Intifada against the prolonged and unlawful occupation that continues to violate their most fundamental individual and collective national rights.  It is also a legally and humanly unacceptable and vengeful response to the horrific attacks on Israeli civilians (which Israeli subsequent governments' policies hold significant responsibility for) that have been carried out in the context of the international community's failure to protect the Palestinian population in an effective manner, as mandated by international humanitarian law.

 

The deliberate harming of innocent civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, must not be condoned.  Compounding the suffering of the Palestinian people will only prolong and aggravate the insecurity and suffering of both peoples, and destroy any prospects for peace.  Nor will the siege that has been imposed on President Arafat by Sharon's unity government bring peace or security to the Israeli people.  To restore a climate favorable to the resumption of political dialogue, the rights of the Palestinian civilian population must be protected under international humanitarian law, and Israel's systematic violations must end.  Our two peoples cannot begin to work towards achieving peace and security without addressing the root cause of this conflict, the true enemy of peace, occupation.

 

A climate of fear and an obsession with reprisal now grip our two peoples.  We women refuse to be paralyzed or polarized by such fear.  We will not close our eyes to the real causes of this political turmoil.  We cannot close our eyes to the policies and practices that have been designed to humiliate, intimidate and coerce the Palestinian's submission to Israel's strategic program of expropriation, settlement and colonization carried out over the course of a thirty-four year occupation.  We cannot close our eyes to the fact that non-violent efforts to resist the denial of their fundamental human rights have historically been met with violence and repressive measures on Israel's part, and by silence from the international community of nations.  We are unable to close our eyes to the painful lesson we have both learned; that the use of military force to coerce the submission of one nation to another must inevitably give rise to the targeting of innocent civilians and to the commission of war crimes.

 

To contain and end this vicious cycle, a civil political dialogue based on mutual respect and trust must be initiated, and all acts harming innocent people must be brought to an end.

 

The systematic violations of international humanitarian law to which the Palestinian population has been subjected must be brought to an end.  We call upon the states of the international community to discharge their duty to ensure Israel's respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, for other applicable instruments of international humanitarian law throughout the Palestinian territories, and to urgently undertake effective protective measures towards this end.  To achieve peace and security, the prolonged denial of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination must be brought to an end in the context of a just and comprehensive political settlement.

 

Right now, in the face of the political and military turmoil, which we are unable to control, effective international intervention and protection for the Palestinian people is immediately needed.  We undertake to work for this goal together.

 

There is one future for us both.  By working together we improve our chances for a better future.  We believe that women can develop an alternative voice promoting sound approaches and effective peace initiatives between our two nations and peoples.

 

Women have already begun to give substance to our recognition that a just peace is a peace between equals.  When we call for a Palestinian state (on the territories occupied on June 4, 1967) alongside the state of Israel, we envision true sovereignty for each state, including control over land and natural resources.  We envision a settlement based on international law that would mandate sharing the whole city of Jerusalem, the dismantling of the settlements, and a just solution to the question of refugees according to relevant UN resolutions.  In continuing our joint work together, we want not only to achieve an end to the occupation, but to help create the conditions for a life of security and dignity for both peoples.

 

We call upon all women and men, young and old, to join us in our sincere quest to preserve life, dignity, freedom, and hope for a secure future in our region. Building another generation of frustrated Palestinian youth, dehumanization, hatred, revenge and oppression contribute nothing to the resolution of a century of conflict.  Mutual recognition and respect of each other's individual and collective rights will pave the way for peace making.

 

For further information about The Jerusalem Center for Women and Bat Shalom go to this website