The cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli women has already started many years ago, through different frames and in different ways. In our opinion these efforts were not fruitful and that is due to several reasons which we will present in this paper.
It is important to mention that the palestinian Israeli conflict is a very complicated one, both in it’s history and in it’s implications. We can not cover here all the details of the history and the present, we will focus only on the most direct points to the issue of women efforts to resolve the conflict.
Palestinian women suffer from double oppression, first as women living in a patriarchal society (the Palestinian society)and second as part of the Palestinian people who are oppressed by Israel. According to this classification we divided the paper in two parts:
The Palestinian-Israeli relations
The case of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the case of confrontation with an exterior enemy, that is to say it is not the struggle of one nation against the regime, or between ethnic or religious groups from the same nation, it’s a struggle between an occupier who came before fifty years to Palestine and the occupied, where the balance of power is evidently in favour of the occupier (similar to former South Africa). The occupier is much more powerful, economically, politically and in the international support aspects. The essence of the conflict is about the basic of human and national rights, whereas Palestinians are deprived of the right of self determination, our lands were took by force and we ended up in being a fragmented nation between refugees, the diaspora, Palestinians in the west bank and Gaza strip and Palestinians citizens of Israel.
Therefore the conflict must not be reduced to the coexistence issue. We can not talk about coexistence when the Palestinian people’s existence is still in question mark. Our efforts should be focused on providing the Palestinian people with their right to come back to their homeland and with the freedom of their organization as a nation with its full rights as such.
That is important in this context, women and peace, because the mutual activities with Israeli women were and are aimed mainly at providing security to the Israelis and giving the Palestinians some kind of autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in other words, segregation.
The second problem is that the approach of Israeli women is often an elitist one, they represent in that sense a "superior culture ", in fact the relation between Israeli and Palestinian women is a copy of the model of the official and unofficial relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, which is a result of the hegemony of western culture in the Israeli society.
The lack of systematic mutual effort amongst women, in general, has also lead to the failure of achieving results, the different actions are scattered and not necessarily continuos.
These are the reasons related to the Palestinian-Israeli relationship, in brief, which in our opinion lead to the failure in achieving significant influence towards changing the reality of the conflict.
Palestinian women in the Palestinian society
Since the establishment of the state of Israel Palestinians have given priority to the national struggle and thus women issues were neglected. In the lines that follow we try to present some of the reflections of this negligence:
As a consequence of the partition of the Palestinian people, there are two categories (when talking about the contact with the Israelis): Palestinians citizens of Israel and Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These different positions have emerged in different needs and aspirations. So when there is a women conference or meeting for peace there are three parties: Israelis, Palestinians citizens of Israel (that are often considered as Israelis)and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. The worst part is that there is no coordination between the two Palestinian parts, from personal experience, we hate these situations since it contributes in reducing the issue to coexistence and miserable autonomy that we mentioned before.
Inside the Palestinian society, both inside Israel and in the West Bank, women are inferior and suffer from discrimination in several levels such as the freedom of movement , of education, choosing their husbands, etc. The result is, as claimed by some, that the politically active women are the intellectual elite and they are often detached from the majority of the women, such as religious women groups who are excluded from the circle of women’s action.
As a consequence of the patriarchal education Palestinian women have internalized male values, for example when active women are part of a political party, the political affiliation is often given priority upon women’s cooperation and they adopt the same models of power conflict. In this context, there is a serious need to internalize feminist values among women themselves.
Palestinian women are not active enough in the political social and economic sphere, as a result of the patriarchal order in the Palestinian society, and so our influence is negligible.
Suggestions to help Palestinian Women
To promote the empowerment of Palestinian women through courses, internships and consultancy, etc., in order, amongst others, to become real partners in the political sphere.
1. To promote programs that encourage and build women’s solidarity and cooperation.
2. To make possible Palestinian-Palestinian meetings, including Palestinian women refugees in the Arab countries and women from the diaspora, in order to coordinate a mutual attitude, goals and strategy towards the cooperation with Israeli women around peace issues.
3. To assist the Palestinian women in setting the agenda of the cooperation and activities with Israeli women. An agenda that is often set by the Israelis or by the western donors.
This text is a contribution to the workshop on "women and peace" organized by the Yin Yang (masculine-feminine)workshop of the Alliance for a responsible and united world shortly before the Hague international Conference on Peace (may 1999). Contacts : Hoda Rouhana. E-mail : email@example.com. BP 20023 34791 Grabels Cedex Montpellier, France. Tél: 00 33 4 220.127.116.11 - Rim Natour. E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org. 59, Av. Laplace 94110 Arcueil, France. Tél: 00 33 1 49.85.11.03