by Ruth Hiller, July 2002
Contrary to the most recent popular calls to bolster faltering nationalistic resolve by the Israeli government, we are witness to a rise of a new resistance movement that has generated a feminist refusal movement. Women Refuse, initiated by New Profile, calls for women to stop cooperating with the Israeli government and its military policies. Women Refuse notes that by quietly standing by as partners, fathers, brothers and sons and daughters are drafted into army service, women are actively submissive and support the continual execution of government policies at any cost. Women Refuse calls upon all women to stop being traditionally silent and to dare to raise their voices by opposing to their loved ones participation in military actions. This new form of protest opposes deeply rooted national tradition of unquestioned support for the Israeli military and may be otherwise considered an act of national disloyalty and personal betrayal.
New Profile is a feminist movement whose goal is to create a civil society within Israel, and whose active membership includes women, men and youth working together. By focusing in particular to the thousands of voices being sounded by other women, mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, Jews and Palestinians both in Israel and the Occupied Territories Women Refuse has come together with the ongoing support of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace and the many women who may or may not be affiliated with other organizations working towards social change.
The platform of Women Refuse enjoins us to refuse continue to be enemies. We refuse to let our men, our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, or our sons and daughters be enemies and repeatedly create enemies. We refuse to be part of the machine that promotes war and sustains the occupation of the Palestinian nation. We refuse to pay the prices that a militarized society in a constant state of war demands that its citizens pay. We refuse to remain quiet. We start by speaking to one another that empowers many of us to start speaking up at home and resist the mobilization of our loved ones. At the same time we take to the streets and schools where we again sound out our resistance.
This new voice goes beyond family, spousal and parental responsibilities in the traditional sense. It calls for the sanctification of life in the broadest way possible. It calls the Israeli public to refuse to be the enemy and to develop a new national discourse. By first starting within our homes and then moving out to wider public levels Women Refuse seeks to create a new national agenda. Within the past 4 months we are witness to an influx in the number of women, many who have never been politically active before and others, who do not identify with the radical Left, join together and promote Women Refuse.
The first project created by Women Refuse took place on the week of June 16-21, 2002. A protest tent, opened up for 24 hours a day that week, invited women for discussion and the creation a new dialog. The tent made space for women to discuss different approaches to refusal and the building a real peace community, and to listen to guest lecturers, hold open sessions, and most importantly meet with one another. The agenda held allowed women platform within which they could discuss different approaches to women’s refusal in promoting the building a real peace community, listen to guest lecturers, hold open sessions, and most importantly meet with one another. A large protest tent was set up in Charles Clore Park, on the border of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The location is symbolic in that Tel Aviv is predominantly Jewish city whereas Jaffa is predominantly Israeli Palestinian, representing the borders set up between Israelis and Palestinians, between two countries and between the continuation of war and the need for peace.
Granted, it is a fact that this process of changing Israeli society is very slow. It must be so in order to make a deep and lasting difference. But we believe it is possible and that this is the only way to desist from being such a military state, to live in peace with our neighbors and promote a truly democratic community forever.