A coalition of 30 Israeli feminist groups released "A Comprehensive Action Plan for the Application of United Security Council (UNSCR) Resolution 1325" at a public conference in Jaffa on Thursday. They called on the government to include women from all sectors of Israeli society in peace-negotiation teams and other decision- and policy-making bodies.
The conference was attended by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry, MKs representing a wide political spectrum, and hundreds of participants (most of whom were women). UN Director-General Ban Ki-Moon sent a greeting by video.
United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 – referred to by women's organizations simply as 1325 - was passed on October 31, 2000. "1325 recognizes that as warfare changes, civilians – and especially women – are increasingly targeted," says Lars Faaborg Anderson, Ambassador Designate of the EU Delegation to Israel. "In many conflicts, it is much more dangerous to be a woman than it is to be a soldier."
The resolution also states that women "are the key to ending violent conflict and to the establishment of lasting peace" and obligates UN member states "to include women in all decision-making bodies, especially those dealing with matters of security and peace and to take definitive action to protect women from violence and uphold international law with respect to the human rights of women and girls."
In July 2005, Israel was the first UN member to include parts of 1325 as an amendment to its 1951 Equality of Women's Rights Law, committing the government to including women from all parts of society in all national policy-making committees and teams, specifically including the peace process. But like so much Israeli legislation in so many different areas, this legislation, too, remained impotently "on the books."
Facing similar situations, some 43 countries, including Arab, eastern European, and African states, in addition to Western Europe and the United States have prepared National Action Plans.
The Israeli Comprehensive Action Plan took nearly two years to complete and included nine “round tables,” held throughout the country, with the participation of hundreds of women. It was initiated by three groups: Itach/Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice Center for the Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere (WIPS) at the Van Leer Institute; and Agenda-Hasderah-Uru; and funded by several organizations, including the European Union, the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, the Dafna Fund and US-based National Council for Jewish Women.
"The National Action Plan reflects a broad consensus," says Dr. Yofi Tirosh, of Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law and a moderator of the roundtables.
The process, however, also pointed to the complexity of reaching agreement among women on issues of security and foreign policy. The organizers were unable to come to an agreement over the question of Israeli control over the Palestinian territories and, significantly, the word "occupation" does not appear in the National Action Plan.
While the political side-stepping and finessing enabled right wing MK's such as Gilah Gamliel (Likud) and Shuli Moalem-Rafaeli ((Habayit Hayehudi) support the plan and participate in the conference, it also led most of the Israeli Palestinian feminist organizations to withdraw from the process.
Says Aida Touma Suliman, Palestinian feminist activist and editor of the Nazareth-based "Al-Ittihad" newspaper, "1325 must deal with the real issues that Palestinian women in Israel face – the policy of house demolitions, racism, discrimination, the loss of our lands. But the consensus did not pay enough attention to this."
Responds Thon-Ashkenazy, "The process is not over. We still have a way to go to be completely inclusive."
Former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan noted that it took great courage for Maha abu-Dayyeh, founding director of the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, from the West Bank, to attend the conference and abu-Dayyeh carefully emphasized that she "represents only herself." To the cheering audience abu Dayyeh says, "I think that we women, Israeli and Palestinian, should begin to meet again, and we will. We have a long history of meeting together and we know how to do it. But first, each society must have peace within itself. We have a lot of work to do at home. That is my priority."
The Israeli plan is composed of five objectives, including equal representation of women from all sectors of society in decision-making bodies and processes at national and local levels; gender-mainstreaming all decision-making bodies and processes; protection of women from all forms of violence in public and private spheres; preventing violent conflicts and confronting racism; advancement of the Comprehensive Action Plan and implementation of 1325 in all government ministries and bodies.
Even though the peace process is headed by a woman, Livni, who defines herself as a feminist, the supporters of 1325 say this isn't enough. "It is great that a woman heads the negotiations team," says Chazan, Dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo and co-director of WIPS. "But this isn't only about numbers of women, but about substantive representation – including women from diverse sectors of society who will represent the true needs and perspectives of women.
"Women don't look at issues through rifle scopes and don't think in purely military terms," says Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On, "Throughout Israel's history, we have linked 'peace' with 'security' and so security issues are always more important than civil ones. It's our job to break up these old boy's clubs. We don't snap to attention every time someone mentions the word security. Women ask questions and demand new ways of thinking."