Dr. Sarah Fainberg speech at the inauguration of Women Caucus for Peace and Security in the Knesset, 30/1/17

My name is Sara Fainberg. I am a research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS); I am the mother of 3 daughters. Two of them were born in the US and the youngest was born in Israel; all of us, including my husband are originally from France.

I would like to thank Women Wage Peace for this special event.

Last week I attended a security conference in Lithuania as the representative of Israel and the INSS. Outside the conference,   I met with officials of the EU, Ministers of European countries, and military leaders from NATO.  The usual, shared narrative in such a forum is that Israel is an aggressive military power; Israel is democracy that is not so democratic; Israel is gradually distancing itself from humanistic principles.

How did this happen? I’ll try to answer this question.

dr sara feinberg by bruce shefer

I grew up in France; my family heritage comes from the dissidents in the former Soviet Union; my mother and father paid a huge price in their struggle for freedom and minority rights. My education included the principles of Jabotinsky alongside the humanist thinking of Solzenicyn and the Soviet writer Vassily Grossman.

These two parts – the eternal right of the Jewish people to build a homeland here in Israel and the obligation to respect the rights of all minorities- accompany me just like those two books, one next to the other, on the shelf in our home. And from there to my own awareness – in the spirit of the symbol of the dissident movement: for your freedom and ours, that is, there is no meaning to my freedom or that of my people, if you or your people are not free.

From this culture of the dissident movement in the former Soviet Union and as a Jew who grew up on the heritage of Jabotinsky, I believe that we must not allow for the creation of the idea that one part of the political or civil spectrum in Israel is responsibility for the heritage of human rights. The humanistic and universal heritage of the Jewish people must be adopted by all parts of the political spectrum in Israel .The integration of Zionism and universalism  is an inseparable part of the Zionist movement , the history of the Jewish people and  the DNA of our people, but is also an important part of the perception  of our security.

In this populist and proto fascisti age that we are experiencing in the USA and in Europe, we must not allow Israel to take advantage of these trends. If we are blind and adopt the populism which seems to serve our interests, we will lose, in the long run, not only our souls but the opportunity to join with the liberal trends which eventually will return to the international political map.

It is imperative that Israel separate itself from the racist and fascist culture which we now see in center stage. In addition, and in contrast to many opinions in Israel, I do not believe in the linkage between Israel’s actions and the level of support or legitimacy she receives from the international community.

The Israel Question is much more complex and is connected to the historical Jewish Question. However, we are perceived by the nations of the world as lacking direction and dancing at the edge of an abyss. As people, as women and mothers, if you see someone who is confused , you want to direct him, to help him and if this help is rejected then you are hurt.  How often have we heard the sentence – we are your best friend and you are treating us with contempt.

Therefore I will not suggest here what Israel should do in order to achieve peace and security. I will say that the increasing international criticism and de-legitimization of Israel are the result of lack of direction, vision and leadership.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, we are entering a fascinating age where we as women can have unprecedented influence.

Our professional status, as well as our centrality within our families, post feminism which has left a vacuum and the global social trends of change –  all these factors are creating opportunities to act and to influence  for each and every one of us , opportunities not to be missed!

Thank you.