Women’s Voice and Women Wage Peace
By Sociologist, Expert on Gender, Member of Women Wage Peace Movement
Women Wage Peace is a movement that believes that it is legitimate for women to act on issues of peace and national security, a point of view that is not legitimate in Israel today. In order to make this approach legitimate, we need to explain the connection between our being women and peace and how the fact that we are women is expressed in our ideology.
War and peace are moral issues and morals are not neutral. They are different between men and women. This does not mean that one approach about war and peace is better than the other, just that these two approaches are different. This difference creates a different voice for women and men. They think about these issues differently, they talk about them differently and their language is different.*
When women talk about war and peace they focus on relationships and the connection between people, more than men do. This difference derives from that fact that, in most societies, women are raised from early age to be like their mothers, who supply care for children and others, exhibit empathy towards others, express another’s needs and feelings and responsibility for others. Women’s beliefs about war and peace are a continuation of their identity as girls. Women want to take care not only of those who are close to them, but also of others and the world. They want to make the world a safer place. They see war as a fracture of human relationships.*
In contrast, men are defined as separate from mothers and from others. Men see rules and regulations and formal arrangements as a way to manage societies. They talk about dangers and conflict, rather than interrelationships, to limit aggression. When the observer is a woman the situation may be defined differently than when the observer is a man.*
An analysis of the various peace movements in Israel shows how women’s voice has been expressed and how Women Wage Peace offers a unique expression of this voice:
Peace Now is a peace movement made up of all Israelis (both women and men),
not Palestinians, but presents primarily a male voice. It advocates political solutions based on formal negotiated agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, for example “Two States for Two People”.
Parents Against Silence began during the war in Lebanon (1982-1984). It was a specific movement of parents (both mothers and fathers) of soldiers against Israel’s rule over the occupied territories. The movement was deliberately called Parents Against Silence, rather than mothers against silence, because it wanted to avoid the female stereotype of women as hysterical and because it was thought that Israeli society would reject women’s voice as illegitimate on the topics of war and national security. The movement challenged the demarcation between the public and the private sphere (parents and public, national security). It emphasized the physical well-being of Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories. It contended that silence on these issues gave tacit support to the occupation.**
Parents Against Moral Erosion was active during the intifada in 1988 and for about two years. It was founded by a woman, Anita Bardin, but included all parents. It presented a specific woman’s voice in that it focused on the morality of the occupation- on how the occupation affected the morality of soldiers, children living under the occupation and the civilian population under this rule.**
Machsom Watch is a movement in which women and men are active, but consists primarily of women and expresses a women’s voice. It opposes the occupation on moral grounds and functions to protect the human rights of Palestinians who cross the border at the crossing points between the occupied territories and Israel.
Women in Black is a feminist group that entered the debate as women, not as
parents or mothers, to oppose Israel’s occupation of the territories because the
occupation is immoral. They maintain that women have a legitimate right as
citizens in a democratic country to discuss issues of war and peace. The women challenge the role of men as experts on these topics. The response of the public was
to trivialize their demands and to use anti-feminist rhetoric, such “whores of Arafat”
and “Go back to the kitchen where you belong.” The group crosses the boundary between gender and the political debate.
Four Mothers- an organization, specifically of mothers, who organized to pressure the government to withdraw from Lebanon. They used their gender specific role as mothers concerned about their sons to achieve their goal. Because they used their accepted social roles as mothers they were not perceived as challenging men’s monopoly on issues of war and peace. They disbanded when they achieved their goal.
Women Wage Peace is a movement of women, not just mothers, who believe that
women’s voice have a legitimate role in the debate on war and peace. This voice is moral in that it is against war and includes the Other, Palestinian women, in solving the debate on these topics.
These various peace movements brought not only different perspectives to the Israeli discourse on national security, but also changed feminine gender roles in the society.
* Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
**Azmon, Yael. 1997. “War, Mothers, and a Girl with Braids; Involvement of
Mothers’ Peace Movements in the National Discourse in Israel” Israel Social
Science Research 12:1, 109-129.