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Monday, 12 January 2009


You may like to read the following article which has just appeared in the European weekly newspaper, "New Europe":

Will women be excluded from Gaza peace process?

Author: Mary Honeyball, MEP from the United Kingdom

Mary Honeyball is a Member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom, the Socialist Party, and a member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

12 January 2009 Issue 816

“We ........ demand an end to the bombing and other tools of death and call for the immediate start of deliberations to talk peace and not make war......”

A broad spectrum of 23 women’s organisations in Israel have issued a statement demanding that war no longer be an option and that the dance of death and destruction in Gaza be brought to an end. Released on January 2, it reminds us that it is so often the women caught up in war who seek to spread the message of peace.

“The society we want is one in which every individual can lead a life of security - personal, economic and social. It is clear that the highest price is paid by women … .who now, as always, are excluded from the public eye and dominant discourse.” On the other side, thousands of Yemini and Palestinian women took to the streets in Sana at the end of December. They too condemned the violence in Gaza and demanded an end to the war. Women have a long and honourable tradition as peacemakers. The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition played a crucial role in the peace process, occupying a position beyond the reach of other participants.

During the 1980s the women’s peace camp at the United States airbase at Greenham Common in the UK did much to alert the world to the dangers of nuclear war. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom still does sterling work with the United Nations. In a different way, Women in Black alerts the world to conflict in many parts of the world through public vigils and disseminating information. Perhaps women will one day be able to forge alliances, and perhaps friendships, across the Israeli/Palestinian divide.

Tragically this seems a long way off. The Hamas-controlled parliament in the Gaza Strip has recently voted to introduce Sharia law. The bill, which has passed its second reading but not yet been signed by Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, will allow the courts to condemn offenders to a number of violent punitive measures.

Sharia law has the potential to be used in the most cruel and barbaric way against women. Last year a 13-year-old rape victim in Somalia, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was convicted of adultery under Sharia law. She was then buried up to her neck and stoned to death by 50 men. Over 1000 spectators watched this indescribable act. Religious fundamentalism is rarely good for women. On a parliamentary visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories three years ago I met a number of leading politicians on both sides. Business was conducted in the usual way with the usual greetings, including the handshake, the universally recognised greeting symbol in such circumstances. The one exception was a high-ranking Muslim man who refused to shake my hand for religious reasons. Since I was the only woman on our delegation, I was the only person subjected to this treatment. Needless to say, this man’s attitude does not fill me with confidence about the future for women under those who hold such views.

I join my colleagues in demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The Palestinians should receive humanitarian aid and Israel needs certain assurances including an end to the firing of rockets across its borders. The kind of warfare being waged in Gaza disproportionately hits civilians, children and their mothers. Diplomatic efforts must concentrate on a lasting, two state solution providing a homeland for the Palestinians. I believe women could, and should, play an important role in future peace negotiations. May this be sooner not later.


Chris Gale said...

Dear Mary

I find the attitude of some on the left as regards Islam as rather disturbing. Any criticism of it is regarded as racist whereas marching alongside anti Semites and fascists in support of Hamas is considered OK.
What we should all fear is the global spread of Islamic theocracy which threatens everything we as democratic socialists stand for.
Nobody likes war but Israel is not just in a battle against a few militants, it is a battle for its very own survival against a group backed,funded and equipped by Iran.
In years to come we will come to see Israel's (a secular democracy) stand as our own. If it is not too late that is.

Martin Meenagh said...

Hear Hear Chris ; and that was a nice post Mary

Craig said...

Once all of the peace loving women of Gaza convince the islamists there to give up the rockets they keep lobbing into Israel, then I too would back the proposal to halt the war...Until that happens Israel had well better keep pushing on and killing those terrorists who wish nothing more than to kill innocent Israeli women and children. Its too bad that the terrorists are such cowards that they use their own innocent population as human shields to try and make the liberal media stop the well deserved Israeli attack. It seems that those in Gaza should turn the terrorists over if they want peace.