Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

22. Women for peace, under attack

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My previous post (#21, Beauty secrets) featured the Israeli research project Who Profits, Ahava cosmetics, and stolen mud.

Who Profits was born from the Coalition of Women for Peace.  This morning a message arrived from the Coalition:  We are under attack.

Founded after the Second Intifada erupted in 2000, the Coalition of Women for Peace brings together a dynamic group of peace and human rights activists, Jewish and Palestinian/Arab Israeli, in their early 20s to late 80s.  Their guiding principle is simple: Together we are more powerful.  They are committed to ending the occupation, creating a more just society, and enhancing women’s inclusion and participation in the public sphere.

Reasonable goals, no?

But in the current right-wing campaign to enforce the dominant agenda in Israel, the Coalition of Women for Peace has become a target for extremist right-wing forces inside and outside the Israeli government.  The escalating attack specifically targets sources of funding for peace and human rights NGOs, including the Coalition.

Last week the New Israel Fund (a liberal umbrella funding body for NGOs) informed the CWP that it would no longer function as its fiscal sponsor. Until the NIF buckled under intense pressure from the right-wing bullies, individual donors from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia could support the Coalition’s work by making tax-deductible donations through the New Israel Fund.  This vital conduit has now been severed.

Another block is added to the Great Wall of Israel.  From a distance, it looks as its enforcers intend it should look: immense and unbreachable.  But close-up, as I experienced it on my travels for Our Way to Fight, you begin to see cracks.

There is no question that the Coalition’s crucial work will continue.  When I met CWP members, it was abundantly clear to me that these women are very determined, and not easy to intimidate.  Even so, their freedom of movement could be constrained if the right-wing attack succeeds.

In a May 23 statement, the Coalition of Women for Peace commented: “Facing a climate of political persecution of peace and human rights defenders, it is our strong belief that our most important asset is the solidarity among activists and civil society organizations and our commitment to shared values of freedom of expression and association.  We find that the decision of the NIF is a dangerous precedent undermining solidarity and commitment to democratic values.”

As I would expect from these strong women, the statement concludes not with a plea but with a challenge: “Will the right-wing attacks on peace and human rights defenders succeed?  That is up to each and every one of us to determine.  Your solidarity is needed now more than ever:

“Please write a check to “Coalition of Women for Peace,” and mail it to P.O.Box 29214, Tel Aviv-Jaffa 61292, Israel.

“Or make a wire-transfer directly to our bank account: Israeli Discount Bank, Hamoshava Branch #062, 21 Emek Refaim St., Jerusalem, Israel. Account number: 967017-512400, Swift Code: IDBLILIT XXX, Account name “Coalition of Women for Peace”.

I don’t intend this blog to become a fund-raising platform, that is not its purpose.  In any case, obviously we could never begin to match the enormous financial power of the Israeli state and its backers, which include — against our wills — most of our governments.  It is also true, and frustrating, that the same relatively few people are always being approached to sustain crucial work for peace and justice across the globe.  That’s how it is.

Nevertheless, as soon as I’ve put up this post I’m sending off a cheque to the Coalition of Women for Peace.  It won’t be much, but it will say unequivocally, I’m with you.

Together we are more powerful.

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

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