Women demand peace in the Middle East

Women's antiwar groups have become the most vocal protesters in the region.

Published August 9, 2006 4:57PM (EDT)

While many reports on Israel indicate that popular Israeli sentiment is strongly in favor of the war in Lebanon, Women's eNews writes on a newly formed antiwar group, Women Against War. Founding members Abir Kopty, an Arab Israeli, and Hannah Safran, a Jewish Israeli, organized the group to protest the "latest wave of violence threatening to consume the entire region," eNews reports. Kopty, who is a spokeswoman for an Israeli human rights organization that advocates for Arab citizens in the country, told eNews that "we don't want to see any citizens on both sides killed because of an avoidable war. There is no sense in that."

Though their efforts may be seen by some as inconsequential, as Israel sent 8,000 troops into Lebanon last week, Safran and Kopty explain that the option is either to protest or to be consumed by fear. As Safran told eNews, "[Working for peace] is what gives me the ability to cope, the hope that we can change, that our life has meaning."

Women Against War helped organize a march for peace in Tel Aviv on July 29, which organizers say attracted as many as 3,000 people. Protesters held up signs saying "Stop Killing Citizens" and "Exchange Prisoners Now," while a few counterprotesters called the marchers "traitors."

Another group, the International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Peace, issued an urgent appeal at its July 13 meeting in Athens, Greece, to reject the use of force in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon. According to eNews, the appeal "called on the Middle East Quartet -- the United States, Britain, Russia and the United Nations, which are mediating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process -- to intervene immediately to stop the fighting and dispatch special envoys, including women [often excluded from such crises], to mediate a truce and prisoner exchange, lead the parties back to political negotiations and address the root issue of the conflict."

According to the Lebanese government, an estimated 900 Lebanese have been killed since the bombing started, mostly civilians. Sixty Israelis have died, of whom 28 were civilians. Whether or not these antiwar groups ultimately affect policy, they call attention to the fact that the war -- or conflict, or crisis, whatever word you want to use -- is a trauma not only for soldiers on the ground but for the entire region.

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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