Roundtable Palästina - Israel (engl)
Zoom Konferenz mit führenden Sprecherinnen aus Politik, Wissenschaft und Zivilgesellschaft
Lucy Nusseibeh: Friends and acquaintances, I think this is really important and a happy occasion to discuss landmark Resolution 1325. Thank you all for coming, and thanks to Hillel and Ziad for organizing and to everyone who has agreed to speak. It’s really a pleasure to be with you all. I first heard of 1325 in 2004 at a Harvard seminar which Etti Livni also attended. We left with great plans, hopes, and ambitions to make the most of 1325. Today we will examine whether it’s lived up to expectations and what we can do to make that happen. It was really a landmark resolution in terms of recognizing women’s actual and potential contribution to peace, but also the very heavy price that women pay. Its pillars are participation, protection, and prevention — the three Ps. Some of us have been really hoping for more participation, and I think this roundtable is an excellent opportunity to explore what we can do about that.
Galia Golan: I want to join Lucy in thanking you all for joining us. Several years ago, the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ) published an excellent issue on “Women and Power” (Vol. 17 No. 3, 2011). In many ways, we’re revisiting that issue while marking the anniversary of 1325. 1325 was the result of two major things: the international women’s conference in Nairobi in 1985, which I had the honor of attending, and the one in Beijing in 1995. I think they both played an important role in formulating the idea of a resolution like this. The speeches and discussions about women and security at those conferences and the efforts by women’s NGOs in the United States and elsewhere called for action by the UN Security Council (UNSC). We continue to put our faith in the UNSC, even though many of the resolutions haven’t been implemented. 1325 is based on three principles: first, the principle of rights, as women make up over 50% of the population so they are entitled to be involved in decision-making regarding security, war, etc.; second, women are the main victims of war and conflict, so they deserve a say in this these decisions; and third, women may bring something different to the table just given their background and experience.
We hope to have an open discussion of 1325, its implementation or lack thereof, follow-ups, action plans, wars, and other related issues. I’ll raise some of my own criticisms later, but first we want to hear from Randa.
Randa Siniora: Thank you very much for inviting me to this event to bring the Palestinian perspective — and of Palestinian women specifically — to the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda. This year is the 20th anniversary of the WPS agenda of 1325, which was followed by another nine resolutions. As Palestinian women, we felt first of all that 1325, with its three Ps, ignored the very important component of accountability. Secondly, 1325 and the subsequent resolutions address the issue of conflicts without mentioning, in any of the resolutions, the occupation. It was only in Resolution 30 of the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women)Committee that the perspective of 1325 was expanded to include international human rights law, humanitarian law, and other UN resolutions. For Palestinian women, this approach started with civil society organizations (NGOs), which initiated the first conference that focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the prolonged Israeli military occupation and how to address them using the three pillars plus the fourth, which is accountability.
Although Article 11 of 1325 addressed the issue of accountability, we feel that this resolution and all the following ones had no teeth, no implementation tool, leaving it to the states to voluntarily decide how to proceed, develop their action plans, and report back to the UNSC, without any enforcement mechanism. Palestine is one of the states in our region that took up this important agenda, developing its first WPS agenda in 2017. This year, we launched the second-generation WPS agenda through a national committee that includes official institutions and NGOs. The second-generation agenda focuses on the three pillars as well as accountability and highlights the gender impact of the occupation on the lives of Palestinian women. In 2018, I believe I was the first Palestinian woman from civil society to address the UNSC on the WPS agenda. I mentioned 1325’s failure to address the gender impact on Palestinian women, relevant UN resolutions on the conflict, and international human rights and humanitarian law. We see an attempt to manage rather than resolve the conflict. We Palestinians would like 1325 to mention that Palestinian women live under prolonged military occupation, especially as it affects Palestinian girls and women disproportionately. We also recommended that 1325 be on a par with the other UN resolutions related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
I would like to highlight the issue of meaningful participation of women within Palestinian society. Palestinian women have not been given leadership positions or the opportunity to be peacebuilders. The state of limbo of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations might be an obstacle, but nonetheless women are not included in decision-making processes or afforded the opportunity to bring a different perspective through meaningful participation. We look to the WPS agenda to give us a role not only in the justice and security sector but in decision-making. We want to bring innovative ideas to end the conflict in a way that doesn’t repeat the masculine approach. We don’t want to join the game by just being in politics; we want to change politics. We want to present our ideas because we, as women, suffer the most from conflicts and the occupation, and we understand the priorities. Our exclusion from decision-making processes and from all meaningful participation — not only being kept from the table — has been an obstacle to our meaningful participation within Palestinian society as well. In fact, the Palestinian leadership has emphasized our traditional roles as caregivers responsible for the private household at the expense of addressing this issue. I think we can’t look at the WPS agenda without grounding it in international law and looking at gender equality, not only generally but in terms of the complex discriminatory legislation that discriminates against Palestinians women in all aspects of life. This has an impact on our meaningful participation in peacemaking and peacebuilding in general.
Galia: Thank you, Randa. You raised many issues, particularly about meaningful participation and not just being at the table but what we bring to the table. It’s a wonderful start. Daphna, please continue.
Daphna Hacker: Thank you, Galia. It’s a pleasure and honor to be here. When we talk about international law, including UN resolutions, we are often cynical and pessimistic. What is the meaning of international law? What about enforcement mechanisms? The story of 1325 in Israel can be told as confirmation of that cynicism but also as a success story. The cynical version is easy to present. Are women represented at all decision-making levels in national, regional, and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts as Article 1 of the resolution demands? No, women in Israel are severely underrepresented in parliament, government, and the military and all other public and secretive institutions and mechanisms through which Israel manages its conflicts.
Does Israel adopt a gender perspective when negotiating and implementing peace agreements or support local women’s peace initiatives as Article 8 of the resolution demands? No. I’m not sure we agree on the term “peace agreement” these days, but in any case, women are absent from normalization processes as well as from negotiations for ending rounds of bloody violence we experience in the region time after time. As to supporting women’s peace initiatives, even the almost apolitical organization Women Wage Peace is largely ignored, let alone supported, by the state. So, one might argue that 1325 is another example of Israel’s reluctance to follow international law in general and UN resolutions in particular. In fact, the atrocities of the ongoing occupation are such that talking about women’s representation in peace negotiations sounds like an out-of-context illusion.
But the Israeli story of 1325 is also a success story, demonstrating the sometimes unexpected and even positive unintended consequences of international law. The Israeli parliament was the first to adopt 1325 into national law, amending the 1951 Women’s Equality Act. Israeli law now promises women appropriate representation in all public bodies and committees. Moreover, the amendment mentions the duty of ensuring appropriate representation of women from diverse social groups, integrating the concept of diversity into Israeli legislation for the first time. Through the work of dozens of feminist NGOs — in particular Itach-Ma’aki — 1325 became a code for the struggle for equal and diverse representation of women in decision-making processes, going far beyond the scope of the original resolution. Moreover, the concept of integrating the gender lens embedded in 1325 or, as Professor Hannah Hertzog and others call it, gender mainstreaming became another voice articulating that demand from state and other public bodies.
The Israeli Government’s promise of a National Action Plan (NAP) for 1325 made back in 2014 is still unfulfilled. Yet, we see other bodies, such as the Tel Aviv Municipality, adopt plans inspired by 1325 and a growing awareness of the importance of women’s representation and gender mainstreaming. A small example, which I belong to, is Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Women and Gender Studies Program, which was established 20 years ago, soon after the publication of 1325, thanks to a generous endowment of the U.S. National Council of Jewish Women, yet the university management did not understand what gender studies is and why it’s important. The head of the program had to beg for recognition and resources. We are the academic program with the highest ratio of students to faculty members, hence the most under-budgeted. The university management apparently finally understands what gender, women representation, and diversity are: Just today we received a letter from our president describing the new efforts made by TAU to ensure equality for women and minorities on campus. While it is hard to estimate the exact contribution of 1325 and the feminist action around it to this new state of mind compared with other actions by feminist academics and activists, I’m sure it’s significant.
I would like to end with two points that are currently preoccupying me regarding the feminist struggle in Israel in the spirit of 1325. First, in recent years we have witnessed how antifeminist, racist, and nationalist women elected to parliament can behave. I take no comfort from their being women. On the contrary, they pick the fruit of the feminist struggle for equality for women just to violate all feminist ethics and values. These women convinced me that we should no longer fight for women’s representation per se but for feminist women representation. I would rather have a male pro-feminist ally than a female antifeminist. Second, the feminist movement must bravely address the elephant in the room, the occupation, even if it means splitting into two camps. It must also become an economic left, given the brutal capitalism we are forced to live in. After years of Palestinian feminist activists’ avoidance of cooperation with Jewish feminists, we are seeing new and inspiring joint actions. After years of identity politics, we see a return to socialist feminism. As we are losing in the face of demography, since the left brings much fewer children into our conflicted region, let us at least bring a clear and detailed vision of a just society.
Galia: Thanks, Daphna. I, too, agree with the first pillar — women have the right to be there — but then there’s the question Itach-Ma’aki raised: Which women are we bringing to the table and what do they bring with them? Why do we want them there? Do we want them out of rights or because women are victims, or is it because they bring something different? Who should determine that and how?
Lucy: I’d like to turn now to Karin.
Karin Nordmeyer: Good afternoon to all of you. I’m speaking here in my personal capacity, but I am also president of the UN Women National Committee in Germany, a civil society organization with a mandate from the UN. Living outside of your region, let me explain why I feel so happy to be with you today. My motivation to become a lifelong grassroots peacemaker started many years ago by making close friends internationally from many cultures, regions, and religions and learning from their experience while making music together, using a language that is emotionally valid and does not need words, which often set us apart, thus avoiding misunderstandings and misinterpretations. My profession is musician and music historian, and that helped me combine facts with feelings and political knowledge with emotional spirit in discussions and respect time as a framework.
I remember that during my years of work in NGOs on the international women’s movements line, such as Zonta International and UNIFEM, we started our civil society commitment to peace and de-traumatization long before the UNSC adopted 1325 20 years ago. We NGOs asked governments to recognize women in conflict situations not only as victims and combatants but as agents for change, as members and decision-makers in peace negotiations who can act to reconstruct and rebuild societies, and as actors for protecting and for preventing escalation. Women are needed as actors in all cases of protection, prevention, and accountability, as mentioned before. As you know, that’s the keyword for all women’s organizations all over the world, beginning with the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). We have in hand a nearly comprehensive WPS agenda and can make it a legally binding document, applicable for governments and civil society at large. We in Germany are preparing a third NAP to address regional and local issues according to the WPS agenda.
I want to see more women at the peace tables and see more women recognized in different de-traumatization activities. So, each year when the CSW meets at the UN, I bring my old and new friends from Israel and Palestine together with likeminded old friends in the international women’s society to discuss strategies to make peace happen. I’m convinced there is no peace without women, and for me a peaceful world means all people can live up to their full potential without fear. Fear is the keyword you must struggle with in your region a lot, although we all are born free and equal in dignity and aspirations. I’m ready to contribute together with you all to implement 1325 in your region as well, so I am listening carefully to what I will learn from you this afternoon.
Lucy: Thank you very much. That’s wonderful: living to full potential without fear. It’s certainly something we can all aim and hope for. Getting rid of fear would be a brilliant first step here. Moving to our other participants for responses and comments, let’s start with Ambassador Colette Avital.
Colette Avital: I’m very pleased to find myself again in the company of women I haven’t seen for quite some time, and I really miss you all. I’d like to make three short comments. First, I think the presentations we had so far covered much more than I expected and were wonderful. I’d like to address the issue of accountability.
Lucy mentioned that 1325 was turned into law in the Knesset. It was the initiative of Yuli Tamir and Etti Livni, and I’m one of the people who signed it. At the same time, we created an International Women’s Commission, which some of the women here around the virtual table were members of. The idea was, on the one hand, to do everything possible to convert the resolution into realities. At the same time, it was an opportunity for us to try to discuss ideas between ourselves and the Palestinian members. At that time, I was in charge of drawing the resolution and the launch of our organization to the attention of the late Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon, who completely ignored it.
This brings me to the second point. I agree with Daphna; international law and UN resolutions are grossly disregarded in Israel, unless it is something really good for Israel at that specific time. Until now, I do not see that UN resolutions have had a great impact here. However, I would like to point out that the impact of Women Waging Peace, not only on public opinion but also on policymakers, has been growing. I’d like to bring an example from the last few weeks. Israel signed some kind of peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates, and I got a photograph of the delegation from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with all of those wonderful men saying: “Hey, we are here; it’s us” — and not one woman. So, I wrote a letter to the foreign minister and got a response from the ministry saying: “Yes, we agree, and we should do something about it.” Yesterday, I got a phone call from Aviva Raz, a former ambassador in Geneva. She has been appointed by the Foreign Ministry to be in charge of implementing 1325, at least at the Foreign Ministry level. So, it looks like when you really try to fight, you manage to get achievements. We should do the same now with the Ministry of Defense. Tomorrow, I’m going to meet with the minister of social equality and will put 1325 on the table. I don’t know if this government will last, but if it does, perhaps we can get her to have 1325 implemented in other ministries.
As for accountability, I think that is possible. I’d like to remind at least my Israeli colleagues that after the Nairobiconference in 1985, the Israeli Government decided to upgrade the status of women and appointed a person in charge of the subject in every ministry. The ministries were asked to report to the government once a year on what they were doing and what progress had been achieved concerning the role and status of women. I was appointed by the director-general of the Foreign Ministry at that time as the person in charge of that subject in that office. If that was possible then, we should see if it might be possible today. Last but not least, I would like to compliment the Palestinian women not only for what they’re doing but also for thinking about and adding to 1325.
Lucy: Thank you. That’s a very hopeful presentation. Good luck in getting more women involved. Hind, please continue.
Hind Khoury: Thank you, Lucy. I’m happy to be here among all of you women, talking about an issue that matters to us very much. I really would like to see peace happen here sometime soon. I also want to commend the PIJ for writing about 1325 and the role of women in politics, peace, and security. In my view, if we can get two elements going, we can really move much faster and more efficiently toward peace and security for all. The first is full and meaningful participation of women. The second is to stop the abuse of religion for political purposes, because I believe fundamentalism has been encouraged to serve political purposes, with very unfortunate consequences.
It’s 20 years since 1325 was passed, with insufficient implementation. I think important progress has been made in awareness-building since this and other resolutions on women were passed, however, so it’s not such a hopeless and difficult case, although a lot of work remains to be done. The problem with 1325 is mainly the demise of international law, especially in our part of the world. We live this every day, and people are so desperate that they ask: Why do we need to address these issues at all? Women could be more effective in supporting and promoting international law and UN resolutions. I think this is very important.
Also, from the analyses I hear, 1325 addresses mainly the elite women. What about the grassroots? What about the general population of marginalized women? Where is their role in this? It’s not enough to have women in politics engaging in decision-making. We also need an active popular base to be able to make the necessary changes.
Also, the resolution lacks the sensitivity for an analysis of particular cases like the Palestinian case, the role and presence of the occupation, and the internal patriarchal system. There is theheavy hand of geopolitics, interests, and power games. Women are not free to play the game of politics because of their various daily burdens, managing families, work, and particularly the difficulties of the occupation. Palestinian women’s lack of rights in general is worsened because of this occupation which has lasted so long. They face horrible difficulties just to manage their daily lives under occupation, which makes it hard to deal with politics and legislation.
However, I want to point out my experience with Women Wage Peace, because in our situation, where peace is important, we can’t achieve anything if there is no real cooperation and coordination between women from both sides. For years, I have believed we can make a difference. What surprises me about Women Wage Peace is that they just call for negotiations without really taking a stand on most of the important issues. One would assume that if I am cooperating with Israeli women, they would have empathy for suffering children, children in prison, women delivering at checkpoints, the hardships with the wall, etc. One would assume that women would believe in compromise and international law, but I didn’t hear this in my experience with them. Israelis would like to ignore the issue of international law.
The third element is that there can be no exclusivity in this land. We have a shared heritage, and we need to find a way to acknowledge each other’s rights to mutual recognition. I think these three elements are basic; otherwise, we’re not going to get anywhere.
As for the Palestinian views, I think Randa was perfect. Thank you for describing our initiative around 1325. I would like to add that donor funding for NGOs, which is important, has excluded representative civil society. If we want to have active women, women who know what they want, they have to be organized around women’s unions, labor unions, and women’s branches within the political factions, and this isn’t happening. In my experience, money for representative civil society is often lacking. I think this is unacceptable. I remember an Israeli telling me: “Instead of left-wing parties, we have a hundred NGOs, so how can we get them to agree on anything?” The same is true for the Palestinians. We can’t move forward unless both sides manage to find the best route to organize around important themes that are meaningful and effective.
Galia: Thank you, Hind. You raised many important points, including organizations and funding. I happen to share your criticism of Women Waging Peace. If you’re not willing to use the word “occupation,” I don’t see what you’re doing out there on the street. I want to turn to Etti now, because as I recall, the bill that was passed by the Knesset actually added something to the formula regarding which women we are talking about. Maybe you could tell us more about the law that you passed.
Etti Livni: Thank you for inviting me. As Lucy mentioned, we were at Harvard with Ambassador Swanee Hunt in 2004, where we were exposed to 1325. When we returned to Israel, civil society organizations dealing with this issue came to the Knesset to brief us on the resolution, and in 2005 we decided to try to make it part of Israeli law. We were looking at Israeli society and how to promote women in all aspects of life. Yuli Tamir and I formulated the law, with the support of then-Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni. She wasn’t a feminist at that time, though now she is, and we tried to do something with 1325. We said that there should be significant representation of women in all national and international committees and groups. We also wanted to look at the Israeli-Palestinian issue and peace negotiations. We wanted more women’s representation in strategic and other issues and thought it important to stress what kind of women. This problem had been on the agenda for many years among all women organizations, but we emphasized its importance. We said there should be representation of a variety of women from all places, from all scopes of life, representing all sorts of issues. I think this was the first time that we tried to broaden the representation of women and their involvement in the big issues, the national and international issues.
I don’t know if the [call for a diversity] of women was really implemented, but the idea was that the bill would become a kind of symbolic, educational tool, and we use it all the time. When we ask for something, we point to it and say it is written here, so therefore it should be implemented. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes not. In some cases, we went to the Supreme Court. That’s the benefit of having a law. You can bring it to court, and the court will look at this committee or this body of people dealing with an issue and recognize that there are no women there. For example, when the Turkil Committee was set up to examine the Mavi Marmara affair, there were no women at all. So we went to the Supreme Court, which made a very important decision. The Supreme Court judge said that the inclusion of women was essential. The government responded that it had looked for women but nobody took an interest or wanted to participate, so the court said that you need to be proactive and can’t just say that you can’t find anyone.
About Women Wage Peace, we started the movement in 2014 after the war in Gaza, and I’m very active in it. I think it’s a very important body today with about 50,000 women who are registered, though a much smaller number are active. The criticism of not using the word “occupation” and not advocating for a particular solution is correct, but that hasn’t worked in Israeli society till now, so Women Wage Peace are trying another form of activism. Look, they use the word “peace” even though the words “peace” and “occupation” have been dropped from the Israeli vocabulary. They brought the words peace and solution — and the concept of a solution by women — back into the public discourse. We don’t argue about which solution, because it is not important for this group of women. We leave the decision about what kind of solution to be made between the leaders, but we are trying to push this issue forward while Israeli society is a bit tired and indifferent to it. This is the importance of Women Wage Peace: bringing the main issues back into the discourse in a not so controversial way.
Galia: The law you worked on makes it possible now for us to go to the courts, and it did talk about women from various walks of life, classes, etc. I think that goes to the third pillar of 1325: that women bring something different to the table, though not necessarily all women. I think you have to have feminist women or feminist men if you want to have clauses relating to women’s issues and women’s rights. Two pieces of research that came out relatively recently bolster the demand for having women at the table. We have to broaden this by getting grassroots women and women from all walks of life, based on the assumption that whatever women bring to the table and would like to discuss may be different from what men bring.
Lucy: Khuloud, it’s your turn now.
Khuloud Dajani: Thank you, Hillel and Ziad, for organizing such an interesting roundtable. I’m proud to be with you all and proud of everything that you as individuals or as a group do together. Our paths have crossed before, and we did a lot as women for women’s empowerment and rights and gender equality and also to bring a better future and more peace and security for all the people who live on this land, particularly for women and girls.
Historically, Palestinian women have been a role model of freedom, political agency, and social transformation in the Arab world and all over. I hope to see the institutionalization of CEDAW, which was signed in Palestine on April 1, 2004, but is not institutionalized within the laws and regulations. When you talk about women’s rights, you go straight to the constitution and try to find how they are translated into the laws, regulations, practices, etc., but this can hardly be seen. When it comes to more rights for women and girls, you can’t find any changes that address CEDAW. I hope that women as role models will continue to lead the way toward more female empowerment.
We need to bring more empowerment to our female sector in general, beginning with childhood, when they are girls, when they are in school and not when they are older and can’t change their destiny or future. They need to have the right to decide over their life, their self-determination, and their future when they are girls and not later in life. We have to work together to reach social emancipation, economic independence, and political participation. This is the core of women’s agency, a strong Palestinian women’s agency.
Talking about women’s agency in Palestine, the region, and general, previous speakers started with the issue of protection, prevention, and participation. Protection refers to all the physical, mental, and social abuse that woman and girls are subjected to, and believe me, this is primary. It’s the foundation toward stronger women’s agency or women’s participation in life. If we are talking about more empowered women, we need a real transformation that will change the roles of women here and throughout the Middle East. We need to catch up with the women’s movements and agencies around the world. We want women with more confidence, whose image, efficacy, and trust come from within, not from what the community thinks or from men’s approval. We need to advance what women can do and what women’s rights can give them to higher levels. I can see higher levels where women can realize themselves as individuals and as groups within their country and around the world.
I believe in the internationalization of the cause of women’s agency. We can share and learn a lot, and we here in Palestine/Israel can influence what’s going on if we really move forward and have the chance and the opportunity for that. I just want to add that what was said about the underrepresentation and the lack of women in key positions is the dominant reality across the borders. We look forward to more women’s participation and strong concern for their new role. We don’t have to accept the traditional view of what people want us to do. Together, we need to look forward to a changing focus of our women’s movement in Palestine and Israel.
Lucy: Yes, we need models for tomorrow. Agency, as Karen also pointed out, is incredibly important. Tal, please.
Tal Schneider: Hello, everybody. Thank you for having me with such distinguished colleagues and people I’ve known for many years. I agree with many of the things that were said. I will only jump in with one note. We always have the American side in the picture, and in the last four years we saw an administration which — not only on the matter of content — was way off from trying to promote things in our direction, and if you look at the personas, you almost always saw an all-male panel. But now it’s good news to see the nominations of the new administration, and I want to stress that President-elect Joe Biden is bringing women to the front to the Treasury and perhaps the Defense Department, the entire communications team and the national intelligence staff, including the director of national intelligence (DNI). So, women will be at the front whenever they come and talk or meet with parties. I think the Israelis and Palestinians can now look at the news photos or at their TV sets and see something different. This is a fresh approach, and a very good one.
Perhaps when we see the Israeli side standing next to the American side with so many women among the highest ranks, it will be a good opportunity for us to engage and reengage with this issue of women’s involvement in defense, intelligence, military, and security issues and, of course, peace issues as well. It’s really remarkable when you look at the appointments that Biden has been announcing every day, so that’s my contribution to this discussion. Everything else that was said already by everyone else is really important.
Lucy: That is actually a lovely image of all these things becoming visible and actually pushing other countries, other governments, to see themselves differently. It’s a really powerful picture. Thank you for that. We move on now to Tahani.
Tahani Abu Daqqa: I’m happy to see most of the women I’ve known and worked with before, and I would like to thank Ziad for inviting me to this meeting. It’s not only countries but the UN organizations themselves that have not implemented 1325. The UNSC itself usually appoints men. Even women with negotiating experience are not seen in this role. The same can be seen in countries and in Palestine and Israel in particular; you don’t find women on negotiations teams. They put women in staff positions where they work hard, make evaluations, and write reports, but they send men to the meetings, discussions, and negotiations. This is our experience in Palestine. Most of the work is done by women, but it’s the men who go to the negotiations and become famous. Women haven’t complained enough about that. They have never said that we deserve a better role and that we have to be in this or that place.
As for 1325, we always hold discussions and workshops. For 20 years, we’ve been working on 1325 together. We build awareness among ourselves, but we never try to push our country to implement the resolution or to make it part of the law in Palestine. The second thing is that we don’t always look at the problems women are facing because 1325 isn’t being implemented. I will give you some examples. Women who live in Area C suffer a lot from very bad living conditions. In winter, they live under a tent, and they don’t feel that they are secure or are in a good situation. There are a lot of women in Gaza who are suffering because they can’t get medical assistance and medicines from outside. We never complain about that. We don’t raise it as something that violates 1325. I think women should always raise this and always ask the UNSC and other UN organizations to focus on women.
We are Palestinian and Israeli women, but they never invite women like us to discuss peace. When it comes to peace negotiations and reconciliation, they always invite men. They say they are happy with that, because the culture of our region is a culture of men. If nobody invites women to meetings, negotiations, and decision-making, they will never empower women. I think that we, as Palestinian and Israeli women, must work together to push our leaders. We need to change their mentality and our culture if we want to enable women to be in the right place. Also, we need to raise women’s awareness, education, and knowledge to be in that place, because sometimes when they are invited, they decline out of fear that they won’t succeed.
Lucy: Thank you, Tahani. It’s very difficult. Like you said, there’ve been so many workshops everywhere, also in the West Bank and Jerusalem, around 1325, but where is the implementation? Where is the change? What can we do to make use of this resolution?
Galia: I just wanted to highlight some of the things that we’ve heard which are really important. There’s no question that the issue of role models, which I believe Khuloud raised, is important — role models and young women, young girls, so that gets us back to education. I believe Colette mentioned that such work was originally done and then was sort of dropped. There’s no question that having laws is important, but we need representatives in government bodies and the various ministries to implement them. If the UN hasn’t provided instruments for implementation of 1325, at least we can do so in our countries. Colette mentioned she was a representative in the Foreign Ministry. We need representatives in all the ministries in Israel and in Palestine to provide the implementation that the UN isn’t providing. Somebody mentioned the issue of organizing. NGOs are important. They helped produce 1325, but maybe they have to be mobilized to provide implementation as well, because that seems to be the key. We have to break cultural, social, and religious barriers to even get anywhere near implementation of 1325. There are many ways to do that, including through education and role models.
Ali Abu Shahla (PIJ Editorial Board member from Gaza): I’d like to add that even in Israel, not only in Palestine, women don’t have their full rights. As our PIJ colleague Gershon Baskin wrote in his article “Why are women absent from Israeli, Palestinian leadership?” in The Jerusalem Post, I’d like to see women doing their best to be leaders. There are many women leaders in Europe and Africa, where women are building their country. For example, women are the leaders in Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, Taiwan, Iceland, Finland, Namibia, and Estonia, so where are the women in our area? I would like to see Lucy and Galia making peace with Tahani and Hind. I would like to see them pushing for their roles and pushing to be the leaders in both societies, because women think twice before making decisions, while men can be very nervous and make them [hastily], like what’s happening in the United States.
Khuloud: Yes, but even if women fight for these seats, make sure men give them up. Let’s believe that one day men will step down from some of their seats to give women opportunities, as women are 50% the population of every country, head households in many places, are educated, and will represent the people.
Hind: We need democracy to function. I think that both Israeli and Palestinian society suffer from reduced democracy in the 21st century. We need to work on this issue first before we move forward.
Galia: We agree with you, Ali, that there are plenty of countries that have women leaders, but we have to accept that they aren’t necessarily feminists and haven’t necessarily promoted women’s rights or helped us in this struggle. That’s why I return to my criticism of 1325. It’s not just a question of having women at the table. I always ask: Which women? Khuloud pointed out that role models are extraordinarily important. The more women we have up there, the more young women may decide to go into politics. I think that we can all agree that we have a legal framework and can turn to the courts, turn to international organizations, and could turn to our leaders and here in Israel and Palestine and say: “Hey, guys, enough.”
Lucy: We would like to hear now from our international participants. Ina, please start.
Ina Darmstaedter: Wow! Thanks so much to all of you. What I’ve heard today was really impressive. When I first heard about 1325, I felt that is the key because it’s an easy message. “Women to the peace table” is something that everybody in every country and around the world can understand without academic studies. It empowers and encourages women to go into politics. It’s binding international law, so governments cannot just ignore it; they can be held accountable. It’s also a tool for networking — one humanity umbrella. 1325 is perfect for that.
As any peace accord needs government agreement, I thought about the German role, and we called on the German Government to host a Middle East peace conference in Germany by implementing 1325. To promote this, we convened the first Canaan conference in 2004 and have continued them. The last one was held in 2018 in Berlin, when women in the Foreign Office addressed our government and called for a peace conference by implementing 1325. Whatever his motivation, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spoke last week for the first time about Germany being more proactive on the Palestinian issue in the future, and Ha’aretz just wrote that Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Angela Merkel last week about an international peace conference. This is very encouraging! Palestine is back, and where is Israel?
I think the big challenge is how women and, above all, Israeli women can unite and push their parliaments and the media to create a positive move so that governments are finally forced to return to the negotiation table and share it with women from civil society. I think it’s time to implement 1325, and our role as internationals is to push our governments to build a network of diplomats who are willing to do so. It’s not our role to be involved in the outcome or in the negotiations, but it’s our role to provide the space to meet and the resources so that those wonderful women and men who support 1325 meet and bring their wisdom and international law to the table. Thank you for all your engagement, for your commitment, and for empowering women.
Lucy: Thank you, Ina, for all you have done. I know you’ve worked really hard on helping with this PIJ issue and creating this workspace. We’re really grateful for all your efforts and support. Now to Srruthi.
Srruthi Lekha Raaja Elango: Thank you so much. I hope I am going to raise the voices of young people, especially internationally, because I come from India although I live and work in Germany. Working with groups and projects from different continents makes me more interested in working on WPS. I focus a lot on youth and how their involvement is necessary and pivotal for engagement and developing peace.
As a young person, I, like most young people my age, hear about these issues in the news or in social media, unlike the older generation that actually worked on developing 1325. We need more efficient participation and effective implementation of 1325. The younger generation is emerging as the majority of the population in all conflict zones. Young people are going to be the future generations; we’re going to lead the future decisions. This is a very important thing to consider: the need to involve young people, especially young women and girls, in decision-making processes, learning processes, and empowerment. It is very noncommittal to just say “bring young people to the table” without empowering them. Empowerment is necessary.
I would like to highlight an important fact. I believe that there is a necessity to combine 1325 with other resolutions that focus on the peace and security agenda. We have to integrate participation, partnerships, prevention, protection, and disengagement into the peace and security agenda, creating a more structured approach. I believe this would demonstrate that the international community is carrying out a strategy designed to protect the interests of youth and their safety amid mass atrocities in accordance with R2P (responsibility to protect), which is very important, and as an international concept. Despite being controversial at times, the R2P doctrine can serve a purpose to attain peace when we have commitment, especially on the part of states and non-state actors, and the empowerment of youth through peace, capacity-building, resourcing, education, advocacy, and mobilization. This is very important.
The big question is how we will do this when we have a huge lack of resources and face extremism, marginalization, ideologies that restrict youth participation, and especially the tension between the ideas of a liberal world and restrictive, conservative societal behavior. As a youth representative, I would love to see how we’re going to actually plan the involvement and empowerment of youth. As a small example, I’ve been working on a 1325 project, along with the Canaan Project, which is going to be focusing on the Palestine-Israel agenda itself. We will have young leaders and activists simulating the roles of leaders and the positions of the actual stakeholders. They will be studying the issue, participating as leaders, and making decisions, which will empower them with knowledge, responsibility, and commitment toward society. I think more of such things are required.
I thank everybody here for giving me such an amazing learning experience and inviting me to bring a different voice. It was very inspiring to hear all of you.
Lucy: Thank you. It occurs to me that you’re about the same age as 1325; that’s quite something. It was interesting to hear about the simulation, and I was happy to hear you bring in R2P, which of course is also very relevant in this situation and is perhaps another example of international law that could be made more use of. Our final speaker is Ursula.
Ursula Mindermann: First, I want to thank everyone who made it possible for me to join this conference. The annual meeting of the German-Palestinian Association will be organized around the special issue of women and Palestine. It will be held in Germany on May 21-23, 2021. This is a very important issue because, as you all mentioned, women do not participate in decision-making on political issues, and that’s why it was my idea to have only female speakers at the conference. I will provide you with details about this conference as soon as possible.
Lucy: Thank you, Ursula. We look forward to hearing more about the conference. I feel very sad to have to end this roundtable. I feel the issue warrants lots more discussion, and I really appreciate your persistence and stamina for nearly two hours. Galia, do you have some final comments?
Galia: I wanted to join you in thanking everybody. I think it’s been a fascinating conversation, and so many ideas and important points have been raised. I think we’re going to have a terrific PIJ issue. In addition to the terrific articles we’ve got, I think now we have some really valuable comments from this roundtable, and I’d like to have another one and give many more people a chance to speak. Thank you again, Lucy. It’s been great working with you. And thank you, Hillel and Ziad.
Lucy: I think we have a fantastic group of potential women who should be around the table making peace. We are all examples of how to do things and could all be role models. Thank you all, and good-bye.
On Nov. 30, 2020, the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ) convened a Zoom roundtable discussion on the topic of “Women, Peace and Security” for the special issue marking the 20th anniversary of the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. The Palestinian participants were Hind Khoury, former PLO ambassador to France and Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs; Tahani Abu Daqqa, a women’s rights activist in Gaza, head of the Cultural Development Association, and former PA minister; Randa Siniora, general director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC); and Dr. Khuloud Dajani, a professor of social medicine and health. The Israeli participants were former member of Knesset Etti Livni, who advanced 1325 legislation in the Knesset; Colette Avital, former MK and ambassador to Portugal; Prof. Daphna Hacker, head of the Women and Gender Studies program at Tel Aviv University; and Tal Schneider, diplomatic and political correspondent for Globes. The international participants were Karin Nordmeyer, president of UN Women National Committee for Germany; Ursula Mindermann, vice president of German-Palestinian Association; Ina Darmstaedter, founder of the Canaan Project; and Srruthi Lekha Raaja Elango, UN youth representative (India) for peacebuilding and leadership. The roundtable was moderated by Galia Golan and Lucy Nusseibeh, PIJ editorial board members and coordinators of this issue, and hosted by PIJ co-editors Hillel Schenker and Ziad AbuZayyad.