Israel: Is something changing?

IssueSeptember 2006
Feature by Tali Lerner

I was told, as this current conflict began, that we - the opposition - are more than we were 25 years ago, during the previous invasion of Lebanon. Thousands went to the streets to try to stop this war. Anarchists and communists, Jews and Arabs, the older generation of war resisters and the newest generation, most of which weren't even born when the previous war took place.

Gender, power and violence

This was a battle of women trying to stop this war. It was women who organised the struggle, both Jewish and Arab. It was the women's organisations - lead by the Israeli Women's Coalition for Just Peace - that made this the voice of women saying no to the male-dominated violence, to the male values of war and violent struggles.

Our struggle was lead by women who fought to change what the struggle itself looks like, doing everything in our power to take it to the ordinary people in the street and not to keep it within our own three blocks of the radical left. We also put a lot of effort into keeping the demonstrations free of power struggles and of clashes with the police and the army. The struggle, as we wanted to see it, was different: that we, as people fighting against violence, should create demos that represent the community we are trying to create.

Rays of hope

I spent most of this war taking calls from soldiers and reserve duty personnel who were requesting assistance in objecting to their conscription. More than 600 people saw this war for what it was and chose to try not to become part of it.

As the war continued, our phones rang more and more and a small ray of hope came into my mind, that the repeating scenario of war in Lebanon is starting to be seen for what it is - another game of international power-play between the “Muslim fundamentalists” and the “American fundamentalists” and we, both Israel and Lebanon, are just small players in it, paying the price of death and destruction for others.

The games we play

If there was a mission I could give to the international movements against this war, and against all those wars in the Middle East, it would not be to rally against Israel, this will only keep intact the “we're all alone and have to protect ourselves” syndrome of the Israeli people.

If I could ask you all to do one thing it would be to be aware and expose the politics behind these wars, to reveal all the games that are played on the international level and the role your countries play in it - as supporters or objectors - for their own reasons. To show both Israel and Hezbollah that they are being used; to shout the stupidity of it all, so it crosses the barriers of both the anti-terror and anti-Israel speeches that are being made.

A turning tide?

So I go back and ask myself - is something changing? I know we as the Israeli peace movement are changing and I think that, despite the overdose of nationalism and racism Israel is awash with.

I can see that a different and new current, of questioning what is happening, will perhaps take us to a better place where we choose nonviolence.