Forum meets to discuss peace movement

For the Daily
Published September 22, 2002

A group of about 20 people gathered yesterday for tea and a passionate discussion about the Israeli peace movement. The small forum, attended mostly by senior citizens, featured Aliyah Strauss, an Israeli-American and president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

"People always ask me why I'm doing this, and I tell them that I have five reasons," she said, tearing up as she showed a picture of her five grandchildren who live in Jerusalem.

Strauss, who lives in Jaff in the southern part of Tel Aviv, advocated for a non-violent conclusion to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

"While the politics of peace are complex, one beginning is simple: Peace requires people's affirmation of human connection and willingness to live in proximity and relation with one another," said a piece of literature handed out during the forum.

"We need to pool our human and financial resources together to really make a difference," Strauss said. "We're hoping for grassroot movements to demand the support of organizations other than government institutions."

In a recent survey conducted by the organization Search for Common Ground, Strauss pointed out that an overwhelming number of Palestinians said they would support and participate in a large, non-violent demonstration, and 80 percent of Israelis polled acknowledged that a Palestinian state was inevitable.

"If the public is dovish, then why do the polls show continued support for Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon?" Strauss said. "Because the Israeli government is a hawk government."

Strauss emphasized the role of women in the peace process, and their support of Women in Black, an organization that began in Jerusalem to protest occupation.

"We dress in all black as a sign of mourning for those who have been lost, and stand in busy intersections," Strauss said. "On Aug. 10, 500 of us marched into Bethlehem to meet with our Palestinian supporters, but we were prevented by the military who told us that Bethlehem had been closed for the day."

Strauss commended women on their participation in the Jerusalem Link, a program designed to maintain an ongoing dialog between Palestinian and Israeli women.

"The women are not afraid to sit down and talk, even if they don't agree, they are able to discuss democratically," Strauss said.

"I feel like this is a bridge movement," said Jilnar Mansour, a member of the International Solidarity Movement and a participant in Women in Black.

"We want people to know that there is an active peace movement in Palestine and Israel," Strauss said. "We're out there, we're working and we need your support."