Posted by on June 07, 2013 in Blog

By: Matt Haugen

Summer 2013 Intern

On June 4th, the office of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) held a panel discussing the challenges to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a specific emphasis on the role of both Israeli and Palestinian women in the peace process. The panel consisted of female activists from both Israel and Palestine and conversation focused primarily on how women are disproportionately affected by the conflict, especially in issues of illegal settlements, the separation wall, and the inability to travel freely between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Betty Herschman of Ir Amim called attention to the increasing number of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem not initiated by the Israeli government, but enjoying the protection of the IDF. Specific note was made of the disruptiveness of these settlements towards Palestinian communities and their toll on women and children. Tania Hary of Gisha echoed these concerns and spoke at length about how travel restrictions impacted the educational horizons of the 75% of Gazans under the age of 30. She also drew parallels between the Israeli ban on Gazans studying in the West Bank since 2000 and the rise of Hamas in Gaza, which coincided with the new educational restrictions. Herschman and Hary, as well as the sole Palestinian voice on the panel, Salwa Duaibis of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, seemed to agree that the conflict is exacerbated by disruptive Israeli policies. However, Lior Finkel, Israeli Project Director of the Palestinian Israeli Peace NGO Forum touted the ability of Palestinians and Israelis to cross borders and communicate on a human level, a claim which was disputed by both Duaibis and Palestinian attendee Dr. Thabet Abu Rass of Adalah. Indeed, Palestinian and Jewish interaction is legally restricted in the West Bank (as the IDF writes on their blog) a direct contradiction of Finkel’s statement.

Finkel’s claim raises an interesting point on the peace process: while everything the panelists discussed—from human rights violations to social inequality—contributes to the ongoing strife, the true challenge to the advancement of the peace process is an underlying lack of trust endemic to the region. When in Congresswoman Johnson’s closing remarks she stated, “There is no problem that cannot be solved with education and communication,” she failed to note the need for this communication and education to be truthful. The congresswoman should be applauded for her efforts to bring together differing viewpoints, but what US policymakers desperately need is the ability to see beyond the readily apparent and address the true nature of the problem.

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