By Yvonne Ridley, UK
WHEN US President Donald Trump made an election pledge to move the American Embassy from tel Aviv to Jerusalem it was bound to cause a seismic reaction in an already volatile of the world and maybe that's why he shelved the plan when he got the keys to The White House.
Whatever his reason Zeev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection in Netanyahu's cabinet, began to stir the pot when he expressed how "disappointed" he was that Trump had not delivered on his campaign promise.
Whatever Elkin's motives - and I suspect it is malicious mischief - let's hope Trump does not rise to the bait and consigns the plan to the refuse bin for good.
Around the same time as Elkin was attempting to wind up Trump tens of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis were completing a two-week march for peace but while the media whipped out their pens to report on the Israeli minister's embassy jibe at Trump they ignored this amazing demonstration.
In fact it is unbelievable when you consider this column today is probably the first place you've read about this amazing initiative which failed to make headlines virtually anywhere in the world.
Trying to revive peace talks in the region since they last collapsed in 2014, is like trying to flog a dead horse and yet here was an initiative which should have captured the imagination of anyone interested in peace. Last month, on September 24 a march for peace swept through the Biblical deserts of Palestine and involved 30,000 women from both sides of the divide.
The Women Wage Peace movement rallied on the banks of the River Jordan near Jericho and included many who had been directly affected by the violence in the Israeli-led offensives against Palestine. One Israeli woman revealed that she was attacked and stabbed while pregnant, and a Palestinian mother said that she lost her son as a result of another violent stabbing; they marched together in unity.
Tens of thousands of women came together over a two week period and on Sunday evening several thousand, mostly Israelis, arrived in Jerusalem dressed in white, waving placards calling for peace. Co-organiser Marie-Lyne Smadja said that the march was meant to “give voice to those tens of thousands of Israeli Jewish and Arab women of the left, centre and right, and their Palestinian partners, who hand in hand, together, took this road towards peace.” Israeli women want to prevent the next war if they can and try as soon as possible to reach an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, she added. According to another organiser, Palestinian Huda Abuarqoub, from Hebron in the occupied West Bank, “This march is not only another protest, but also a way of saying that we want peace, and together we can obtain it.”
These two women were echoing the sentiments of tens of thousands of others who had joined them en route to Jerusalem, but the fact that it barely registered in the media speaks more about those who run the media and their news values than anything about the women themselves.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is so unpopular I doubt he could win an election even if he was the only candidate standing! His Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leads the most extreme right-wing government in the Zionist State’s relatively brief history and has shown he has no interest in any peace initiative.
To be frank the world has grown weary of these two and as long as they remain in power nothing will move forward in terms of peace. As long as the Middle East political landscape is dominated by these men and others like them, and as long as Western foreign policy is dictated by men like Trump, then peace will remain unattainable.
It' a view shared by Women Wage Peace co-founder, Amira Zidan, an Arab-Israeli mother, who told an AFP reporter. “The men who have power believe only in war, but with the strength of women we can bring something else, something new.”
The WWP movement drew on their historical and religious backgrounds as they erected a tent for peace which they called Hagar and Sarah after the mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the brother patriarchs of the Arabs and Jews. The women taking part came from virtually every political background, and from towns, cities and villages across the region.
Among them was Michal Froman, who was stabbed by a Palestinian in January 2016 while pregnant with her fifth child. “As a religious woman,” she told the AFP journalist, “I say that not to believe in peace is not to believe in God.” Women Wage Peace was established after Israel’s 50-day offensive against Gaza in the summer of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, including more than 500 children, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians. One of the first events that the women did was to fast in relays over 50 days in 2015, to remember, matching the length of the onslaught day for day.
In Cairo, the men from Hamas and Fatah came together for a reconciliation pact in a meeting brokered by Egypt this week. As far as the Palestinian Authority is concerned, the Egyptian government is lending support to both Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, both rivals to President Abbas. “The Egyptians are driven, in these efforts, by their own interests, not our interests,” a senior Fatah official briefed the media.
That brief and telling statement was made during the reconciliation talks. Let's face it, if Palestinian men like these can'r even get on together what hope is there to see this lot sit down in peace talks with anyone? Abbas and his team are strangers to the concept of unity and what it means. If the female descendants of Hagar and Sarah can put their differences aside and come together for peace, then how difficult can it be for the men?
Of course Abbas’s stumbling block is that he doesn’t even like or trust his own people. That being the case, the best thing the 82-year-old can do for peace is to walk away from his power base in Ramallah. It would be something if the Israeli leader did the same. As the WWP march arrived in Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu was holding a Bible studies class where he found time to issue this statement about Palestinian reconciliation efforts: “We’re not interested in fake reconciliation in which Palestinian parties reconcile with each other at the expense of our existence.”
He finds the victim card irresistible while showing he has nothing but contempt for words like unity and reconciliation. With such entrenched views, it’s little wonder that Israeli and Palestinian women have lost faith in their men to deliver peace and are doing it for themselves. Women Wage Peace is a great initiative which deserves massive publicity, so please make sure you share today's column to a wider audience.
These women deserve to be applauded and lauded for their work and not ignored.
(Sister Yvonne Ridley is an author and journalist living in the UK. Her latest books is called TORTURE: Does it work? Interrogation issues and effectiveness in the Global War on Terror. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Torture-Interrogation-issues-effectiveness-Global-x/dp/1782668306 )