05 July 2006

up in arms.

While I can adjust to scorching temperatures and no ice, the widespread prevalence of weapons in Israel is still (and will probably always be) disconcerting. I can handle the sight of armed, uniformed soldiers on busses and in restaurants, but those in civilian clothes still startle me, no matter how many I see. Last night at the pub, two soldiers walked in and laid large automatic weapons under their chairs like they were their purses. Just slid them under the table, ordered a beer, and lit up a cigarette to watch the end of the match. One soldier was in jeans and flip flops, the other in basketball shorts and a tank top, both carrying three-foot long automatic rifles. No one in the pub flinched, except for Erin and I. I can't decide if I feel safer knowing there's a trained marksmen three feet from my chair, or frightened knowing there's a loaded weapon lying on the floor of a crowded pub during a World Cup semifinals match. I think it's the latter, in any situation. I suppose the soldiers are fully aware of their weapons, but to me, it looks so careless, just slung over the back of a chair or lying on the floor...

As Tamla yells at MS Outlook in Hebrew (I don't speak the language, but it appears Outlook is winning), I'm researching 1325 as it applies to Israel. Isha's published two studies of Israeli women (Jewish and Arab, as well as some settlers and Palestinian feminists in the occupied territories) that have very harsh things to say about Israel's implementation (or lack thereof) of 1325. Women are horribily underrepresented in the Knesset, in peace negotiations, in the cabinet, security discourse, and elsewhere in government. Soldiers and security forces don't receive adequate training in protecting women and children from violence, including sexual assualt. Women's unique needs are not addressed in conflict situations, except in the rare case of female settlers, which has more to do with their status as settlers than as women. Grassroots women's peace organizations abound in Israel, but receive no government funding or positive media coverage, and Israel has refused to negotiate with the PA for a peaceful compromise, instead undertaking unilateral actions. Even Israeli Arab citizens, who in theory have the same rights as Israeli Jews, have been victims of violence at the hands of police and IDF forces. Israel is also one of the most heavily armed countries in the world, both in terms of military equipment and civilian-owned small arms.

While the government hasn't gone out of its way to help Israeli women, Isha's research suggests that in the case of Palestinian women, Israel has been outright repressive. Palestinian women are denied access to medical care, including prenatal, by checkpoints and degrading body searches. Women in prisons suffer more profound rights violations. Military operations in the OT disrupt the already sporadic access to basic needs for women and children. The only support received by Palestinian women comes from international aid organizations, despite conventions mandating fair treatment for occupied populations. While I was not surprised by accounts of violations of Palestinian women's rights, Isha's damning conclusions about Israel's treatment of its own women shocked me. Here is a Jewish Israeli organization accusing its government of violating nearly every human rights and international humanitarian law treaty and convention it has ever signed (if you'd like to read either of the studies, email me - jducey@gmail.com). I don't necessarily expect Israel to devote the same resources to the protections of Palestinian women as it would for Israeli women, but some regard for human rights law isn't an absurd expectation of a democratic government, is it?

No comments: