I spent 70 quid on freshers tickets. Somebody hold me
I got 3 A*s and tonight I ate profiteroles and drank wine with my boyfriend
For some sixteen years from 1993, the organization Bat Shalom had an office in Jerusalem and a partnership with the East Jerusalem Center for Women. Together they called themselves the Jerusalem Link. Their purpose was co-operation between Jewish and Palestinian women in activism for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights and the achievement of justice and statehood for the Palestinian people. More precisely, the women in the bus that day were part of an outlying northern branch of Bat Shalom, drawing its membership from across the Galilee, the Jezreel Valley and the Wadi Ara. The Jewish women were mainly inhabitants of the agricultural kibbutzim and moshavim in the area, while the Palestinians lived in neighbouring Arab towns such as Nazareth, Ara and Umm el-Fahm. The focus of this local branch differed somewhat from that of Bat Shalom in Jerusalem. They wanted an end to the Occupation, yes, of course, and recognition of the wrong done to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians scattered to the winds on the creation of the state of Israel. But they saw this as inseparable from the urgent issue of equality and justice for the Palestinian population who, though displaced from their land, remained within the borders of the Jewish state. Numbering almost a million and a half today, they are one-fifth of Israel’s population. Bat Shalom believed an Israel sufficiently democratic to afford them full inclusion and rights would surely result in a peace agreement in the whole region.
On Land Day this year, 2012, I was again in the Galilee. I had returned to look up the women of Bat Shalom I knew and wrote about fifteen years earlier. I went to the big rally held by Palestinians in the Arab town of Sakhnin, drawing thousands of women and men, girls and boys, with massed flags of the political tendencies, the Palestinian national flags for Hadash, the red hammer and sickle for Balad. But I found no Bat Shalom group with whom I could mark Land Day. For Bat Shalom of the North ended its activity in 2008, and Bat Shalom in Jerusalem a year later.
The reasons for its demise lie in a loss of hope. The Israeli peace movement as a whole is currently inert, with no peace process in sight for some years now. Intrusive Jewish settlement-building in the West Bank has deeply eroded the terrain formerly imagined as an independent state for Palestinians. The alternative to the ‘two state’ solution, that some radicals would in fact prefer, is the creation of a single multicultural state in the region, in which Jews, Palestinians and others would live in genuine equality and democracy. But the Likud coalition government in power since 2009, giving eminence to Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beit Einu party, has unleashed a vicious racism that makes any such anti-Zionist deviation less, not more, thinkable.
Yet Israel has to change if anything is to change for Palestinians, wherever they live. As Bat Shalom women always argued, equality is indivisible. That women are unequal citizens in Israel (and the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report for 2011 ranks it down at 55th, below most other developed countries), is related to the ecomic inequality that was the subject of mass urban protests in the summer of 2011. That too is related to the inequality of Israel’s Palestinian citizens on pragmatic measures of income, health and education. And that in turn is linked to the gross inequality (if one can call it that) of Israel and the Occupied Territories. As Sonia Zarchi, formerly of Bat Shalom, told me, ‘There can be no equality for women in relation to men or equality on any other dimension, until there is equality between Arab and Jew. All the equalities come, or fail to come, together.’ In this scenario, for the Occupation to end, Israel must simultaneously be reborn.