Becoming Humane - Being Humane

Evolution of the Humane - Globalisation of Peace - World in Balance

Authentic Testimony of Contemporary Witnesses

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by Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997, made this speech in Strasbourg on International Women's Day 2006

Thank you for inviting me to this today. It is always an honour and a pleasure to be here, among you (at the European Parliament).

However, I must admit I believe you should have invited a Palestinian woman in my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in my country are the Palestinian women. And I would like to dedicate my speech to Miriam R'aban and her husband Kamal, from Bet Lahiya in the Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers while picking strawberries in the family's strawberry field. No one will ever stand trial for this murder.

When I asked the people who invited me here why didn't they invite a Palestinian woman, the answer was that it would make the discussion too localized.

I don't know what is non-localized violence. Racism and discrimination may be theoretical concepts and universal phenomena but their impact is always local, and real. Pain is local; humiliation, sexual abuse, torture and death, are all very local, and so are the scars.

It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army, has expanded around the globe. In fact, state violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence which is hardly ever addressed and which is half-heartedly condoned by most people in Europe and in the USA.

This is because the so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb.

Great France of "la liberte égalite et la fraternité" is scared of little girls with head scarves. Great Jewish Israel is afraid of the Muslim womb which its ministers call a demographic threat.

Almighty America and Great Britain are infecting their respective citizens with blind fear of the Muslims, who are depicted as vile, primitive and blood-thirsty, apart from their being non-democratic, chauvinistic, and mass producers of future terrorists. This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican, and one is a non-devout Jew.

I have never experienced the sort of suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour, I don't know the kind of violence that turns a woman's life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished, who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal family life: this is not part of my personal ordeal.

But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence against children is actually violence against mothers. Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all in the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world, - and in the name of this freedom and enlightenment rob us of our children.

Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian, and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters. They are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses , though they may have various illustrious names - such as Democracy, Patriotism, God, Homeland - are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.

We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenous group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset, as they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: 'I gave him birth, I breast-fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is worth less than a piece of land.'

All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting indoctrination, to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home, or be proud of their dead bodies.

And all of us were brought up to bear all this silently, to contain our fear and frustration, to take Prozac for anxiety, but never hail Mama Courage in public. Never be real Jewish or Italian or Irish mothers.

I am a victim of state violence. My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I had to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the instrument of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals.

Living in the world I live in, in the state I live in, in the regime I live in, I don't dare to offer Muslim women any ideas how to change their lives. I don't want them to take off their scarves, or educate their children differently, and I will not urge them to constitute Democracies in the image of Western democracies that despise them and their kind.

I just want to ask them humbly to be my sisters, to express my admiration for their perseverance and for their courage to carry on, to have children and to maintain a dignified family life in spite of the impossible conditions my world is imposing on them. I want to tell them we are all bonded by the same pain, we all the victims of the same sort of violence even though they suffer much more, for they are the ones who are mistreated by my government and its army, sponsored by my taxes.

Islam in itself, like Judaism in itself and Christianity in itself, is not a threat to me or to anyone. American imperialism IS, European indifference and co-operation is, and Israeli racism and its cruel regime of occupation is. It is racism, educational propaganda, and inculcated xenophobia that convince Israeli soldiers to order Palestinian women at gun-point, to strip in front of their children for security reasons; it is the deepest disrespect for the other that allows American soldiers to rape Iraqi women, that gives license to Israeli jailers to keep young women in inhuman conditions, without necessary hygienic aids, without electricity in the winter, without clean water or clean mattresses, and to separate them from their breast-fed babies and toddlers. To bar their way to hospitals, to block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to uproot their trees, and prevent them from cultivating their fields.

I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I don't know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect from the whole world. All I know is that the voice of mothers has been suffocated for too long in this war-stricken planet. Mothers's cries are not heard because mothers are not invited to international s such as this one. This I know and it is very little. But it is enough for me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that I should cry for them, and fight for them. And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race- and religion dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies, and ask what Anna Akhmatova - another mother who lived in a regime of violence against women and children - asked: Why does that streak of blood rip the petal of your cheek?

'Never Again' Does Not Mean 'An Eye for an Eye'

By Lucinda Marshall

My family is Jewish. When I was growing up, we were taught to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly. The lessons of the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist were drummed into us. Never again, we said.

Today however, we seem paralyzed by an eye-for-an-eye mentality between Israel and its neighbors. The other day I received a very slick multi-media presentation that explained that the deaths of 123 Israeli kids between October, 2000 and January, 2005 as justification for Israel's current military campaign. Yet more than 300 children have been killed in Lebanon in recent days and 31 children were killed in Gaza during the month of July alone. This line of reasoning bears an uncomfortable similarity to the Bush Administration's use of the deaths on September 11 as justification for the killing of tens of thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet the American Jewish community, which provides substantial financial support to Israel, doggedly continues to buy off on Israel's foreign policy. In a letter to the editor of the Louisville (KY) Courier Journal, David Kaplan, the Chair of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Community Federation of Louisville writes,

"Israel is simply acting as a moral, democratic nation should act when faced with the most difficult wartime circumstances."

Mercy, justice and "Thou Shalt Not Kill" have sadly become empty platitudes in the Judaism of might makes right that Mr. Kaplan represents.

Let me be very clear about this, I do not support or condone terrorism or human rights violations by any party, and certainly not the killing of innocent civilians, especially children. Nor do I believe that all the blame for the current situation lies with Israel, it does not.

Yet whenever I have the temerity to speak out against violence as a solution in the Middle East, it is patiently explained to me that I do not understand the history behind the current situation. Thousands of years of history that have brought us to the current situation, a history that includes the Holocaust. Surely the genocide committed against our own people should be enough to make us understand?

But none of this is actually to the point. Continuing to rehash a debate that has gone on for this long is not going to lead to peace. What the Jewish community, particularly American Jews who donate so generously to Israel, must do is to acknowledge the reality of the current situation, and that is this:

--As of August 4, 3000 people have been wounded in Lebanon and 900 are dead according to the BBC. One third of those are children. During the same period, 62 Israelis have died, 4 of them civilians.

--Bombing of roads and bridges in Lebanon has made evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid almost impossible. Bombs have landed on a UN post, an ambulance and a refugee convoy holding white flags.

--As many as 1,000,000 have been displaced from their homes, mostly women and children.

--The Mount Naftali Forest in northern Israel has been destroyed by Hezbollah rocket strikes and more than 110,000 barrels of oil have spilled into the Mediterranean in the aftermath of the Israeli bombing of a coastal power plant. The oil slick has covered 1/3 of the Lebanese coast and contains cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene. The magnitude of the spill may rival the Exxon Valdez spill, according to UN experts. Assessment of the damage and cleanup is impossible with continued Israeli bombing, jeopardizing ocean life with damage that may extend to the shores of Greece and Cyprus if immediate action is not taken.

--Human Rights Watch reports that the Israelis are using cluster bombs and there have been numerous reports of phosphorous munitions being used. Both are illegal under international law. More frighteningly, depleted uranium expert Dr. Doug Rokke has confirmed Israel's use of bunker busters obtained from the United States that have uranium warheads. As Dr. Rokke points out,

"We've got all the Lebanese being effected, all the women and children being affected, all the Israelis being effected, and the areas over there are so small you're going to have the whole region effected and contaminated."

--The hostilities between Israel and Lebanon have not lessened the violence in Gaza where things grow increasingly more desperate. Since June 28, 164 Palestinians have been killed, and over 600 wounded. During the same time period, 25 Israelis have been killed. Palestinians have fired approximately 300 homemade rockets, the Israelis have fired 3000 artillery shells in at least 217 bombings. The problems of malnutrition (affecting more than half of Gaza's children), limited healthcare access, electrical shortages (affecting 1.5 million people), lack of essential medicines, contaminated water and untreated sewage are unrelenting and growing problems in Gaza, according to the United Nations.

There is nothing moral or democratic about any of this. The Australian Section of the by Women's International League For Peace And Freedom (WILPF) points out that, "?if past injustices are accepted as sufficient reason to oppress and kill others, then there never can be an end to war and oppression." And as author and Holocaust survivor Silvia Tennenbaum writes,

"The time is long overdue for Jews to return to their role as the world's conscience, who come to the aid of the dispossessed, the wretched of the earth. Once again, we must join those who demand the end to unjust wars - in Iraq as well as Lebanon - and an unjust occupation in Gaza. We must honor the example of American civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, not that of the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein or Yigal Amir, killer of Yitzhak Rabin."

As Jews we must rethink the meaning of Never Again and realize that it applies not only to our own religion but to all people, even those we see as enemies. We must finally accept that An Eye for an Eye has truly made us blind. Only then can we begin the long road to real peace and security in the Middle East.

Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Counterpunch, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Countercurrents, Z Magazine , Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse. She blogs at WIMN Online. Source:

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Emanzipation Humanum, version April 2006, Criticism, suggestions as to form and content, dialogue, translation into other languages are all desired