Gaza: It's a Man's War

The Action Plan is not just about bringing women into the decision-making fold, but also about broadening perspectives on conflict and redefining the very concept of “security.” Security, according to the document, encompasses:

protection from violence in public and private spaces; termination of the ongoing state of warfare; protection and advancement of political, civil, and economic rights; freedom from religious coercion; freedom from oppression born of denial of personal and collective rights; freedom from violence, which results in death and destruction among innocent people; and equal opportunities for women from all parts of society in the economy, education, employment, health, and housing. Moreover, the Action Plan is based on a definition of security which includes a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the establishment of agreed-upon national borders, withdrawal from occupied territories, prevention of future violent conflict, and the establishment of stable and enduring peace.

“Resolution 1325 is about protection in times of armed conflict, but it is also about prevention and participation,” said Chazan, the former Knesset member, who hails from the left-wing Meretz party, in an interview. “In terms of protection, we need to remember that this war really first and foremost affects civilians. A large number of casualties in Gaza are women and children, and a large number of Israelis traumatized by falling rockets are women and children. So the first issue is about protecting women’s lives.” 

Still, Chazan added, “Human security is not just security from military attacks. It’s physical, economic, and social security. It’s security to speak your mind even when you’re a minority opinion. It means that you wake up in the morning and you have something to put on the table for your kids. It means you can walk the streets at night without being afraid of being attacked. It means tolerance for the other. It also means security against attacks. But the goal of security against attacks means creating a climate for human security under the broadest terms.”

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There is reason to believe that bringing women into the highest echelons of power could help end the seemingly endless cycle of violence in the region. When a country is faced with terrorism—very real terrorism, such as the kidnapping and murder of three teenage boys in June, and the incessant and random barrage of Hamas rockets into Israel—there are many possible reactions ranging from vengeance to self-restraint, with an array of possibilities in between. There are also different paradigms for understanding the conflict, from the linear “us” versus “them” in which the point of fighting is to “win,” to more holistic frameworks that see force as necessary for self-defense but not a move to be deployed in a game of chess.

The tension between these two approaches was apparent in Israel immediately after the slaughter of the three teenagers. Some demanded blanket revenge while others urged just the opposite. Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of one of the murdered boys, called for compassion and reconciliation, and even paid a condolence call to the family of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir, who was murdered by Jewish extremists in an apparent revenge killing after news of the Israeli teens’ fate broke. 

“Only the murderers of our sons, along with those who sent them and those who helped them and incited them to murder—and not innocent people—will be brought to justice: by the army, the police, and the judiciary; not by vigilantes,” Fraenkel said. “No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Mohammed’s parents.”

Tariq Abu Khdeir's mother, Suha, shows a photo of her son after he was beaten by Israeli police. (Mahmoud Ilean/AP)

Fraenkel articulated a vision for addressing the conflict. But within days, violent Palestinian riots broke out, and Israel responded the way it always has, by attacking the enemy until Israel “wins.”

Israel could have reacted in other ways. “More women with different perspectives can prevent future conflicts,” Chazan said. “And then we can get to participation in peace-making and in the resolution of conflict. … Not every woman is anti-militaristic. But if you have a larger number of women, they expand the discourse. Their concerns are different, and their notions of security are about human security and not just military security. If we had the goal of human security, we would be in a different place.”

I am, of course, not suggesting that all women are leftists or that all men are excessively militaristic. Resolution 1325 is not based on concepts of natural or essential differences between women and men, but rather on the idea that different human beings have different lived experiences. It’s about ensuring that the experiences of 50 percent of the population are considered in all decision-making.

Gender equality does not happen by itself. It requires a plan, and leaders acting on that plan. According to a 2012 study by Harvard’s Women’s Policy Journal, European nations that adopted a national action plan related to Resolution 1325 successfully raised the proportion of women in government by 33 percent within two years of doing so. In countries including Holland, Rwanda, Sweden, the Philippines, and Uganda, the number of women in legal and defense administrations departments increased significantly. In nations such as Congo, Liberia, and Nepal, entire staffs were added to analyze gender representation at all levels of government. Colombia, Ireland, Serbia, and the Philippines passed laws to protect women from violence. Colombia, Congo, Sierra Leone, and Spain implemented multi-year, across-government plans to advance women’s representation in all areas of decision-making.

Israel can—and should—do the same. Only when women are considered equals will Israeli society be fully ready to forge a healthy, long-term, peaceful relationship with its neighbors. As Chazan explained, “Our job as women is not to cry and pick up the pieces. It’s to do something to make a difference.” 

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