Read a powerful letter by Global Fund CEO & President Kavita Ramdas demanding an end to all the ongoing violence in Gaza.
As I write, fighting rages on in Gaza. We call upon the Israeli government, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and their respective allies to stop: stop the statements essentially condoning the status quo, stop the rockets, missiles, and the carnage - now. We call upon the United Nations and political leaders in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, to demand that the warring factions immediately end hostilities, no pre-conditions. Precious lives - not Israeli or Palestinian - simply human lives - are at stake and they matter. They always have.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict does not lend itself to easy solutions or simple analysis. The issues cannot be neatly compartmentalized; passions run high, distrust runs deep. Political leaders in Israel and Palestine are quick to claim that they seek peace, yet their actions suggest otherwise. This latest chapter builds on an increasingly asymmetrical and unequal conflict between the government of Israel and the people of Gaza, who today live in a no-man's land that has neither the status of an independent state, nor the recognition of the world community.
The Israeli military air attacks on Gaza have exacerbated what the United Nations calls a “humanitarian crisis of significant proportions”. The fact that collective punishment of civilians is still happening around the world in the 21st century is appalling. That it continues under the watch of a world community that has promised more than once, “never again” is even more so.
The violence of the past few days has already claimed over 400 lives and injured and maimed more than 2000 most of whom are civilian residents of Gaza, including women and children. They are caught in an impossible situation over which they have no control and one that threatens their fundamental right to live in peace.
We have said it before and will say it again: when governments and non-governmental actors choose military action as their primary response to conflict, women and children suffer most. As the backbone of their communities, women around the world still bear primary responsibility for feeding and caring for the family, tending to the sick and providing a stable environment. Performing such tasks under conditions of war can be and often is, as dangerous as being a soldier on the front lines. Worse, women can be trapped in their homes or bomb shelters unable to provide for their families—so children go hungry, the sick get sicker, communities suffer.
At the Global Fund for Women, we hold fast to the prospect of new, possibly more enlightened leadership. Few of us were naïve enough to believe that violence would magically end; the recent massacres in the DRC and the November attacks in Mumbai, India were stark reminders of the deadly sway of militarism. Yet we held out some hope that with the right degree of political will and commitment from the international community, warring factions might consider coming to the negotiating table once more; putting people and peace first, instead of money and power. Clearly, we are still far from that ideal.
Yet, it was with a sense of hope that I ended my phone exchange with Majeda Al Saqqa, a grantee partner and advisor based in Gaza, who continues to work for peace; even as bombs fell around her. I have hope because of the Coalition of Women for Peace, a network of Israeli women’s groups that has already issued a strong statement condemning the current violence. Their resoluteness reminds me of the courage and resilience demonstrated daily by women who face such situations around the world.
Perhaps, Gaza is our clarion call: to dismantle militarism as the dominant ideology in world politics; to require Israel to comply with UN resolutions regarding the status of the Palestinians, to hold the UN to its commitments to expand peacekeeping forces and negotiating teams to include more women; and to ensure that women can take the lead in building a lasting peace.
The Global Fund for Women intends to be there for Majeda and the thousands of women like her around the world who face injustice, fear, discrimination, occupation, and violence. We urge the world community, including governments in the region, their powerful allies in the Global North, and the United Nations to stand with us. The women of the world deserve peace now.