United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for a more active role for women in the prevention and reconciliation of conflicts. Focusing on the Palestinian Right of Return and the work of a feminist organization called the Jerusalem Link, this paper examines Resolution 1325's premise that women can make a unique contribution to peace building. As "transfer" or the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza looms on the horizon, scholars, advocates, and policy-makers must pay more attention to the work of women peace-builders because they might be able to help chart a path towards a real and just solution on seemingly intractable issues such as the Right of Return.
On October 21, 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 to promote a more active role for women in the prevention and reconciliation of conflicts. Resolution 1325 calls for "equal participation and full involvement of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution." (1) This paper examines Resolution 1325's premise that women can make a unique contribution to peace building while focusing on one of the most contested aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian Right of Return.
Not surprisingly, the Palestinian Right of Return represents a hard case for Security Council 1325. Debates over the Right of Return have generated controversy and anger on both sides of the conflict. Palestinians contend that refusal to recognize the Right of Return forms part of a consistent pattern of Israeli colonialization and determination to deny Israel's responsibility for massive refugee suffering. (2) Israelis tend to argue that Palestinian insistence on the Right of Return represents a cynical plot to destroy Israel through the back door. (3) If women can help build the conditions necessary for peace and coexistence in the Israeli-Palestinian context, then they should be able to live up to the expectations of Security Council Resolution 1325 in other contexts.
This paper draws on interviews and discussions held with Israeli and Palestinian women in August 2002. (4) Emphasis is placed on a joint Israeli-Palestinian initiative called Jerusalem Link. Jerusalem Link's work with respect to the Right of Return suggests that, despite the odds, women can make and have made a unique contribution to shaping coexistence with and understanding of the "other." Jerusalem Link's efforts not only point to the possibility of an alternative framework for approaching the Palestinian Right of Return, but also suggest the efficacy of Security Council Resolution 1325.
Part I of this paper provides a brief overview of Jerusalem Link's work on the Palestinian Right of Return. Part II delineates the reasons why the women of Jerusalem Link believe that they have succeeded in continuing dialogue on the Right of Return despite the failure of the region's politicians. Part III extrapolates from the work of Jerusalem Link to draw conclusions about the nature of Security Council Resolution 1325. Ultimately, with the Palestinians sitting on the precipice of yet another refugee crisis under the current Israeli administration, scholars, policy analysts, or citizens concerned with the Middle East can no longer afford to ignore the work of Jerusalem Link or the Security Council's call for women's equal participation in promoting peace and security.
I. Jerusalem Link's Unique Contribution Regarding the Right of Return
Following a series of meetings first convened in Brussels in 1989, Jerusalem Link was formed in 1994 as a coordinating body of two independent women's centres: Bat Shalom, which is located in Israel, and the Jerusalem Center for Women, which is located in Palestine. Although each organization is autonomous and focuses on its own national constituency, the two organizations run joint programs promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and women's leadership. …