Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab and Jewish Women Discuss Peace and Reconciliation

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab and Jewish Women Discuss Peace and Reconciliation

Article excerpt

As the political climate between Palestinians and Israelis falls deeper into the abyss and humanitarian conditions in the cccupied territories rapidly deteriorate, Yehudit Keshet and Mai Nassar still believe in peace and coexistence. Keshet, a Jewish activist who documents human rights abuses at Israeli military checkpoints, and Nassar, a Palestinian Christian university professor, are touring the United States to spread awareness and hope. As part of the annual "Jerusalem Women Speak" tour organized by Partners for Peace, they appeared Oct. 14 at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC.

Keshet described the more than 200 Israeli checkpoints throughout the West Bank as "military installations" that enable Israel to maintain control over Palestinians, who as a result cannot move between West Bank villages and cities. "This causes a total paralysis of Palestinian society," Keshet explained.

In February 2001 she and other Israeli women launched Checkpoint Watch, after they heard of several instances of Palestinian women having to give birth at checkpoints where Israeli soldiers denied them passage to hospitals. Today, 200 Jewish women are members of Checkpoint Watch.

According to Keshet, "What we have seen is a whole system of arbitrary control." The decision whether or not to let someone pass is left to the discretion of young Israeli soldiers whose awareness of human rights is very minimal. Although Keshet admits that Checkpoint Watch has failed to increase people's awareness of human rights violations, the group has succeeded in documenting what is happening on the ground.

Keshet stressed that the military checkpoints have no function in providing security, but are erected merely to tighten control over the Palestinians. By their presence at these military barriers, Keshet maintained, Checkpoint Watch members are showing Palestinians that there are Israelis who understand what is happening to them and who support their "just cause. …

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