In November 2000, a month after the breaking of the second intifada, in a tense atmosphere and a sense of emergency, a group of women met at Heinrich Böll Foundation offices in Tel Aviv. These were women who were looking for ways to express their protest against the violence used by Israeli occupation in the occupied territories and the wrath of the Zionist left-wing movements that accepted the “no partner” version promoted by the government, from a feminist perspective. The women who attended the meeting were feminist peace activist who were active in the anti-occupation movement since the first intifada. They agreed that there is a need in an organizing platform for feminist peace and human rights organizations, to prevent further disintegration of the feminist left space, and shared a desire to continue the joint activities of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. They established the Coalition of Women for Peace.
The new organization included nine feminist organizations, of them veteran groups such as Women in Black, Movement of Democratic Women in Israel (TANDI), the Israeli branch of WILPF – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Women for Coexistence (Neled) Noga Feminist Journal and younger networks such as Women and Mothers for Peace (some of which have in past Four Mothers movement and later founded the Fifth Mother), New Profile and Machsom Watch. Later, the coalition was joined by independent women, who were not involved in existing organizations. The same month, in a conference held in Nazareth “the feminist vision for peace”, the coalition phrased its founding principles.
That same month, founding principals were agreed upon at the Nazareth “Feminist Vision for Peace” conference: the struggle to end the occupation on the basis of two states for two peoples, Jerusalem as two capitals for two states, a just solution to the refugee problem based on UN resolutions, involvement of women in peace negotiations, reducing Israel’s militarism, social and economic justice for all, equal citizenship of the Palestinian citizens and integration of Israel into the Middle East. The symbol of the movement consisted of the cycle of universal peace integrated in the feminist Venus circuit; The original name was the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, in time the name was shortened to the Coalition of Women for Peace.
Today CWP continues to work on both these channels. Part of its work remained coordination and connection between anti-occupation and feminist organizations. Another part of CWPs work is promoting its unique initiatives such as “Who Profits from the Occupation” project, which investigates the involvement of Israeli and international corporations in the occupation and FORA: Russian-speaking Activists Forum, where migrant women are working to change attitudes in the Russian speaking community in Israel. In time, CWP has acquired a central status in the peace movement and became a prominent voice in the struggle for social change.
CWP asked people to begin talking about peace in a way that takes into account historical and contemporary justice. Historical justice includes taking responsibility for past injustices, and contemporary justice includes a promise of equality between the two peoples, as well as economic and social justice within the two societies. CWP rejects the existing power relations between Israelis and Palestinians, which are exploited by the Israeli government to impose long term inequality and exploitation on the Palestinian people.
Yet, as a feminist movement, the Coalition has never settled for looking “outwards”, towards inequality in the public sphere or among nations. CWP insists on working on power relations within the organization itself. As difficult as it may be, we insist on brining to the surface complex issues of working together as Jewish and Palestinian women, migrant women, economically and culturally oppressed groups, as well as straight, lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people.
CWP is an ongoing project of hundreds of women who develop theory, practice and activity. CWP is a non-hierarchical organization, run by the assembly which meets once a month and is open every woman who wishes to become active. The assembly discusses the activities and projects and makes decisions by consensus. In addition to the plenum, the coalition runs steering and ad-hoc committees which make decisions regarding administrative issues and execute the decisions of the plenum. CWPs structure is designed to allow as many activists to take part in decision-making, planning and doing. Join us!