Amidst all the news coming out of the war in Israel/Gaza, the story of Vivian Silver is the one that caught my attention.
Silver moved from Winnipeg to Israel in 1974 and was a longtime member of Women Wage Peace and other organizations campaigning for peace in the region.
She was dedicated to denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians; she had fought against the blockade of Gaza, in place since 2007, and would pick up Gazan children at the border to drive them to Israeli hospitals.
Vivian was killed by Hamas during the October 7 attack. I suspect that the people who murdered her didn't know who she was, but I'm also not convinced they would have cared. That's because nothing we've seen from Hamas (or Netanyahu) indicates they share Vivian's goal of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. As a matter of fact, a case can be made that women like her pose the greatest threat to the aims of both Hamas and Netanyahu.
Nearly 50 years of studying terrorism has taught me that the terrorists' worst enemies are always moderates & those who work for peace--sadly just like Ms. Silver. May her memory be a blessing. https://t.co/4X7B8f6b1f— Bruce Hoffman (@hoffman_bruce) November 15, 2023
The organization Vivian was involved with, Women Wage Peace, is the largest grassroots peace movement in Israel, including over 45,000 members. Here's their mission statement:
Women Wage Peace is a broad, politically unaffiliated movement, which is acting to prevent the next war and to promote a non-violent, respectful, and mutually accepted solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the active participation of women through all stages of negotiations.
Recently Women Wage Peace began a collaboration with Women of the Sun, their sister organization for Palestinian women. Just last year, Haaretz interviewed its directors, Reem Hjajara, Maram Zoual, and Layla Sheikh. About the collaboration, Hjajara says:
[I]f we can talk about our experiences, we can discuss the most difficult questions. We want the Israeli women to know what our lives are like under the occupation. I want them to know that the army uses Deheisheh [a Palestinian refugee camp] as a training camp, and that there are always soldiers there. We’re always afraid.”
She starts to cry and takes out her phone, showing me a shocking photograph of the bloody body of a young man lying on the street. “My son’s best friend in Deheisheh [Fadi Mohammad Ghattas] was recently killed by the army. He had been in our house only a few days before; he was a son to me,” Hjajara says.
“I want Israeli women to understand what it means when they send their children to the army,” adds Sheikh. “I know you love and want to serve your country, and that you believe you are protecting yourselves. But I want you to know what it means to us when you put guns in the hands of your children.”
As if in anticipation of the next question, Hjajara addresses Palestinian terror and extremism. “Settlers and soldiers attack Palestinians and some people break,” she says. “Our children do not feel they have a future and they’re depressed. Many commit suicide, and some of them hate so much that they attack Israelis – which is a form of suicide...
Hjajara concludes that she is excited about the [collaborative events with Women Wage Peace], but worries about her son. “He did believe in peace, but now, since he lost his friend, I don’t know what he thinks. He stays in the house and cries, and doesn’t eat or sleep. There is too much anger and sadness inside of him.
“Like most Palestinians, he wonders when his turn to be killed will come. That is why we must talk to each other and make peace, so mothers – both Palestinian and Israeli – won’t mourn their children anymore.”
Women from the two groups came together last year to issue a "Mothers' Call." Here's the opening statement:
We, Palestinian and Israeli women from all walks of life, are united in the human desire for a future of peace, freedom, equality, rights, and security for our children and the next generations.
All of that happened before the Hamas attack on October 7th and the Israeli assault on Gaza. Now Vivian is dead and God only knows the fate of Reem, Maram, and Layla. Why?
As Amanda Marcotte wrote, it all boils down to the lie that toxic masculinity will keep us safe (emphasis mine).
Feminists have long detailed how it's wrong to equate masculinity, especially toxic masculinity, with safety. For instance, the myth of chivalry is constructed around the idea that men need power over women in order to protect us. But, as feminists point out, what we're being "protected" from is male violence that only exists because men have so much power over women...Toxic masculinity isn't shielding us from danger. It's the reason we're not safe.If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it's that Netanyahu can't keep Israel safe and Hamas can't keep Palestinians safe. If we want peace, it's time to listen to the mothers.