The 13th International Conference of Women in Black will take place in Jerusalem at the end of August 2005 (probably 4-5 days during the last week of August). Most of the conference sessions will be held in Jerusalem. Part of the conference program will include visits to Palestinian cities and towns to learn about the tragedy of occupation (the infamous separation wall, the checkpoints, etc.) and also in order to demonstrate our opposition to the occupation and all its attendant violence.
The conference is being held in Israel/Palestine at the request of the participants of the previous Women in Black conference held in Italy in August 2003. (We also held one of the international conferences in Jerusalem in Dec-Jan 1994-95).
We are in close touch and consulting with Luisa Morgantini and other women who organized the previous conference, as well as members of Women in Black vigils in many other countries, to ensure that the conference reflects as broad a spectrum of our concerns as possible. The conference will not deal only with the Israeli-Palestine conflict, but with the broader issues of women, war, and peace-making. We will be inviting women to share with us your thoughts about the proposed theme when we send it out, and in general to tell us your opinions and preferences.
The conflict in the Middle East must be solved by both sides together, Israel and Palestine, and therefore it would be wrong for only Israeli women to be organizing this conference. However, since there is no movement of Women in Black in Palestine, and since the Israeli army prevents us from entering each other’s areas (only internationals are allowed to cross), there are great difficulties in trying to plan this jointly. Nevertheless, Women in Black of Israel are committed to involving Palestinian women in planning and implementing the conference. This partnership is a priority for us, and we shall do our best to make it possible for Palestinian women to plan, attend, and have their voices fully heard at the conference. We shall also be asking Palestinian women to conduct the fact-finding mission when the internationals cross into the occupied territories.
We are painfully aware that some of the most courageous Women in Black in the world have been banned by the Israeli authorities from entering this region because of their previous human rights work in Palestine. Others would like to attend, but cannot afford to come. We deeply regret this, and will make every effort through the use of modern technology to make the deliberations accessible to our sisters who cannot attend.
We are also determined to bring to this conference as many activist women as possible from distant regions of conflict - in Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq, some countries of Africa, etc. - so they can enrich us with their experiences and take from us the power of our solidarity. To that end, we are issuing a call to Women in Black from privileged countries everywhere:
You can make a major contribution to our common efforts for a peaceful world by sponsoring the costs of participation of women from these regions. We call upon vigils of Women in Black throughout the world to take up collections to make possible the participation of these women. More about this, too, in coming communications.
We in Israeli Women in Black know that there has been concern about the conference - where, when, who is organizing, when will information be available. We would like to explain that the delay is directly related to our commitment to maximize cooperation with Palestinian women. Organizing a conference of this magnitude is always a complex undertaking, and trying to do it across lines of conflict and inequality makes it doubly difficult. We ask for your understanding; we are determined not to sacrifice good process for the sake of rapid decisions. This will make planning a much more arduous effort, but the product will undoubtedly be richer, more egalitarian, more feminist, and more powerful for everyone.
So please bear with us about the details. We have opened a communication line where Johanna Alberti, a volunteer from the UK who has stood at Jerusalem Women in Black for several months, will be responding to your questions.
Our address for purposes of this conference: firstname.lastname@example.org
We would love to have as many of you as possible with us this August.
Women in Black Organizing Committee