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News ::
Boston Women in Black Vigil
27 Jul 2001
As they do the fourth Thursday of every month, Boston Women in Black gathered for a vigil at Coolidge Corner in Brookline in protest of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Monthly Women in Black Vigil in Brookline in Protest of Israeli Occupation of Palestine

by Matthew Williams

Brookline, MA; July 26, 2001--Today, as they do the fourth Thursday of every month, Boston Women in Black gathered for a vigil at Coolidge Corner in Brookline in protest of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. From 5:30-6:30 about twenty women dressed in black moved in a circle along the sidewalk in silence. They held black signs in the shape of open hands with such messages as “End the Occupation” and “Settlements are Obstacles to Peace.”

According to Susan Jacoby, one of the co-founders of Boston Women in Black, they are out there “in solidarity with the Israeli peace group Women in Black that does this every week in Israel. . . . Our main point is that Israel has to end the occupation, to pull back from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

She described the conditions Palestinians endure in the occupied territories: “It’s an army against a defenseless people, by and large--there’s a few people on the [Palestinian] side that are doing things that aren’t that pleasant, but the reaction to it is overwhelmingly out of proportion to what’s going on. The Palestinians are starving. . . . The Palestinians are living under siege. They can’t move, they can’t travel, they can’t get out of their villages. Israel forces now most recently are destroying wells on top of destroying houses. They’re really making it hard for Palestinians to live their daily life.”

The flyers one of the Women in Black hands out to passers-by makes it clear that their goal is “peaceful coexistence”. They “have been deeply troubled by the escalation of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which deters our hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”

Women in Black began in Jerusalem in 1988 shortly after the beginning of the first intifada (Palestinian uprising against the Occupation). It rapidly spread to other parts of Israel, with Jews and Arabs frequently holding vigils together, and from there to the rest of the world. After the Oslo pseudo-peace process began, many of the Women in Black vigils ceased because people wanted to believe the Oslo process would bring constructive change. A small core group in Jerusalem continued to hold vigils and when Oslo completely foundered and the second intifada started in September, participation in Women in Black picked up again.

This was the fourth time Boston Women in Black had gathered since the start of the second intifada. Jacoby said that this time around they consciously chose to do “it in Coolidge Corner, which is one of the centers of the Jewish community in Boston. . . . We feel it’s important for Jews to start being more publicly critical of Israel.”

Their flyer also notes the responsibility all U.S. citizens have: “We are dismayed to see our own U.S. government support [Israel’s] self-destructive strategy by providing weapons that bring about so much suffering and destruction and encourage long-term enmity. . . . Although Israel has its own arms industry, most of its arms are manufactured in the United States and purchased with $1.8 billion yearly in U.S. military aid to Israel. . . . We call for a suspension of all arms shipments to Israel until the achievement of a just and lasting peace.”

About half the passers-by ignored the vigil, about half took the offered flyers. One woman in a car shouted that the Palestinians are baby-killers. Jacoby walked up to her window and told her that the tragedy is that there are baby-killers on both sides. The woman was not interested in Jacoby’s point. Jacoby said that while they do sometimes get that sort of angry reaction from people, it’s not the norm. “By and large, overwhelmingly, the response is good. A lot of people coming by don’t know anything about it; they take our literature and are interested. . . . Jews come to us and thank us.”

Despite the grim state of things as the Israeli government apparently prepares for a massive re-invasion of the Occupied Territories, Jacoby does see some hope. “There’s certainly a drum beat for war going on within Israel. But there’s also critical forces within Israel; there’s a lot of people doing civil disobedience, there’s growing numbers of people who are refusing to serve [in the military], not just reservists, but young men being drafted. There are little match lights of hope even within Israeli society.”

Anyone who would like more information on the Women in Black vigil or to find out other ways they can help end the occupation should e-mail .
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