NABIHA MORKUS is a Palestinian member of Women in Black and secretary in Tel Aviv of Democratic Women, which, like Women in Black, includes both Jewish and Arab women. VIVIENNE PORZSOLT interviewed her for Green Left Weekly.
How did you come to join Women in Black?
I was waiting for a taxi when I saw a group of Women in Black. I asked them, "What is this?" They told me they were against the occupation. I thought, "It's not good to be only Jewish, we must be together, Jewish and Arab. We live together in the same country. We are more strong together than separate."
What has been the Israeli reaction to Women in Black?
When we demonstrate, they scream out abuse and make rude gestures. They tell us "Go to your kitchen, you are sluts. You want to sleep with Arafat." Across the street, the right-wing groups as well as the police sometimes throw stones at us.
After the years of occupation the Israeli people have changed. They have become violent and look on women as sex objects only. But we women can do more than bring children to life. We cannot watch Israeli television and see the pogroms and the blood and remain quiet. Also, Israeli women have their children going into the army.
I travel for half an hour to the demonstration and have done this for more than five years. For 35 years I have struggled for human rights, for my people. I think my children think I am not a good mother because I leave them. But what can I do? I cannot be quiet.
I am against killing by everyone. This is not the way to make peace. If the Palestinian people are killed or throw stones, the Israeli media, always, always says, "They are terrorists". But the Israeli army kills thousands of children.
Yet after only two to three months of the Iraqi occupation [of Kuwait], the world, led by the USA, launched a war and that occupation finished in a short time. But in Israel, the occupation has continued for more than 27 years. Why? You know the Jewish food [distinctions] kosher [clean] and tref [unclean]. If the Iraqi occupation is tref, is the Israeli occupation kosher?
How did you feel when the Oslo Accords were signed?
I remember we felt very, very good. We thought this would be the end of all our problems. But after one year, the Israeli soldiers remain in parts of Palestine. Why do they stay in Jenin, Nablus, Jerusalem and all of the West Bank? Why do they stay out of only Gaza and Jericho?
Last week Democratic Women took a big delegation to Gaza with food, milk for children, medicines and warm clothes. At the Erez border control, the Israel soldiers didn't want us to give our friends these things. I asked them why when the Palestinian government wanted us to come.
I told the soldiers: "Why do you make peace only on paper? To tell the world that Israel makes peace with the Palestinian people? The Palestinians need this rice, sugar, milk and oil because the Israeli government won't give them anything." They left the land there very poor. Every month we take food even though we don't have enough ourselves. I tell the soldiers, "If you make peace it must be real peace. Not just on paper."
Arafat wants to make a wall for fishing boats. He needs rocks to build a marina [to protect the boats] but in Gaza there is only sand. Only in Hebron [are there rocks], on the other side of Palestine. The soldiers won't let him bring them [to Gaza]. He must give people some work in order to eat. We stayed four hours on the border.
If the Israeli government continues its policies in the same way, maybe Hamas, the fundamentalists in the West Bank and Gaza, will grow stronger than the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Then we will have a very dangerous problem. I think that the Israeli government must make peace quickly and stop its occupation of the West Bank. If there are elections now Hamas could possibly take more than half [the vote].
Fundamentalism is very dangerous not only for Christians or Communists, but for their own people and women especially. They want to take women back more than 200 years; they want us all to wear veils and purdah.
Do you think the Palestinians will have an independent state in the future?
I hope that my people get their rights and live in their state like the Jews in Israel. They stopped the Intifada, but it may be resumed if the Israeli government doesn't help.
The decision at the Paris meeting at which countries were to give money to the Palestinians was reversed by the Israeli government because Arafat wanted part of the money for Jerusalem. Why do they think all Jerusalem is for them? They don't know that the Palestinians and the Arabs also have a place for their people? I think that if the Israelis want to live a quiet life in the future, they must be a good neighbour in the Middle East.
Soldiers, shooting and war cannot achieve peace. Only with peace meetings can you have peace.