Women in Black protest in Sydney

Issue 

By Angela Matheson

and Kathy Raheb

Photo by David Brazil

SYDNEY — Clad in black, standing in silent vigil in Martin Place on June 1, Women in Black made their inaugural Sydney protest against the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and against human rights violations by Israeli forces. They favour a peaceful resolution of the conflict and support an independent state for Palestine.

The vigil included representatives of Jewish Women in Support of an Independent Palestine, the Palestinian Human Rights Campaign and the Muslim Convert Support Group.

Women in Black are an international movement, mainly of Jewish and Palestinian women, which began in Israel in 1987 during the early days of the intifada. There are 24 groups in Israel, and others have formed in Europe and the US.

The Sydney group was initiated by Barbara Bloch, a former London Women in Black member concerned by the lack of alternative voices being heard in Australia. "The voice of the Jewish establishment, which is opposed to the PLO and which denies human rights abuses in the occupied territories, is what most Australian's hear", she said. "We want to present the other side of the story."

They cite denial of education and union membership, restrictions on work and movement and destruction of homes and crops as some of the abuses suffered by Palestinians under occupation.

The Jewish establishment here is vehemently opposed to Women in Black. "Women in Black are beyond the pale and do not in any way represent the Jewish view", claims Mark Leibler, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.

Women in Black plan to petition the Australian government to request that the Israeli government open unconditional negotiations with the PLO. They insist that Israel needs to show good faith by withdrawing from the occupied territories.

The group will hold monthly vigils in the city centre. Women in Black can be contacted on (02) 560 7151. n