Feminist Foreign Policy: Together for Palestine and for Peace
The Feminist Peace Initiative – led by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, MADRE, and Women Cross DMZ – amplifies the urgent call for a ceasefire to end the Israeli assault on Gaza. The terrible toll of this onslaught cannot be fully captured by the ever-increasing numbers of Palestinians killed – now tens of thousands, with more than half of them women and children. We must end the killing and the suffering now.
We affirm that this is a demand rooted in our commitment to peace, justice and our vision of a feminist foreign policy. We need a ceasefire now most urgently to save lives. And we need it if we are to preserve the chances at diplomacy that can secure lasting peace and security for all. Amidst this crisis, we also know that a lasting peace will only emerge from the end of Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies that have imposed suffering on Palestinians for generations. We call on all proponents of feminist foreign policy to stand with us in these demands.
Through its political and military support, the United States is implicated in this ongoing and genocidal assault. The Biden Administration has repeatedly named its steadfast support for Israel, dismissing the loss of Palestinian life from Israel’s bombing campaign and ramping up US military support, on top of the $3.8 billion that the US provides annually in military aid. We call for a foreign policy rooted in human rights that ends US complicity in these abuses.
This is an urgent moment for us to assert that a true feminist foreign policy must be rooted in peace and a commitment to demilitarize. We must be dedicated to diplomacy and justice, at the local and international levels, even and especially when responding to war crimes and atrocity. After the 9/11 attacks, the US chose to violate international law, launch illegal wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and sacrifice generations of lives. The US pursued vengeance instead of justice, and millions paid the price.
Now, the Israeli government is justifying its own genocidal campaign of violence, with the full support of the US, claiming that this bloodshed is necessary to punish and defeat Hamas. Hamas crimes do not justify Israeli crimes, and these attacks against Palestinian people will not lead to security. They will not safeguard the Israeli hostages, who are also at risk in these bombings and who must be released. They will only push the prospects for peace further away and have devastating consequences for generations to come.
We denounce all attacks against civilians and mourn all Israelis and Palestinians killed, on October 7th, before and since. And we echo the words of Member of Congress Rashida Tlaib who said, “The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all.”
Palestinian people are being sacrificed by a military onslaught today, and by decades of occupation and apartheid, all of which are powered by patriarchal, racist ideologies that label them as disposable. This is a feminist issue. We need policies that derive from a feminist ethic of care and peace, centering on basic human needs and ecological sustainability, instead of our policymaking status quo that relies upon and resources violence, forever wars, apartheid and occupation. Furthermore, Palestinian women living under occupation have been denied access to healthcare and basic services, including maternal and reproductive care. They have shouldered the responsibility to raise children and care for families, including under a years-long blockade in Gaza that deprived them of basic necessities like medicines and clean water.
Now in Gaza, the relentless bombardment has created a harrowing maternal and child health crisis. There are more than 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, with 180 expected to deliver babies every day in a collapsed healthcare system, without painkillers, electricity, or clean water. With airstrikes against refugee camps and residential buildings, some parents and babies do not survive delivery. More than 4,500 children have been killed in Gaza. Together, women and children make up 67% of the total number of deaths. UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierres reported that Gaza is a “graveyard for children”, as mothers mark their children’s bodies so they can identify their kids among the unrecognizable remains left behind by airstrikes.
In Israel, some families of the hostages have organized resistance to their government’s war on Gaza, urging a focus on negotiations for release instead of retaliation. They know that the fates of their loved ones depend on a ceasefire, too. But the right-wing government is continuing to ignore these demands for peace and justice from civil society.
A growing movement, inside the halls of the US government and on the streets, is calling for a ceasefire. Members of Congress Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib have put forward a resolution calling for “an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire.” Thousands of people across communities, faiths and movements have taken to the streets, spoken out, and been arrested to ramp up pressure for this fundamental demand. And at an international conference on feminist foreign policy, hosted by the Netherlands in early November, outspoken feminists for peace insisted that justice for Palestine must be central.
The prospects for a feminist foreign policy for peace may seem distant, but we need that transformational vision more than ever. We need policies, in the US and internationally, that are rooted in an ethic of human rights, cooperation and collective care. We must universalize the value of all human life – Palestinian and Israeli. We must name and address the root causes of violence and crisis – including occupation and apartheid.
Our action today will shape the world for a generation: whether we take action for peace or enable more killing. US policymakers must choose to save lives. We demand a ceasefire.