Warriors for Peace (Les Guerrières de la Paix) is a documentary that aspires to unbiasedly tell the story of a grassroots Israeli movement, Women Wage Peace, fighting for peace within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s a short movie about women, as it paces between them at each side of the conflict, telling their stories in an attempt to humanise a half a century long strife. The documentary was made by French directors Hanna Assouline and Jessica Bertaux and was screened by the Unicef student team, which also provided an after-movie discussion with one of the protagonists of the documentary, Noa.
Noa is an Israeli student at the University of Amsterdam, whose close friendship with Palestinian Yara was told about in the documentary. Noa and Yara met through the movement, initially exchanging emails and then finally seeing each other at the march hosted by Women Wage Peace in Jericho. They were among the thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women who marched together with the apolitical request of a peace agreement among the two nations. The movement, in essence, challenges the long believed social and religious norms implying that women should stay home. Instead, it seeks to awaken public consciousness and create discussion of peace among politicians and civilians. After the 2014 Gaza War tens of thousands of women decided to take action, recognising the violence and terror in which their children were growing up in.
On a very basic level, as said by orthodox Jewish women Michal, the movement acknowledges the presence of the other and claims that when they choose to kill each other, Palestinians and Israeli are also killing the history and culture of both people, creating in its place a society of terror. The conflict itself is a long, complicated and sensitive one and discussions often end in a competition about who is more victimised by the conflict. The documentary does not intent to give an answer to any such question, instead trying to query the question the answer to which is war. One way in which it attempts to do so is by sharing the story of Yara’s mother decision to support peace. It narrates a ghastly night that the Palestinian woman spent in the ICU with her ill son, alongside an Israeli woman and her ill son. When the morning arrived, the Israeli’s woman son had not made the night, while Yara’s brother survived. The woman describes how in such a situation contested land is not something that she was thinking about. In the ICU unit, there were only two women, two mothers consummated by the love for their children and the grief of their loss.
In the ICU unit, there were only two women, two mothers consummated by the love for their children and the grief of their loss.
Women being women is the thread uniting the stories told in the documentary, whether it be friendships separated by the institutional inability to leave one’s land and the historic push to do so or the decision to push for peace caused by being stabbed by the adversary. What the conflict has undoubtedly and exclusively seen thus far is men fighting each other. As such, this movement, be it naive and idealistic, grows as a response to the actions of men and it requests the involvement of women, to create a better life for people from both nations.
Is the criticism warranted?
The movement is however not exempt from criticism. The apoliticality of the movement itself is questioned, as seeking solutions to the conflict is not really a prerogative. Noa herself has doubts about the movement’s naivety and lack of solutions proposed. However, the most important goal being accomplished is to create platforms for discussions, she claims. As such, she also stands with the movement’s choice never to use the word “occupation” when referring to the state of Israel’s presence in the Middle East. When the goal is to change people’s perspective by providing them with more knowledge, starting by letting them know that their entire world view is incorrect is not productive. Instead, it is useful to provide understanding to create understanding and empathy. Lastly, Noa discussed why she chose to leave Israel and come to Amsterdam while still feeling the strong need to push for the betterment of the situation in her country. “It is the most comfortable thing to stay within your own political bubble of being right, but that doesn’t change anything.” she claimed. What truly matters is expanding your circles to people who haven’t had the means or privilege to have such a discussion in the first place.
Cover: Eddie and Carolina Stigson