This past week, I had occasion to see this film by Lilly Rivlin, the former president of Meretz USA, about women’s peace movements among Israelis and Palestinians. I very much liked this 50-minute documentary, finding it engaging and informative, but I have doubts about Lilly’s thesis. She posits that if women ruled the world, there would be no or fewer wars. This is a proposition that is never likely to be put to the test and it need not affect one’s overall sense of the film.
The evidence so far of women in power, alas – admittedly within what is mostly a man’s world – is dubious. The few examples we have is of women who show toughness as heads of government, to the point that most are associated with war and not peace. Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi were all war-time leaders:
- Thatcher decided to rally the United Kingdom and the Royal Navy for one last hurrah, a final assertion of imperial power, exactly 25 years ago, to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina.
- Meir (as indicated in our previous posting) missed preventing the 1973 Yom Kippur War by not responding to peace feelers from Anwar Sadat, and refused to close a deal with King Hussein that would have meant peace with Jordan and a possible solution to the Palestinian issue — over 20 years before Rabin and Hussein signed a peace treaty in 1994.
- Indira Gandhi used military force to conquer the Portuguese enclaves on the Indian subcontinent (the largest being Goa), continued the conflict with Pakistan and employed force to crush a Sikh insurrection with such brutality that she was assassinated by a Sikh bodyguard in revenge.
- Benizar Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan in the 1990s plus two or three prominent female leaders of Sri Lanka (with long unpronounceable names), were all undistinguished in resolving their countries’ civil and military conflicts.
But you don’t have to agree with this underlying view of the filmmaker to appreciate the film. The powerful images of walls and violence, and the words and actions of these dedicated women, will reverberate in your mind. Unfortunately, there was also a line toward the end, proclaiming – as if it were a positive thing – that women figured prominently in the electoral victory of Hamas; but I’m sure that Lilly was hopeful at that time that the elevation of Hamas into a governing party would make it more moderate and responsible.To be continued…