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Women, the Bridge, and the Media
Correspondence of Ursula Oswald Spring and Ada Aharoni
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I would like to congratulate you on the success of "THE BRIDGE SYMPOSIUM CELEBRATING 20 YEARS TO THE BRIDGE: JEWISH AND ARAB WOMEN FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST".
It is so important that you and others continue in this work, especially in this moment when isolated terrorist attacks put the whole peace process in danger. The people have to take part in their own peace processes and make clear that terrorism is not the way, in the Middle East as well as in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country.
It is also of utmost importance for women to play a part in these peace processes as not only do we, as women, have a different perspective to offer, but also to ensure an equal participation in society in both times of war and times of peace.
I congratulate you once more for your excellent work which will surely bring us one step closer to achieving the resolution of conflicts, both at a local level, between Jewish and Arab peoples, and at an international level.
With best and peaceful wishes,
To Professor Ursula Oswald Spring, President: IPRA, The International Peace Research Association.
Mexico City, Mexico.
Many thanks for your warm and encouraging words on our 20 Years BRIDGE SYMPOSIUM. I would like to share with you one of our major drawbacks in our peace work in general, and in our peace work through women in particular. We worked very hard on preparing the "20 YEARS TO THE BRIDGE SYMPOSIUM", and invited all the media to cover it, so as to spread the climate and hope of peace to the wide public that are so fearful and discouraged nowadays, in both the Jewish and Arab/ Palestinian sectors.
However no media came! The next day, one Palestinian was killed in Abu Tor, and yesterday one Israeli soldier was attacked near Jerusalem - all the major media reported on both incidents. 230 Jewish and Arab/Palestinian women have a Symposium on "Peace in the Middle East," and it is not considered "news", whereas when 1 or 2 men are killed or attacked it is major news!
My question is, how do we bring to the media that something new concerning peace is ALSO NEWS! Why do the media consider only violence as news? Can IPRA do something about this, to change the priorities and attitudes of the major media: CNN, ABC, NBC, newspapers, radio broadcasts, etc?
It is the same all over the world, and it is one of our major drawbacks with our wonderful IPRA peace research work and conferences. How can we at THE BRIDGE and at IPRA make a greater impact, and bring our peace research and peace values to the "unconvinced" and the "sceptic" governments around the world, as well as to the wide public? How can we build the climate and culture of peace toward a new millenium beyond war, if we do not get the necessary exposure, backing, and help from the media, and people who are in key positions (governments, councils,etc.) and agree with us?
This is a crucial question which we should thoroughly discuss as part of our preparations toward our Tampere (Finland), IPRA Council in year 2000, as well as to the "International Congress on Conflict Resolution Through Culture and Literature," in the Galilee, Israel (June 1999), which I hope you and all my friends at IPRA will attend. I hope to see you all soon at the "Hague Appeal Conference" (May 1999).
With best peace wishes,
Ursula Oswald Spring responded:
Thank you for your letter which I received today. It is indeed incredible that such a historical event as the 20 YEARS TO THE BRIDGE SYMPOSIUM, having 230 Jewish and Palestinian women together in the same room discussing peace, was not considered "newsworthy" whereas violence and death are always considered worth reporting. Surely this tells us something about the values of the societies in which we live. It seems that every day there are more programmes and films glorifying violence, especially reports of real-life incidents of violence where crimes are re-enacted for TV viewers. The popularity of such programmes (without mentioning the Hollywood blockbusters in which one man single-handedly kills thousands of people) is surely worrying.
Unfortunately, we know that the violence which exists in the world in general, and in war-zones in particular, is anything but fantasy, that the bodies and the suffering are all too real . . . which makes us all feel useless facing so much violence, so much death, so much desperation.
Covering an event like the 20 YEARS TO THE BRIDGE SYMPOSIUM, however, could give us all hope. Just seeing this amount of Jewish and Palestinian women together, talking about peace, tells the world that there is hope. Nevertheless, as you pointed out, women discussing peace does not make "good news" and this is an extremely sad reflection of the values of our society, based on masculine values which dismiss women's ability to do anything serious and assume that nobody (meaning the masculine half of the population) would be interested in an event where women and peace were the main themes.
For these reasons I think that we have our work cut out in trying to change the values of a whole society, to make the major TV companies, newspapers, radio stations etc. change their mind on what constitutes a good piece of news reporting. I definitely think it is something that we at IPRA, as an organisation, must discuss and take action, and that we, as women, must make an extra-special effort to change this situation as it is always left to us to defend our interests and rights.
I believe that it is therefore imperative to prepare something solid for Tampere 2000 to make this point very clear, that peace is often not considered newsworthy whereas terrorism is. It is something which we have to work on as an organisation to improve our profile and that of peace research in general. It is also something to bear in mind during the preparatives for the Conference 2000 to work out strategies to initiate the "unconvinced" and the "sceptics" as you say , and to make the message clear that the future is peace, and that this is the most important news that could ever be broadcast, that we must reach the population in general with this most important message in order that in the future other events like the 20 YEARS TO THE BRIDGE SYMPOSIUM, are not ignored, but rather considered top-priority news.
With peaceful wishes, as always.
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