Thousands of Israelis Expected to Strike in Protest of Violence Against Women

Protest follows murder of two girls aged 12 and 16 ■ Women's groups organizing strike demand that government finally disburse funds allocated last year to prevent violence against women

A demonstration protesting violence against women, Tel Aviv, November, 2018.
Moti Milrod

Numerous women’s organizations announced that they would strike on Tuesday to protest recent cases of violence against women, including the murders of two girls aged 12 and 16 this week.

The organizations said that in the past day, thousands of women and men have joined the initiative, which they are calling the Red Flag coalition. In addition, demonstrations will take place in two different places on Friday.

The strike’s organizers demand that the government finally fund a program to prevent violence against women. Last year, the cabinet approved both the plan and its budget of 250 million shekels ($67 million), but as Haaretz reported last week, the money has never actually been disbursed.

>> Analysis: Murder of 12-year-old girl shows human rights in Israel are only for Jews

“Over the last year, an inconceivable line has been crossed, with 24 women murdered just because they were women,” said Ruti Klein, one of the three organizers. “The women’s cries have been buried by the silence of the government, which refuses to take responsibility and change this situation. Time after time, it buries plans, ignores the victims and leaves half the population unsafe. We’re in an emergency. This is the moment. If we don’t wake up now, we never will.”

“Murder is the endpoint of the fact that I’m harassed in the street, at work or at home,” she added. “It’s the tip of the iceberg of salary gaps, offensive remarks, objectification, funneling women into low-wage professions, women in prostitution and gender education in schools. It’s a result of the gender violence and discrimination that we all experience every day and everywhere.”

The first of Friday’s demonstrations will take place at 3:30 P.M. in the town of Iksal and is being sponsored by the town council. At 6 P.M., there will be a demonstration in Jaffa’s Clock Square, organized by three students from Jaffa.

The Red Flag coalition said it intends to fight until the government accepts its demands. In a statement, it noted that even though the murder of two girls – 16-year-old Yara Ayoub and 12-year-old Silvana Tsegai – “put the issue of violence against women at the top of the public agenda” this week, in this same week the government blocked a proposal to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into violence against women, and “the prime minister declared that he hadn’t realized how widespread this problem was.”

The coalition said its goals include “demanding answers from the police over dead-end investigations and the lack of indictments, its abandonment of women who complained and its sending them straight back to the people who hurt them, and its negligent handling of violent men.”

Naila Awwad, director of the Association of Women Against Violence, noted that women’s organizations have intensified their battle in recent years. “One front in this battle is society and its values, which oppress women,” she said. “Another significant front is the police and the law enforcement system, because their negligence and lack of professionalism in doing their jobs maintains women’s inferior status.

“We think that if the police receive a threat about national security, within seconds, all the roads are blocked. But when it’s a matter of women’s lives, it isn’t sufficiently interesting.

“The proportion of Arab women murdered is double their share of the population,” Awwad added. “Ten of the 24 women murdered this year were Arabs.”

Michal Gera Margaliot, managing director of the Israel Women’s Network, said, “Twenty-four women have been murdered since the start of the year. This is an emergency, and it’s time for the government to take us into account.”

She said the coalition wants abusers and murderers to be tried and sentenced, and for the government “to take urgent, resolute action to prevent the next murder. We want to put an end to the routine of there always being more urgent issues for the Knesset and the cabinet than women’s personal safety and gender equality. We’re half the population and we demand an equal place in the national order of priorities.”