Opinion |

It’s Women Who Will Make an Arab-Jewish Peace. Because Peace Scares Men

We men can’t hold them back forever. We’re not built for it

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Israeli and Palestinian women take part in a Women Wage Peace march near the Dead Sea, October 8, 2017.
Israeli and Palestinian women take part in a Women Wage Peace march near the Dead Sea, October 8, 2017.Credit: Sebastian Scheiner / AP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

It will happen. Women will make peace in Israel and Palestine.

It will be women – like the members of Women Wage Peace, the pioneering grass-roots group that organized the Journey to Peace, a 17-day series of marches, rallies and other events that brought together women from across deep divides of identity, religion, nationality, age and politics.

These and other extraordinary women activists working in other groups and as individuals will one day do what women do every day – the impossible. And around here, nothing at all feels more impossible than peace. But women will do anything, go to any length, cross any divide, make any sacrifice to keep their children safe.

It’s going to happen. But it won’t be soon. You, reading this, may not live to see it. It may well take what feels like forever. Tragedy and ruined lives, warfare and murder will go unprevented. Not because thousands of extraordinary women didn’t work hard enough. They work plenty hard. They work with astounding imagination and good humor, and they keep at it no matter what. It’s not that.

It’s going to take an obscene amount of time because of the rest of us. It’s because of men. It’s because of what we have inside.

Here it is: Peace scares men.

Not war. War excites us. We can pretend otherwise. But something about war quickens our blood. It’s built in. It’s as much a part of us as the need to take sides, to do what we believe protects our own side at the expense of another. It’s as much a part of us as our weakness for weaponry and our urge to possess, to avenge, to vanquish. To rescue but also to conquer. To repair but also to wreck. To focus on certain truths, but to hide or hide from others.

It’s how we’re built.

Peace scares us because to us, deep down, something about it smells like what we fear the most: betrayal. Loss. Loss of control. Loss of position. Loss of dominance. Loss of what we most firmly believe.

No matter which side we’re on here, we men say of the other side – the only thing they understand is force. And, for once, maybe the men on both sides are right.

Because we cannot trust what we do not understand. And force, we understand. Not peace. In force we trust. Peace we see as so fragile that one single man with a handgun could fire three shots at the back of a prime minister and kill peace for 21 years. And counting.

We treat peace the way we treat women. With that thin, knowing smile of disdain. And little wonder. Because, when all is said and done, women scare men.

We know that we do not understand women in the slightest. And that’s just the day-to-day. The process of bringing life into the world is, to us, a mystery beyond all imagination. The stamina and physical resources, the sheer fact of the ability to do what it takes to grow an entire new life, to contain and sustain and survive the cataclysm necessary to give birth, is so far beyond our experience as to occupy a constellation all its own, distant and untouchable as a night sky.

In the very essence of what they are capable of accomplishing, women threaten us men. Deep down, we know that they are the stronger sex.

Why else would we need to interrupt them, bully them, belittle and silence them, mansplain, underpay, overwork and underappreciate them, brand them naive and unrealistic, bury them under glass ceilings and guilt trips and gaslighting.

And yet.

There is clear momentum building within Women Wage Peace and other movements and communities in which women, especially young women, are taking the lead.

Their journey to peace is likely to be maddeningly frustrating, all but impossible. But they will get there.

We men can’t hold them back forever. We’re not built for it.

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