Photo from Jewish Voice for Peace protest in Grand Central Station, New York, 10/27/2023
By Ann Menasche
This is the opinion of the author alone and does not represent the position of Feminists in Struggle.
The targeting of civilians in war, whether in the name of “resistance against occupation” or “defense against terrorism”, whether from bombs thrown from the air onto crowded residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and places of worship or attacks with guns, knives, explosives, or other violent attacks from the ground, means the brutal deaths of innocent women and their children at male hands. It is a particularly egregious form of mass femicide, this time, not directed against their “own” women – the women of their nation or ethnic group – but the women of the demonized “other”, the “enemy.” Because in virtually all contemporary societies, men are the large majority of combatants and the civilians are women, children and the elderly.
It was not until 1949, the aftermath of World War II, a war that resulted in over 38 million civilian deaths that international law in the Geneva Conventions legally defined war crimes or crimes against humanity. And it was not just Nazis that caused those deaths during World War II, though they caused a lot of them. The estimate of deaths from the allies’ firebombing of Dresden which were justified as an attempt to shorten the war and save soldiers’ lives, is at least 25,000 to 35,000 civilians; the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki immediately killed 214,000 Japanese civilians, not counting the later premature deaths of countless others from radiation. But the victors don’t usually get charged with war crimes. That slaughter was justified on the same grounds, but according to primary source I read in college, the U.S. was well aware that Japan was about to surrender; however, they wanted to show the Soviet Union their new powerful weapon, as the Cold War was just being launched.
Rules of war established after World War II have almost always been honored in the breach, with the U.S. having quite a lot of civilian blood on its hands, again mostly women and children. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, justified by 9/11 and the “war on terror”, 280,000 to 315,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by the violence, not counting the life-threatening damage to civilian infrastructure that caused even more deaths. The bombing of Vietnam during the Vietnam war resulted in between 30,000- 65,000 civilian deaths. The Vietnam government estimates the total civilian deaths from the war to be 2,000,000 people. Again, we are talking about the wanton mass murder of women and children.
Of course, one reason the U.S. hesitates to criticize Israel as it indiscriminately kills thousands of Palestinian women and children in Gaza through its bombs and threatens more lives with its tightened blockade preventing clean water, food and energy from entering, and letting only a trickle of humanitarian aid in, is because the U.S. does the same thing. The U.S. government’s refusal to support the international call for a ceasefire in the Israel/Gaza war is criminal and makes our government complicit in the extensive war crimes going on right now.
War and peace are feminist issues because, among other reasons, war allows men to murder women and our children with impunity. Feminists, whatever side we may be on in a conflict, should never justify or support the deliberate targeting of civilians or the callous indifference to civilian lives so that men will sacrifice any number of innocent women and children to get the “bad guys.”
As feminists we should care about the lives and wellbeing of our sisters around the globe, including both Israelis and Palestinians. We should never excuse the crimes of the men on “our side” of these wars. No more femicide in my name.
As feminists, we should also know that only justice and equality can establish a solid ground for peace and safety for all the peoples of this planet.