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Walking the Halls of Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon

29 September 2011 3 Comments

Patricia Smith

By Patricia Smith
Founder, Peace X Peace

Editor, Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women

Walking the halls with Sixty Voices in our arms, we were doing our part to raise the vital voices of women, to provide direct facts about the diverse lives inside Israel and inside Palestine, and to be good citizens.  It felt outright patriotic.”

***

There are 435 Representatives to the U.S. Congress, and yesterday Kim Weichel, Peace X Peace’s CEO, and I, along with Linda Noble, a powerhouse volunteer, and three hard-working House interns, visited every one of their offices.  We pushed flatbeds loaded with the Peace X Peace book Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women through the marble-cast Rayburn building and the more architecturally warm Longworth and Cannon buildings.

Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women

We gifted each office the book, along with a letter of endorsement from Representative John Garamendi of the 10th Congressional District in California.  We hope it will serve as a resource of information on life on both sides of the Wall directly from the women and “not through media, government officials, or vested interests from either side.”  That line usually got a knowing little smile from the recipients, whose offices have been besieged by lobbyists in the past weeks as Palestine asks for recognition of statehood at the United Nations.

The lobbyists have been successful in some ways.  President Obama took a hard stance against Palestine’s request, even at the serious risk of undoing the progress we have made in the eyes of the global Arab population for supporting, in varying degrees, the Arab Spring.

Members of the U. S. legislature even seriously debated cutting off all financial assistance to the Palestinians if they went ahead with their UN request for statehood.  (NOTE: The largest recipient of U.S. aid continues to be Israel.)

We provided the book simply as what it is:  women telling of their lives, their work, their concerns, and their solutions. By its very nature, it argues for 1) incorporating women’s wisdom, tenacity, and experience into peace negotiations, and 2) civil society dialogue — the sort of thing that ended the Cold War, but which is prohibited by containerizing Palestine within walls, boycotts, and legal restrictions.

Capitol Hill. Credit: Elliot P.

With the pressure of having under two minutes’ time inside each office, I took to using my hands to convey the essential message:  “What is not being solved here (and I would butt my fists against each other high up) can be solved here (and I would move my hands and fingers back and forth like waves coming together and mingling at a lower level).”  Everyone got it immediately.  Some even clutched the book and looked relieved as they said, “Yes!  Thank you!”  Each promised to get the book into the hands of their boss and the legislative assistant for foreign affairs — including in John Boehner’s office and Michelle Bachmann’s.

Will we ever know if the books had direct influence?  Probably not. But if people are not informed, they cannot make informed decisions.  If actions are decided from assumptions that are not investigated or omissions that are not questioned, or as responses only to pressure or fear, how will we ever achieve justice and substantive peace?  Peace, by definition, requires inclusion of everyone and recognition of everyone’s lives, an honoring of the totality.

These principles pertain to legislators equally as to each of us – and legislators have power to tilt our world towards justice or injustice, towards inclusion or exclusion, towards peace or continuing conflict.  Walking the halls with Sixty Voices in our arms, we were doing our part to raise the vital voices of women, to provide direct facts about the diverse lives inside Israel and inside Palestine, and to be good citizens.  It felt outright patriotic.

Now on to the 100 U.S. Senators.

Order your own copy of Sixty Years, Sixty Voices from our website.

 

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3 Comments to “Walking the Halls of Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon”
  1. Jo Wharton says:

    Patricia, you are absolutely amazing! Giving the books to all of them will make a difference and some will actually get the message.

    We are all blessed by you and your wonderful book.

  2. Margaret Culgan says:

    Patricia, congratulations on actually getting the books into their hands!

  3. Patricia, thank you so much for coming our way to Dallas, Texas, to be our 3rd International Day of Peace Luncheon speaker on September 21. Thanks for the words and thoughts you gave us! There was a line to purchase your book, too.

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