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Mobilizing Gender to Promote Peace: The Case of Machsom Watch

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The binary model that presents women as peaceful and men as warfaring is a common conception of war and peace. Despite increasing levels of gender equality in most spheres of public life and decreasing gender segregation in institutions in many parts of the world, the associational link of men to war and women to peace remains widespread. Focusing on the Israeli women’s peace organization, Machsom Watch, this article uses a content analysis of interactions between Machsom Watch activists, soldiers and Palestinians to examine how gendered political opportunity structures affect and are affected by interactions between individuals, organizations and institutions. The paper highlights the contradiction between Machsom Watch’s form as a women-only organization and their framing and report language, which is non-gender specific. I argue that this contradiction emerges from their strategic negotiation of the gendered political opportunity structure as well as their culturally bounded experiences of gendered interactions and embodied gender norms. More generally, I argue that by understanding political opportunity structures as being bound by cultural norms that create distinct sets of opportunities and constraints for different groups of people, scholars can better understand the particular manifestation of social movement action and thereby more fully account for human agency in social and political structures. Additionally, this paper encourages social movement scholars to understand social movement framing as both a product of political opportunities and constraints as well as an influence in the formation of the political opportunity structure.

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  1. Machsom means checkpoint in Hebrew.

  2. In 2004 the group’s membership was identified as 500 (Naaman 2006). Observation reports suggest that the group has gotten smaller since that time but numbers are not publically available.

  3. On average there are 4–10 reports a day, depending on how many volunteers are available, the weather and season, and the day of the week. Reports cover more than fifty checkpoints.


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Machsom Watch Reports (Accessed at, Accessed 3 March 2010):

  • MachsomWatch. November 16, 2009a. Al Nashshash, Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Huwwara.

  • MachsomWatch. October 5, 2009b. ‘Anabta, ‘Azzun, Ras ‘Atiya.

  • MachsomWatch. August 11, 2009c. Anin, Jalama, Reihan, Shaked.

  • MachsomWatch. March 10, 2009d. ‘Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za’tara (Tapuah).

  • MachsomWatch. November 15, 2009e. ‘Azzun ‘Atma, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za’tara (Tapuah).

  • MachsomWatch. March 8, 2009f. ‘Azzun ‘Atma, Huwwara, Za’tara (Tapuah).

  • MachsomWatch. October 19, 2009g. Beit Ummar, Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Nabi Yunis.

  • MachsomWatch. December 29, 2009h. Bethlehem, Etzion DCL, Nabi Yunis, Nuaman.

  • MachsomWatch. December 31, 2009i. Eyal Crossing, ‘Anabta, Eliyahu Crossing, Irtah (Sha’ar Efrayim), Za’tara (Tapuah).

  • MachsomWatch. November 2, 2009j. Hizma, Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya.

  • MachsomWatch. June 13, 2009k. Huwwara, Za’tara (Tapuah).

  • MachsomWatch. April 15, 2009l. Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya.

  • MachsomWatch. November 22, 2009m. Jalama, Reihan, Shaked.

  • MachsomWatch. November 10, 2009n. Qalandiya.

  • MachsomWatch. October 25, 2009o. Qalandiya.

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I would like to thank Amy Traver, Jackie Smith, the four anonymous reviewers and the editors of Qualitative Sociology for their thoughtful and incisive feedback on previous drafts of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rachel V. Kutz-Flamenbaum.

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Kutz-Flamenbaum, R.V. Mobilizing Gender to Promote Peace: The Case of Machsom Watch. Qual Sociol 35, 293–310 (2012).

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