Given the recent controversy over the role of women soldiers in the U.S. invasion of Panama, this two-part documentary seems timely indeed. The idea here is to show the effects of war on women caught up in conflicts usually started by men in Israel, El Salvador, and Northern Ireland.

The theme of women-as-warriors plays a relatively small role in Women in War: Voices From the Front Line; most of the time, civilians are interviewed: women who are trying to raise families in the midst of wars, and women who are trying to increase their influence on the decisions their countries are making about war policy.

The best section of Women in War offers a profile of Israeli women working for peace in the long battle with the Palestinians, and follows that with a look at women working for the Palestinian uprising, the Intifada.

The show makes the inevitable point that these supposed enemies have a lot in common, but it’s striking to see the boldness of the women on both sides as they lead peace marches, campaign for candidates who speak to women’s issues, and generally refuse to accept war as a way of life.

Living under conservative, patriarchal systems, they’re fighting their own wars. B