The Mother and the Fighter

The portrayal of women during the 1970s

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Credit: Palestine Poster Project.

The portrayal of women in these posters is interesting as it defeats the victim narrative; women as the victims of Israeli aggression, instead here we see women taking on a militarized role, often portrayed in the traditional Palestinian dress. 

 

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Dichotomy of caretakers and fighters

My research project focuses on women in Palestine, and their participation in resistance against the Israeli occupation, and against Palestinian patriarchy. It seems obvious that gender is relevant to my research, as I wish to explore how women adopt masculinity in their resistance against Israeli occupation, or at times to mock the masculinity of male participants in the resistance.

Palestinian women have often played an important role in maintaining the cohesion of the community and mobilizing civil society, while the men are either detained or out fighting the Israeli occupation. [1]However, there are examples of women joining armed resistance and it is interesting how they adopt masculinity either to shame the men or to take agency over their bodies. In that sense, there exists a dichotomy of the portrayal of Palestinian women; either the mothers and caretakers of Palestine, or the fighters.

As a result, there are many aspects to how one can view women’s engagement with the Israeli occupation and Palestinian patriarchy through the gender framework, and conversely how male agents use feminity and women against the Israeli occupation or inscription of power as a result of their powerlessness because of the occupation.

 

 


[1] Sherna Berger Gluck, “Palestinian Women: Gender Politics and Nationalism,” Journal of Palestine Studies 24, no 3 (1995): 8.

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Impunity for Violence Against Palestinian Women and Girls Must End

One of the most deplorable forms of violence that continues to be perpetrated against Palestinian women and girls is violence within the family, which is not effectively punished by Palestinian societal or judicial bodies.

Al-Haq, a legal organization based in Ramallah, calls for

  • The international community to compel Israel to cease all acts that violate the fundamental protections guaranteed to women and girls under international human rights and humanitarian law.
  • The international community to shoulder its legal responsibilities and prosecute those who have committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law, such as the willful killing of Palestinian women or girls.
  • The PNA to ensure that all legislation contains provisions for the protection and promotion of the fundamental human rights of women and girls.
  • The PNA to effectively investigate and, where necessary, prosecute and implement appropriate penalties for individuals found to have committed acts of harassment, violence and/or femicide against women or girls.
  • The PNA to adopt a formal declaration stating that it will adhere to all provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and be held accountable for breaches thereof.

(published in 2007, would compare and contrast whether these recommendations for the PNA were adopted).

http://electronicintifada.net/content/impunity-violence-against-palestinian-women-and-girls-must-end/741

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Harsh economic and political conditions lead to violence against women

a 2009 study published by the Gaza-based Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre found that 67 percent of Palestinian women reported being subjected to verbal violence on a regular basis, 71 percent to psychological violence, 52.4 percent to physical violence and 14.5 percent to sexual violence.*

http://electronicintifada.net/content/harsh-economic-and-social-conditions-contribute-violence-against-palestinian-women/11592

Contributors of violence against women in Palestine are the harsh economic conditions as a result of the Israeli occupation as well as political realities. In addition, the Palestinian patriarchal culture contributes to violence against women (women are not viewed as equal to men), and existing legal penal codes left over from Jordanian law and the British mandate alleviate punishment for violence against women.

However there are currently steps being taken to combat this violence, which will be explored later on in the blog and essay.

*The numbers are probably a lot higher because there is still a stigma surrounding sexual violence in some of these communities.

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On Fighting and Becoming

Fighting and Becoming

One of themes that was discussed extensively in class and the readings was the fighting and becoming through fighting. The Making of the Human Bomb especially focused on the cultural discourse surrounding suicide bombing and how the culture of ‘martyrdom’ fed into the increase of suicide bombing during the second intifada. There are several sections of the book that focused on the participation of women in the resistance and especially in suicide bombings.

Women have always been part of the resistance against the Israeli occupation, either directly through physical engagement of the Israeli forces or part of the political parties’ leadership and so on. However, it is worth noting that speaking female participation in suicide bombing operations was far less than their male counterparts. That is due to groups such as Hamas being reluctant to involve women in their suicide operations. In fact, the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, renounced the use of women in suicide bombings.  (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/pub408.pdf) Although he later retracted this statement 2 years after another female suicide bombing.

 

Women becoming involved in suicide operations opens up a host of different issues to explore. One of which I want to explore is how women use their martyrdom operations to ‘shame’ their male counterparts. Adopting an ultra militarized and masculine stance, they convey the message that women would have to shed their femininity in order to invoke shock in Israeli, Palestinian, Arab and the international society.

One of the female suicide bombers, Ayat Al-Akhras in her martyr video lashed out on the Arab leaders and regimes,
‘”I say to the Arab leaders, stop sleeping. Stop failing to fulfill your duty. Shame on the Arab armies who are sitting and watching the girls of Palestine fight while they are asleep.”‘
Ayat Al-Akhras attempted to join the ranks of Hamas prior to the operation but she was refused.  It is striking to see the language used in Ayat Al-Akhras’s statement video where she indicates that Arab leaders are not ‘fulfilling their duty’, and shame on the arab armies, watching ‘girls’ of Palestine fight. It is in a way to send the message to the ‘Arab man’ that the women have agency over the use of their bodies, whether it is used in a violent mznner or not is a different story. It is striking because prior to this Al-Akhras was rejected to participate physically and ‘volunteer her body’ to the resistant effort. In fact this is one example of how Al-Akhras’s performance of her martyrdom, not only did she have full agency over her body and her being, but it was intended to shame her male counterparts into acting.

AbuFarha touches upon this by saying ‘the performance of sacrifice by Arab and Muslim women in the occupied city of Jerusalem, thus making the sacrifice for Jerusalem, was intended to have the maximum embarassing, pressuring and destabilizing effect on the Arab and Muslim regimes in the region’.

I hope to explore more about the use of women in suicide bombings and other forms of resistance during the second intifada by Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s militant faction and how their gender played into boosting support among the locals and gained widespread international attention. I also wish to discuss the symbolism and performance of one suicide bombing mission conducted by the Bride of Haifa, Hanadi Jaradat which has evoked strong emotions and inspirsed an enormous number of literary productions in Palestine and the Arab countries, and even provided several art installations outside of the Arab world and Palestine.

Also one other interesting narrative and theme that is explored in the Making of the Human Bomb book is the land of Palestine evokes feminine imagery. Palestine is seen as a woman who is being raped by foreigners, and needs to be liberated through sacrifice.

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UN cancels Marathon because of Hamas’s exclusion of women

An annual Gaza marathon organised by the United Nations has been cancelled after a Hamas decision to ban women from competing alongside men.

 

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) issued a statement on Tuesday cancelling the race on 10 April and expressing its disappointment at the new and intractable position of the Gaza authorities, which have permitted women to run alongside men for the past two years.

 

Chris Gunness, Unrwa’s spokesman, said: “It is with sadness and regret that we have been forced to make this decision. But our work in Gaza is based on UN values, standards and codes of conduct and we could not go ahead with an event from which women were barred.” ‘


http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/05/gaza-marathon-cancelled-hamas-bans-women

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A double occupation

It has always been said that women suffer from a double occupation, an Israeli occupation and the Palestinian patriarchy. The focus on my blog would be to explore whether women’s rights in Palestine progressed or regressed during the Israeli occupation.
A couple of themes I would be dealing with in my blog,
Women’s participation in resistance, whether armed or non-violent or ensuring social cohesion
Violence against women
Women’s legal rights in the Occupied territories
Women’s portrayal in Palestinian art, etc. 

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