Two significant think-pieces!

Palestine Update 271

Two significant think-pieces!
Here are two incisive articles that are a must-read. The first addresses an American audience but has invaluable insights for all those who have chosen the side of justice on the Question of Palestine. The second addresses a ‘home’ question for Palestinians. What chance is there for an authentic liberation for the Palestinians if the struggle for freedom marginalizes women within the struggle and in Palestinian society, as a whole? Palestinian women have always played a pivotal role in the struggle and, yet, they are subjugated by Israeli occupation forces, but also by patriarchal forces within Palestinian society.

Do read and disseminate these two lucid articles widely.

Ranjan Solomon

Why Americans Should Support BDS

Excerpts from an article by Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. He is co-recipient of the 2017 Gandhi Peace Award.

Demonstrators protest New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s McCarthyite
executive order requiring state agencies to divest from organizations that
support the Palestinian call to boycott companies profiting from, or cultural
or academic institutions complicit in, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people

Fight Back!
Late last month, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, targeting the grassroots, global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.  The resolution is a sweeping condemnation of Americans who advocate for Palestinian rights using BDS tactics. It reinforces other unconstitutional anti-boycott measures, including those passed by some 27 state legislatures that are reminiscent of “McCarthy era tactics,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It also exacerbates the oppressive atmosphere that Palestinians and their supporters already face, further chilling speech critical of Israel at a time when President Donald Trump is publicly smearing members of Congress who speak out in support of Palestinian freedom.

In response to the resolution and similarly repressive legislative measures, House member Ilhan Omar, joined by Rashida Tlaib, civil rights icon John Lewis, and 12 other co-sponsors, introduced the resolution which defends “the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

Inspired by the US civil rights and South African anti-apartheid movements, BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homeland they were uprooted from. BDS categorically opposes all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Contrary to the false claim in the resolution, BDS does not target individuals, but rather institutions and corporations that are implicated in Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.

In an earlier talk, I had advocated for a single democratic state that recognizes and accepts Jewish Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society, free from all colonial subjugation and racial discrimination and separating church and state. Everyone, including repatriated Palestinian refugees, would be entitled to equal rights regardless of ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, or other identity. Any exclusionary, supremacist “Muslim state,” “Christian state,” or “Jewish state,” I argued, would by definition deny equal rights to citizens of different identities and foreclose the possibility of a true democracy, which are conditions for a just and sustainable peace. The House and Senate resolutions, as well as an AIPAC propaganda clip, remove that entire context, intentionally distorting my views.

As a broad and inclusive human rights movement, BDS does not take a position on the ultimate political solution for Palestinians and Israelis. It includes supporters of both two states and a single democratic state with equal rights for all.

As a human rights defender, I am not only subjected to routine vilification by Israel and its anti-Palestinian supporters. I have also been placed under a de facto and “arbitrary travel ban by Israel,” in the words of Amnesty International, including in 2018, when I was prevented from going to Jordan to accompany my late mother during cancer surgery. In 2016, Israel’s intelligence minister threatened me with “targeted civil elimination,” drawing condemnation from Amnesty. And for the first time ever, last April I was banned from entering the United States, missing my daughter’s wedding and a meeting in Congress. Israel is not merely intensifying its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians; it is increasingly outsourcing its repressive tactics to the US administration.

Trump is unabashedly supporting and shielding from accountability Israel’s far-right government as it shatters the lives and livelihoods of millions of Palestinians living under occupation and siege in Gaza; facing dispossession and forcible displacement in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem; and denied equal rights in present-day Israel. Just two weeks ago, he escalated his incitement against supporters of Palestinian rights, attacking four new progressive members of Congress, all women of color, telling them to “apologize” to Israel and “go back” to their countries of origin, even though three of them were born in the United States.

Israel’s desperate war on BDS, fought with fabrication, demonization, and intimidation, as exemplified by this newly approved House resolution, is failing. Led by communities of color, progressive Jewish groups, mainline churches, trade unions, academic associations, LGBTQI groups, indigenous justice movements, and university students, many Americans are abandoning the ethically untenable “progressive except on Palestine” stance. Instead, they are adopting the morally consistent principle of being progressive including on Palestine.
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The political marginalization of Palestinian women in West Bank
by Yara Hawari, Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. She completed her PhD in Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter and taught at the University of Exeter and continues to work as a freelance journalist.

Though Palestinian women have always played a fundamental role in the struggle for liberation from the Israeli settler colonial regime, they have faced consistent political marginalization. The overarching force suppressing Palestinian women’s politicization has been and continues to be the Israeli regime, but it is also important to recognize the forces within the Palestinian and international communities that contribute to the weakened political role of Palestinian women.

Palestinian women’s de-politicization has become more multifaceted and entrenched since the 1990s, when the Oslo Accords unleashed a myriad of changes in the structure of Palestinian society and governance. One of these changes was the professionalization and bureaucratization of civil society organizations, which created a distance between them and local grassroots communities. It also caused them to shift their focus to project deadlines, budgets, funding proposals, and annual reports, all of which were answerable to the international donor community.

The repercussions of this change are particularly noticeable in the post-Oslo lexicon of women’s rights. Many terms or buzzwords used to obtain project funding have been defined by international organizations that place their own meanings and conditions upon them. For example, the term “empowerment” is limited to socioeconomic empowerment and participation in “decision-making,” rather than empowering women to resist the occupation and build a vision for a postcolonial world. While this process of “NGO-ization” has demobilized many groups within Palestinian society, women remain disproportionately affected due to institutional tendencies to exclude women from the political sphere.

The current inclusion of women within institutional Palestinian politics remains very shallow. For instance, of the PLO Executive Council’s 15 members, only one is female. Out of the 16 governorates in the West Bank and Gaza, only the governorate of Ramallah and El Bireh has a female governor. Similarly, the current government headed by Mohammad Shtayyeh has a mere three female cabinet ministers out of 22.  That Palestinian women are often lacking the most basic legal protections and political representation means that they are particularly vulnerable when it comes to the weaponization of their bodies. The threat of sexual violence and the use of sexual harassment are therefore particularly powerful weapons.

The Israeli regime’s use of gendered tactics to oppress Palestinian women, including harassment, threats of sexual violence, and imprisonment, has contributed to the enforcement of gender stereotypes and patriarchal narratives, excluding women from the political sphere. The PA has adopted gendered mechanisms similar to those used by Israeli forces to deter female participation in political activities.

Demonstrations and protests are often sites of gendered violence; in more severe cases physical sexual harassment occurs, with women grabbed and groped.

It is important to note that Palestinian women have not been passive in the face of gendered violence. They have, for instance, long confronted the weaponization of their bodies through such tactics as recognizing their right to remain silent during interrogations and remaining in groups or pairs at demonstrations.
Policy recommendations

  • Palestinian women, collectives, groups, and organizations pursuing women’s rights and gender equality need to be restructured and revitalized into an autonomous women’s movement that struggles for women’s liberation in all spheres.
  • Women’s groups and organizations must find a way to reconnect both with the grassroots and the liberation discourse.
  • Groups and activists must engage with the political marginalization of women. In particular, men in these spaces need to be aware of the power dynamics that prevent women from participating and support women in fighting against them.
  • Palestinian women should examine recent examples of other women in the region who have been part of processes of great political change.
  • There is an urgent need to incorporate feminism into the Palestinian political project through the adoption of a new document of liberation, a document that would understand feminism not only as a theory but also as a practice and way of life that works toward the liberation of all people.

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