Women in resistance to Israeli colonialism and apartheid

Palestine Update 181

Women in resistance to Israeli colonialism and apartheid

Observers from the outside more often, than not, have pre-conceived notions about resistance in Gaza: The bearded Hamas “militant” or the young man hurling stones across the border fence. Not many know about women and their place in the struggle. Palestinian women, both in Gaza and the West Bank, have a significant presence as activists, protesting against an unjust occupation. They are, in fact, the backbone of a fragmented and demoralized society argues a report from ‘The Conversation’. The report shows how women have been active in the Palestinian struggle since its early days. They were even in the thick of the struggle against the British in the time of the British mandate. At the time of the creation of State of Israel in 1948, they were protectors of their families, and repositories of the “national story”. It was vital that Palestinians, wherever they were in the world, did not forget what had happened and continued to insist on their right of return to their homeland. Women passed their memories of Palestine down to subsequent generations. When the Palestinian liberation movement emerged, several women turned militant. An icon from that era was Leila Khalid who hijacked several airliners on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and became widely known around the world for her courage and determination. In 1987 women joined men and children in the Intifada applying creative and alternative educational facilities for children after all the schools were closed. They also crafted an alternative economy based on home produce, as well as engaging in large-scale protests. “The Conversation” concludes as follows: “While it may be tempting to argue that the participation of women in violence is a sign of a society that has lost its way, the reality is more complex. Many Palestinian women point out that their community is powerless; it has neither the political leadership nor the weapons to fight a conventional war. Instead, it relies on all its members to participate and “tell the world” what is happening to them.

By protesting at the Gaza-Israel border to mark the anniversary of al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”), Palestinian women, as much as men, have assumed a vital stake in finding a solution to the conflict that will provide safety and certainty for the next generation. The militant Hamas has attracted the women to engage in grassroots organizing to meet head-on the Israeli occupation.

In this edition, we briefly report on three stories of three recent women icons that are also playing a powerful role in the fight for civil rights in “apartheid” Israel.

We share a powerful collection of pictures portraying angry women challenging the brutal occupation as created in 2016 by Activestills. It shows the hidden, yet significant, role of women in the struggle. Two years later the images still count for the intensity of women’s place in the struggle. We also share a defiant alternative view in an article: Palestinian woman: Active in struggle, obscure in media. This is a must read for those who foresee an inclusive Palestine when freedom dawns. .

Ranjan Solomon

Women as powerful icons in the Palestinian Struggle (Excerpts)
Women like Rosa Parks empowered the American civil rights movement, earning compassion for the civilian protesters who clashed with police and soldiers. Women are also playing a powerful role in the fight for civil rights in “apartheid” Israel, where ethnic cleansing policies seek to go beyond segregation. Three Palestinian women have come to symbolize this aspect in the ongoing fight against Israeli civil rights abuses: Razan Al-Najjar, 21, Ahed Tamimi, 17, and Lara Al-Qasem, 22. One was murdered, while the other two confront the frightening face of Israel’s oppression.

On June 1, an Israeli soldier focused the lethal crosshairs of his weapon on Al-Najjar, an unarmed nurse courageously providing medical attention to the many injured civilians more than 300 yards across the border with Gaza. Al-Najjar was instantly killed when the soldier’s bullet pierced her clearly visible medical vest. Posters of Al-Najjar smiling and wearing a red hijab have been placed all around Khan Yunis, the Palestinian town in Gaza where she lived with her parents. Al-Najjar is an icon of courage and humanity in the face of such ugly Israeli brutality and oppression.

Tamimi was born in 2001 in Nabi Saleh, a small village near Ramallah that is the focus of constant Israeli military harassment and settler attacks against civilians. Her parents said their daughter aspired, even from a young age, to be a champion of civil rights, with the hope of studying to become a lawyer. In 2012, the then-11-year-old courageously stood up to the heavily armed Israeli soldiers who were trying to arrest her mother during a civilian protest against Israel’s discriminatory policies. Four years later, Tamimi was invited to visit the US to speak in a program titled “No Child Behind Bars/Living Resistance.” But President Barack Obama, who has been falsely praised for his eloquent rhetoric about civil rights, human rights and the protection of children, showed his true colors when his State Department refused to give Tamimi a visa to visit the US.

But not even Obama’s hypocrisy could undermine the fight against civil rights abuses and the fight for freedom. On Dec. 15, 2017, as Palestinians across the Occupied Territories and in the encircled Gaza Strip protested the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a group of heavily armed soldiers at Nabi Saleh entered Tamimi’s home, allegedly chasing protesters, and brutally beat one of her cousins. Soon after, Tamimi began yelling and pushing the soldiers outside her home. A video captured her confronting one soldier and slapping him. Days after the video of this little teenage girl standing firm in the face of the Israeli military went viral, Israel ordered her arrested and held her in detention.

Al-Qasem, an American citizen with a Palestinian father, entered Israel with a valid student visa on Oct. 2 in order to pursue a degree in human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Instead, she was immediately detained by Israeli authorities and accused of supporting the BDS movement. Al-Qasem has been in Israeli custody since, as her fight for freedom has moved from the security room at Ben Gurion Airport to the Israeli Supreme Court, where justice and the rule of law have often been the most frequent victims. She fought hard against her deportation and after a ruling from Israel’s Supreme Court overturned the pending deportation order against the alleged Palestinian supporter. Israel has desperately tried to libel all of the women, demeaning them in every possible way. Israeli writers’ posed awkward questions why Tamimi’s hair is blond and her eyes blue. Israel claimed Al-Najjar was shot accidentally, later questioning her role as a “medic” and then asserting she was a “human shield.” Israel’s ambassador in London called her a Hamas terrorist. The power of these women to stand up to injustice is not diminished by the desperate and unbelievable excuses Israel uses to defend its human rights abuses.

PHOTOS: A year of women’s struggles in Palestine and Israel 
They confronted Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and police in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, opposed the occupation, violence against women, and fought against racism and police brutality. A year of women’s struggles!(From 2016 but not too different from today)
View pictures

Palestinian women: Active in struggle, obscure in media

Palestinian women share a certain particularity which makes them different from other women around the world. This particularity is their active participation in the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation for over 70 years. Their suffering however has neither translated into equal participation and recognition in the different spheres or life, nor led to changing their cultural and stereotypical image in the media. On the contrary, they are presented as weak and victims rather than depictions that shed light on their skills, capacities, knowledge and experiences. Palestinian women are often neglected as active patriots against the occupation, and regularly cast away from diplomatic missions, as well as negotiations regarding peace, reconciliation and national unity.
The on-going conflict affects the lives of women and men, yet its effects on women are more dramatic and different than those on men. However, Palestinian media do not reflect these effects fairly for women, but choose to portray a stereotypical image through different traditional roles and in limited topics. The under-representation and mis-representation of women in the media and news keeps their voices unheard and their opinions unshared on important topics watched and followed in the media and news.
Media monitoring research by Women, Media and Development (TAM) found that:

  • Only 12% of Palestinian women (in comparison to 88% of Palestinian men) are interviewed, or talked about in news related to decision-making processes, peace, security and the violations of the Israeli occupation. Despite the fact that Palestinian women make up 50% of the Palestinian population.
  • 7% of the monitored news concentrated mainly on women.
  • 5% of the monitored news challenged the stereotypical image of women.
  • 4% of the monitored news represented women as leaders or decision makers.
  • The Palestinian Media often focuses on representing the Palestinian woman as the tender mother or the broken-hearted sister of a martyr or prisoners.
  • There is a significant absence and trivialization of women in news related to peace negotiations, Palestinian national division, the siege and reconstruction of Gaza Strip, despite the reality that women bear the responsibilities of the patriot status. Women’s participation is not shown and their representation in reconciliation committees is hardly depicted.

Download the full report

Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.

 لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.

Mahmoud Darwish.