Women move from the “safe space” into the “liberative space

Palestine Update  134

Women move from the “safe space” into the “liberative space

“War used to be a man’s game and it still is, mostly.  But things are changing”. (Psychologist, Joe Herbert)

War was typically a male zone until recently.  Studies show how, during the Second World War, it was young males that were killed on the battlefront (though the invention of bombing ensured that many females were killed in their homes).  The same study shows how the creation of female soldiers turned out to be a huge step in social evolution, even though they did not have frontline roles. That evolution is ongoing in different ways and at different levels. Gaza is no exception.

The rise of feminism, a response to the recognition of the historical repression and subjugation of women, means that it is no longer allowable to exclude women form anything on the basis of the gender alone. Equally importantly, women themselves have changed their self-image, so that social and political constraints that formerly formed part of their expectations of what they could or could not do, have changed.  So there is more chance of their being able (and expecting to be able) of carrying out functions, including taking part in war, that were formerly the preserve of men.

In the recent Marches of Gaza, women are far more visible than at any time before. And it has everything to do with the impatience emerging from the blockade of nearly a dozen years. Israel’s cruelties have crossed all tolerable limits. It has left scars on just about every single Gazan.

Women have always experienced the worst in conflict. Gaza is no exception. They have seen their men been sacrificed and become widowed at youthful stages of their lives, deprived of a bread-winner, having to cope with children and little or no means to adequately feed or educate them, even watching them die to the pitiless bombs of the monster-like Israeli army.

Suffering for women and girls is disproportionate. That, has only stirred women to cease opting for ‘safe spaces’, and be the ‘protected’. Rather it has prompted women to step out into a liberational function. They are shunning passivity women and demand they be included in as equals at the frontlines in the fight for justice.

In this issue of Palestine two telling stories from Gaza that demonstrates our argument. They are summaries but we urge you not only to read the whole story by opening up the link but to distribute this widely so that the world begins to acknowledge women’s function in times of conflict – the stories of courage and defiance against injustice and barbarity, against abuse of power as in the case of Gaza.

Ranjan Solomon

 “Women’s March of Gaza”

In socially conservative Gaza, women have been leading the Great Return March movement, uniting all Palestinians.
by Mersiha Gadzo & Anas Jnena

Gaza Strip – On one side of the fence, dozens of Israeli soldiers lay positioned behind sand dunes, tracking the Palestinian demonstrators through the crosshairs of their snipers. On the other side, young women, with keffiyeh scarves covering half their faces to avoid tear gas suffocation, stand in front of the young protesting men, providing cover.

“Women are less likely to be shot at,” said 26-year-old Taghreed al-Barawi on April 13, while attending the third consecutive Friday protests in Gaza near the Israeli border with her younger sister and a group of friends. “We live in a male-dominated society and women’s participation in protests can be a strange scene for some people in Gaza. However, this time men somehow were more accepting and encouraging. It seems like they finally realised that we’re all part of this and women should be present,” Barawi said. But being female is no guarantee for protection.

Some 1,600 protesters, including 160 women, have been wounded and more than 30 have been killed by Israeli snipers since the Great Return March movement began on March 30, marked as Land Day for Palestinians.

Even though Barawi inadvertently choked on tear gas numerous times and felt like she was about to faint, the thought of quitting the protest didn’t cross her mind.  “I had this feeling of strange courage, or I don’t know what to call it – it’s as if the nearer I got to the border, the stronger my desire was to move forward. Maybe it was the urge to come closer to our home and visit it [territories that Israel took over in 1948].

The Great Return March is a non-violent, grassroots movement that calls for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes, as per the UN Resolution 194, from which they were expelled in 1948 when the state of Israel was created. Thousands have been participating in the mass sit-in, with dozens of tents erected along the border with Israel. Each tent is labeled with the name of the town that the family was expelled from in 1948. It’s the largest mass protest Gaza has seen since the first Intifada.

The Palestinian territory with nearly two million populations can only be accessed via Egypt and Israel but an Israeli-Egyptian blockade has been suffocating the Strip for 11 years. Living conditions have deteriorated over the years and unemployment wavers around 43 percent. Residents say they have reached a breaking point. Palestinians have been protesting along Gaza’s border every Friday afternoon for years, but what is noticeably different this time is that a large number of women and girls have been actively participating on a scale not seen before.

And that’s why this Friday’s protests have been labeled the “Women’s March of Gaza”.

What Palestinians can teach us about popular resistance
The people of Gaza rose up not because of Palestinian political factions, but despite them
By Ramzy Baroud
11 Apr 2018

We must learn from young Palestinians who stand bare-chested before snipers and murderers with only their chants for freedom and their faith in certain victory, writes Baroud [Reuters]
The ongoing popular mobilization on the Gaza border is a reminder of previous historical events where the Palestinian people rose in unison to challenge oppression and demand freedom.
Palestinian popular resistance is neither a new phenomenon nor is it an alien one. General mass strikes and civil disobedience, challenging British imperialism and Zionist settlements in Palestine, started nearly a century ago, culminating in the six-month-long general strike of 1936.  Since then, popular resistance has been a staple in Palestinian history, and it was a prominent feature of the First Intifada, the popular uprising of 1987.

It goes without saying that Palestinians need no lectures on how to resist the Israeli occupation, combat racism and defeat apartheid. They, and only they, are capable of developing the proper strategy and the tools that will eventually lead them to freedom. Today the need for that strategy is more urgent than any other time, and there is a reason for that. Gaza is being suffocated. Israel’s decade-long blockade, combined with Arab neglect and a prolonged feud between Palestinian factions, have all served to drive Palestinians to the brink of starvation and political despair. Something had to give.

Read full article

How Palestinian women led successful non-violent resistance
Rana Shubair has been bringing her children regularly to the protest so they can learn about their historical homeland. Just a few kilometres away, on the other side of Israel’s fenced border lie villages, many of which were destroyed during the Nakba and now stand abandoned. Upon learning that most of historical Palestine now belongs to Israel, her friend’s child asked: “Why don’t we tell the police?” Shubair recounted. “I think that what this child proposed is what we, as Palestinians, are seeking – and that is to hold Israel accountable and to demand the application of UN resolution 194 on the Right to Return,” Shubair said. “As a Palestinian, I belong to all of Palestine and I have the right to visit any Palestinian city. I want to be part of this protest to bring about the change I ardently believe in.”


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.