The Conversation - (May 18, 2018) Outside observers tend to imagine the face of Gaza as resolutely male: the bearded Hamas “militant”, or the young man hurling stones across the border fence. But Palestinian women, both in Gaza and the West Bank, have a significant presence as activists, protesting against an unjust occupation, but also as the backbone of a fragmented and demoralised society.

Women have been active in the Palestinian struggle since its early days. In the 1920s, they protested side by side with men against British control of their country. They formed charitable organisations and expressed themselves politically.

After the state of Israel was created in 1948, the majority of Palestinians were forced to flee into exile, and here too women played a key role as 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.

Participating in politics

In the 1960s, with the emergence of a Palestinian liberation movement, dedicated to regaining the lost homeland, some women turned to more militant activities. Leila Khalid, for example, hijacked several airliners on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and became a familiar face in the Western media.

Gradually, women also started to engage in formal politics, through membership of the main Palestinian political factions. Although Palestinians tend to be socially conservative and are anxious to shield women and girls from what might be considered “dishonourable” or nontraditional behaviour, many younger women found a new kind of freedom through education and political mobilisation.

A largely non-violent intifada (or “uprising”) began in 1987. Women, men and children combined efforts to resist the 20-year occupation of their land. They did so in innovative ways, for example by establishing alternative educational facilities for children after all the schools were closed, creating an alternative economy based on home produce, as well as engaging in large-scale protests.

There were also attempts at dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli women. For example, in July 2006, members of the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace (IWC) convened an emergency meeting in Athens. They urged the international community to intervene. In their words:

Civilians, mainly women and children, are paying the price daily for this vicious cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation. This is a time of great danger … If no action is taken today, tomorrow will be too late.

Although no resolution came out of this or similar calls, initiatives involving women from the two sides were judged to have been among the most promising.

Telling the world

Such activities ended in 2000, with the start of the second intifada. The resistance was no longer a shared endeavour involving all sectors of society – it was an armed confrontation. Women suffered greatly from rising levels of violence and decreasing security for civilians.

No one felt safe. Girls travelling from their homes to university were likely to experience harassment at Israeli army checkpoints and, as a result, many parents started to keep their daughters at home, and even to marry them off at the earliest possible opportunity; the age of marriage began to fall.

As the economic situation deteriorated, women had fewer opportunities for employment. Incidences of mental illness rose and women exhibited deep anxiety about the safety of their children.

Many Palestinians feel that they have no control over their own lives. Under a harsh Israeli regime, it has been very difficult to exercise agency and Palestinian political parties have seemed weak and ineffectual. The Islamist party Hamas seemed to offer a more assertive form of opposition, and many women were attracted by its grassroots organising and evident ability to confront the Israeli occupation. Some became militants.

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-nakbah (“the catastrophe”), Palestinians are reminding the world that they were dispossessed 70 years ago and this injustice has still not been remedied. Palestinian women, as much as men, have a vital stake in finding a solution to the conflict, that will provide safety and certainty for the next generation.

 

 

NEW HAVEN, April 25, 2018 (WAFA) –The first Palestinian-themed museum in the United States that opened on Sunday in Woodbridge, on the outskirts of New Haven in Connecticut, showcased Palestinian art, culture and history.

The “Palestinian Museum U.S.”, as it was called, includes work by Palestinian artists from all over the world in celebration of Palestinian diversity, culture and history. The artworks displayed Palestinian life and struggle during the British mandate earlier last century and Israeli occupation that started 50 years ago.

The opening was attended by Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, as well as a large number of members of the Palestinian community in the US.

Presenting Faisal Saleh, founder of The Palestinian Museum U.S., with a Palestinian artwork recognizing his role in acquainting the American society with the Palestinian culture and history, Mansour said the opening of the museum is an important endeavor, stressing it will expand to include more works by Palestinian artists.

He said the museum will help narrate an important part of the Palestinian narrative, especially regarding the heritage, history, struggle and achievements of Palestinian people.

Samiya Halaby, an artist, spoke about the history of modern art in Palestine and how advanced it has become since the 18th century.

MEE (May 3, 2018) A Palestinian poet was convicted of "inciting violence" and "supporting a terrorist organisation" by an Israeli court on Thursday for content she posted on social media that prosecutors claimed urged violence against the occupation.

 

Nazareth magistrates' court found Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, guilty over a poem titled "Resist, My People, Resist Them" posted on Facebook and separate posts dealing with Palestinian resistance. 

 

Prosecutors argued that the poem incited violence, while Tatour also commented on a post featuring Islamic Jihad declaring its commitment to a new intifada, or "uprising" - meaning, according to the charges, that she supported "terrorism".

 

According to the Israeli indictment, Tatour also uploaded a video on her Facebook and YouTube accounts that shows footage of Palestinians throwing stones at the Israeli army troops, with her reading in the background of her "Resist, My People, Resist Them" poem.

 

The 36-year-old's lawyer Gaby Lasky argued the poem had been misinterpreted by Israeli translators, that the content was "artistic expression" rather than a call to violence, and that the Israeli charges ran counter to the freedom of expression of her client.

 

"The verdict violates the right of speech and freedom of expression. It is an infringement on cultural rights of the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It would lead to self-censorship and self-criminalisation of poetry."

 

Lasky said she would appeal against the verdict. A date for sentencing has not been set.

 

'The mask of Israeli justice'

 

Tatour said after the verdict that her trial "ripped off the masks" of Israeli democracy and justice. 

 

"The whole world will hear my story. The whole world will hear what Israel's democracy is. A democracy for Jews only. Only Arabs go to jail. The court said I am convicted of terrorism. If that's my terrorism, I give the world a terrorism of love."

 

More than 150 American literary figures have called for Israel to free Tatour, including nine Pulitzer Prize winners including Alice Walker, along with Claudia Rankine, Naomi Klein and Jacqueline Woodson.

 

Tatour was arrested on 11 October 2015, about a week after she published her poem.

 

In an interview before the verdict, Tatour told Middle East Eye she had already spent two and a half years flitting between custody and house arrest.

 

She said Israeli interrogators initially had little to question her about.

 

"First, they accused me of incitement based on a poster I posted in 2014, which contained the words "I'm the next martyr". The martyrs are the victims of the Israeli occupation, who are being shot by soldiers," Tatour said.

 

"The accusation was weak, so they dug into my Facebook and found the poem."

 

She said the second verse was misinterpreted.

 

"Here, they interpreted a line in the poem that says 'Resist, my people, resist them, Resist the settler’s robbery, And follow the caravan of martyrs' - as inciting people to be killed and be martyrs."

 

The poem tells a story of three Palestinians, "victims of the Israeli occupation", according to Tatour: Mohammed Abu Khdier, a teen who was kidnapped and burned to death by three Israeli settlers in Jerusalem in 2014; Hadeel al-Hashlamon, 18, who was shot by Israeli troops in Hebron city; and 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh who was burned alive in the fire with his parents in an arson attack by Israeli settlers in July 2015, in Duma, in the West Bank.

 

"Those are all martyrs. Although, it feels odd to call them like that in English or Hebrew because they are victims. But in Arabic, there is no separation between the meaning of martyr and victim when he or she is shot by Israeli soldiers," she said.

 

"Palestinians who were killed in the Israeli war over Gaza are called martyrs."

 

House arrest

 

Tatour was arrested for three months and was interrogated five times by Israeli officers. Each interrogation lasted five to six hours, she told the MEE.

 

In January 2016 Tatour was released, after being fitted with an ankle monitor, to a house arrest for six months at the home of her brother in Kiryat Ono neighbourhood in Tel Aviv.

 

"They considered me a danger for Israelis, but when they dictated the location of my house arrest, they could not find a place more Israeli than Tel Aviv to do that. I find this ironic," she said.

 

She added that the house arrest was a harsh experience.

 

Far from her family in Reineh village, she was not allowed to use a mobile phone or the internet or even to publish texts in the media. After four months of house arrest, she was allowed to leave the house for two hours on weekends, if accompanied by a relative.

 

"I had two choices, detention or house arrest. I was not allowed to publish any poetry or texts in the media according to the Israeli court," she said.

 

Tatour considers Fadwa Tuqan, a Palestinian poet, and Nazik al-Malaika, an Iraqi poet, as her role models and intellectual inspiration.

 

She has published one poetry collection in 2010 titled "The Final Invasion". Her second collection, "The Atlantic Canary Tales", was due to be published in December 2015, but her arrest prevented that.

 

In addition, Tatour has another book written about her detention waiting for publication.

 

"I wrote a lot while in prison. The Israeli prosecution tried to press that I provoked the publishing ban when my poem A Poet Behind Bars appeared in the International Translation Day in English on Pen International website.

 

"I wrote this poem before the ban, on 2 of November, the day I was indicted, in Jalameh prison," she said.

 

Her translated poems appeared recently in A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Anthology, a UK bilingual Arabic and English anthology published in 2017, that presents Palestinian poets. Its editor, sci-fi novelist and poet Naomi Foyle told MEE that "tens of thousands of recorded instances of Zionist hate speech go unnoticed by Israeli courts. In convicting Dareen Tatour of incitement, Israel confirms again its true nature: an apartheid prison state."

 

The last text Tatour wrote was titled "The Final Chapter", Tatour told MEE.

 

"It is a poem. I am asking whether I would face freedom or prison after the verdict. In the end, I conclude that whatever the decision will be, I will end up free."

 

 

 

 

MEE (April 19, 2018) - Gazan women ignore claims by Israeli army that protesting is against their femininity, turning up in their thousands for Great March of Return.

An Israeli army spokesman recently warned Palestinian women to stay in the kitchen, rather than protest, saying their "femininity" demanded as much.

Unsurprisingly, this archaic warning didn't seem to have an effect on Gazan women, who continued to take part in the ongoing “Great March of Return” protests in droves. 

The protests, which began on 30 March, are marking the displacement of Palestinians by Israel in 1948, and are set to continue until Nakba Day on 15 May.

Avichay Adraee, the Israeli army's Arabic media spokesman, wrote in a social media post on 5 April: “The good woman is the honourable woman who takes care of her home and children.”

“The deprived woman who lacks honour does not care of these things and acts wildly against her feminine nature, and cares not for how she is seen by society.”

Ahead of a fourth Friday of protests, Palestinian women continue to defy his recommendations, and have slammed his statement as misogynistic and derisory. 

Speaking to MEE, Gazan Sabreen al-Khatib said: “We are all one, there is no difference between a man and a woman.”  

“Women are at the centre of this issue and make up half of society. It’s every Palestinian woman’s right to defend her land and nation. Women are at the heart and centre of the resistance,” said another Palestinian woman, who asked to remain anonymous. 

While 15-year-old Tuqa al-Ghalban added, "We have come here to take part in asking for our right to our country." 

"The woman does not belong in the home. We have to take part in this with men and support them as we all ask for the right to return."

One social media user said Adraee's comments were sexist.

A photo is also included in the IDF major’s social media post, depicting a woman wrapped in the Palestinian ‘keffiyeh’ with a slingshot.

The Arabic reads: “A woman is defined by her femininity and her weapon is her mind… Where are these traits in a saboteur?” 

Addressing Adraee, another female protester, Muna Abu Shame, told MEE: “I say to him, he’s wrong. We’re in the right and we have men behind us. And, God willing, we demand our right to return to our country.”

Meanwhile, journalist Khaled Diab accused the Israeli army of contradicting state policy on gender empowerment issues. 

He writes, "These are the words of the spokesman of the Israeli army, you know the same army in which tens of thousands of women serve, the army representing a nation which claims to believe in gender equality."

Diab also called the Adraee's post an "ugly mix of sexism and racism."

The Israeli army spokesman is no stranger to controversial comments.

On a video recording before the Land Day protest, Adraee used Saudi fatwas as justification for arguing that Palestinians should not take part in the “Great March of Return” protests.

"The Saudi scholar, Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan, has decreed for banning demonstrations and sit-ins, saying that this behaviour has nothing to do with the Muslims’ ethics, and that it is a characteristic of infidels and a sense of anarchy and chaos that is not tolerated by Islam," said Avichay Adraee.

"Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen stated that sit-ins and violent demonstrations are evil, because they lead to chaos."

In total, 33 Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli forces since 30 March.

The planned six-week protest is set to end on 15 May - the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), in which more than 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

 

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