I love this project, and I love Yasmina Alaoui. 1001 Dreams.
I love this project, and I love Yasmina Alaoui. 1001 Dreams.
D., a 24-year-old student, has reported that the shrink at the National Insurance (Social Security) office in Netanya recommended that she work in prostitution, saying “As a trans woman you can make a living as a prostitute, so I see no reason to give you a Social Security allowance”.
Some factoids: According to reported numbers, about 95% of trans* people in Israel have difficulty finding work, making them possibly the most discriminated populations in the labor market. National Insurance policy dictates that trans* people be classified as having a mental disorder – Gender Identity Disorder (GID) (according to the ICD; the DSM has removed GID from its list of disorders). This means that trans* people can receive living allowances under disability law rather than under unemployment laws.
According to D., the psychiatrist told her that living allowances are for the disabled, and that as long as she has the option of prostitution, she can make a living and therefore is not eligible.
The National Insurance Institute has responded that this their policy includes “sensitivity to special populations” and maintaining the dignity of all applicants, and that they are investigating the complaint.
On the eve of what seem to be ineluctable strikes on Syria, I've been struggling with what my position on Syria should be. Before I get to that though, I should say that while I'm not Syrian, I too have some skin in the game, as it were. On our way to donate blood for a friend's mother’s surgery last month, my wife got a call from a friend telling us to avoid the neighborhood of Bir al-Abed in Beirut's southern suburbs, since there had just been a…
Last night, a couple dozens of Border Police and city police raided a closed cafe is South Tel Aviv, where one of the owners and an employee were closing down the kitchen and register. Police forced their way into the business, and attacked and manhandled the proprietor, Orly Chen. Both of the women were arrested. The barrista was released this morning, Chen is still in interrogation.
Apparently, a city inspector reported that Alby, the cafe, was open (though it was clearly locked) because a group of “Women in Yellow” (a grassroots group that has organized to patrol the increasingly violent streets of South Tel Aviv, which the police generally avoid and have become particularly dangerous to women) had wrapped up their patrol in front of the closed cafe.
One of the founders of the Women in Yellow is activist Ortal Ben Dayan. And this is where the story begins to make sense: About 1-2 weeks ago, Ben Dayan confronted a Border Police officer who was being verbally abusive to a Palestinian family sitting at the cafe. The officer proceeded to verbally abuse Ben Dayan, and demanded she provide identification. Under Israeli law, citizens have the right to refuse to identify themselves unless they are being detained under suspicion of a crime (and I believe they need to be informed what the crime is). Ben Dayan was clearly not under suspicion, and had no need to identify. The police officer then placed her under arrest, claiming she had “offended a public official”. After a night in jail and some legal ludicrousness, Ben Dayan was found to not be in violation of any law and was released. The officer who arrested her, on the other hand, was surprisingly not let off so easily – after extremely racist statements were found on his Facebook profile, he was dismissed from service.Read more here – http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.541537
(I don’t like to link to Ha’aretz, which is a supposedly progressive newspaper that supports rapists, and has recently launched a pornographic ad campaign objectifying women, and also gates their content to paid subscribers – but I’m making an exception here since it is difficult to find reports on these things in English. Hopefully, you’ll reach the non-paid content.)
So, going back to the raid on Alby: If for the sake of argument we accept the inspector’s assertion that the cafe was open – why did an entire caravan of police cars and a couple dozen police show up? Why did the BORDER POLICE rather than the city police take the lead on the situation? This was clearly not a run-of-the-mill business infraction situation. It appears that the association between Alby and the incident with Ben Dayan made it a target (the cafe is a regular hangout for queer and political activist groups, and Ben Dayan runs her own vintage shop next door).
But clearly even the original assertion is completely fabricated. When police arrived the business was locked up, and they threatened Chen that if she did not open up, they would break the glass storefront.
Here are two videos showing the police conduct (including where an officer clearly goes to where Chen is standing behind the counter and grabs her. He apparently claimed she attacked him). The whole time Chen is asking – what am I being arrested for? and receiving no answer. At one point as she is being pushed into the patrol car, the officer near her says “the arresting officer informed you what for”. The video is uncut from the arrest to that point – and at no time is Chen informed what the arrest is for.
See video of Chen’s arrest here:
As I’m writing this report (Aug 27, late morning Jerusalem time), I have been informed that under a police order the cafe has been shut down for 30 days, for supposed safety violations. As you can see below, every single possible violation has been marked on the form (how likely is that?). Even though I already knew I was living in a state where there is minimal oversight of police and minimal respect for human rights, Israel likes to maintain the *appearance* of propriety, and I really didn’t know that the police could just take away a business’ right to exist with no court approval or intervention.
Update ~ noon Jerusalem time: City and Riot police arrive at Alby to harass customers and onlookers, illegally demanding they provide picture ID and leave the premises.
Update ~2pm Jerusalem time: Police are trying to remove equipment from the cafe. Activists preventing it.
Update ~3pm Jerusalem time: Having faced resistance from the activists and customers, the Riot Police returned with a warrant to remove the business’ computer, under suspicion of “agitation”. How military dictatorship is that? Somewhat Kafkaesque? People are agitated that the business owner is being detained without charge and her business targeted for closure, which retroactively enables the police to seize the cafe’s computer for… agitation?
Activists vowing to block them from carrying this out indefinitely. Also, a protest rally is planned this evening in front of the South Tel Aviv police station. If anyone reading this is in the vicinity of Tel Aviv please come (or at least distribute the event).
Incidentally, Alby is one of the few queer-friendly (and queer-owned) businesses in Tel Aviv, which is virtually the only queer-friendly place in Israel. I invite anyone who is interested in exposing the true face of Israel in the face of the extreme pinkwashing of the Israeli government and allies organizations worldwide to share this and other stories. I encourage BDS activists to us this too: While for some people (like the Tom Jones representatives on Facebook) Islamophobia and therefore abuse of Palestinians may be palatable, the mindset that allows that abuse affects us all, and until we are all safe, no one is safe. And anti-BDS voices certainly use the supposed queer-friendliness of Israeli authorities as a (very poor) counter argument to Palestinian solidarity.
The police closure order on Alby:
Some other famous instances of police brutality :
Trigger warning for extreme racism and violence. I really wish this was in English. I’ve translated parts of this below, but there are some things that no amount of translation will ever get across. This is a screenshot from a Facebook page in Hebrew, called “Death to all Terrorists”. Terrorists, apparently, are any and all Arabs.
These are responses to an image of dozens of bodies of dead Syrians in body bags. This page (and others) have been publishing various images of victims of the violence in Syria, including children. These responses are typical.
Earlier today and yesterday, I was involved in yet another discussion on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions upon Israel, a movement calling for cultural boycotts on Israel until they comply with International law regarding treatment of Palestinians and the occupation of Palestinian people and territories). A repeated theme in this discussion is Jews (not necessarily Israelis) who post such statements as “Dear [name of musician], Israel is a peace-seeking nation, and Jews are peace-seeking people! We never start wars, we respect people, we are the victims!” and so on and so forth.
I really want to expose the true mindset in Israel. It is NOT peaceful or peace-seeking. Naftali Bennet, Israel’s Minister of Commerce, recently admitted to killing an unspecified number of Arabs, for unspecified reasons, and declared that is just fine. The people in this post, are not some fringe group. These are regular Israelis, and what they have written here – translated below – are things I hear every day. Everywhere I go. Read through, if you can stomach it, and judge for yourselves.
Now repeat this by thousands of Facebook accounts, groups, cafes, buses, homes, army bases, schools, workplaces…. This is normal Israel, when it isn’t being pinkwashed, whitewashed, propagandized, and spinned.
I’m pretty tired of always being expected to be apologetic to hegemonic persons who automatically get riled up at the merest hint that they may be in collusion with an oppressive system – whether men, white people, cis-people, straight people… Seriously, no matter how good you THINK your intentions are, you benefit as a member of that group from the oppression of others. You have a responsibility to proactively act against all the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the existing structure. You don’t get off by saying “I don’t see color” or “we’re all human” or “everyone is equally deserving of respect”, or “Just be nice to everybody!” (“nice” really isn’t the issue). By doing that, you are erasing and ignoring and minimizing the actual lived experiences of marginalized people – THEY never say they don’t see color or that everyone should love each other equally, because their ENTIRE LIFE EXPERIENCE is based on the fact that people DO see color (or gender, or ethnicity, or weight, or age… and they DON’T LIKE IT). You don’t get to say “generalizing about men is equally sexist to what men do to women”, because guess what: it isn’t. If that was all we were dealing with, we wouldn’t be here, doing this feminism thing. And getting no end of crap for it. We get to be mad, because we’re the ones getting raped, murdered, beaten, paid less, judged, disowned, legislated against, maligned, harassed, and more. You don’t get to act as if there is parity between us. If I hate you – nothing happens to you except you feel I was unpleasant to you. I live in a state of fear and violence, whether or not you even recognize my existence. I get to say “I hate straights/cis-people/men”, even if that isn’t “nice”. I don’t owe you my niceness. You don’t get to hate women/people of color/trans* people – because when you do, you are supporting an entire system of oppression and violence. Someday, when the playing field is even, you will have a right to claim that this attitude might lead to oppression. Someday, on that day that will only arrive if TODAY YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR PRIVILEGES AND THE OPPRESSIONS OF OTHERS. But for now – you don’t get to take away our anger. Their anger. The anger that comes from being stomped on and marginalized. YOU JUST DON’T.
You might have read my previous posts on the 269 movement – an animal liberation movement that started in Israel/Occupied Palestine, and spread worldwide. The group gained international attention when they did a public branding event – activists gathered in the center of Tel Aviv and got branded with the number 269 – in honor of the namesake of the movement, a calf being raised for beef known only by the number stapled to his ear.
Later, the group staged public tattoo events: People stood in line emulating a concentration camp/slaughterhouse scenario, and got a tattoo with the number 269. Sister events were quickly organized in solidarity in places as diverse as Johannesburg, Melbourne, Augusta Georgia, Prague, Peru, Brazil, Berlin, and more. **
ANYWAY – The exciting news is that earlier today an anonymous message was delivered to the 269 Life site, saying that activists liberated 269 – now a young bull – only hours before he was to be slaughtered, and took him to safety. The action took place several weeks ago, and they say that 269 is doing well.
It is only one life out of the billions that will be sacrificed to the human lust for murdered flesh… But it is a LIFE. And a highly symbolic one. I can’t think of better news to start my day!
Follow 269 Life:
** The next international solidarity event will take place on September 26, 2013! Find out where the event nearest you is taking place, or organize your own local event and send pictures to to 269 Life!
I am part of a very radical, political, and informed bisexual community. I am proud of the people comprising this community, but as little as two or three years ago I didn’t even know they existed. If I pause to think about how I came to know these amazing revolutionary friends, and how I learned pretty much everything I know about bisexual politics, it’s fairly easy to pinpoint a handful of key people, who by reading them and engaging with them, I literally changed how I think: about myself, my gender and sexual identities, about community and politics, and about a million other things. One of these people is Shiri Eisner, whose book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution has just been published.
By reading Eisner online* (Facebook, Tumblr, and her Hebrew- and English-language blogs) and engaging in the same or similar political discussions (and, of course, with other persons active in radical politics as well), I was able to come to terms, for the first time, with ideas I was either blind to, ignorant of, or in total denial of their existence. I had never heard of bisexual erasure, for example, and I wasn’t troubled by it either, because my own bisexual identity was not important to me.
This new (to me) political discourse made me question myself – why was I willing to suppress my own identity? It isn’t as though I was against identity politics in principle, as I was an active feminist, a supporter of Palestinian liberation, an anti-racism and anti-colonialism activist, and more… What was it about bisexuality that was so easy to dismiss? And once I was aware of my own identity issues, how could I ignore the political aspects of accepting or denying my bisexuality? Was I not collaborating with a system that was oppressing me and others like me?
And as oppression is not my cup of tea… My perceptions had to change.
I can’t actually describe how momentous of a change this was for me. It was a watershed moment, a light bulb switching on, an epiphany… Pick your phrase, but I simply cannot overstate the significance, because this wasn’t just about bisexuality, it was a defining moment for me in understanding my own belief systems – that I have a radical rather than liberal political viewpoint, and that I had gained new critical lenses with which to examine all power relations. It led to a redefining of my feminism, my activism, my gender identity, my participation in other groups’ activism as an ally… It changed my life, and there is no going back. My activism has taken on an entirely different aspect, whether online or in “real life”, and as a result I have come to recognize that I have strength and influence I never imagined.
But what does this have to do with the book?
I don’t think my personal story is unique. I think there are many of us out there, people with non-normative sexual and gender identities, who find each other mostly online, and there share information and experiences and political ideas. I think we gather knowledge and awareness like berries, sometimes in abundance sometimes scraping from scarcity, but always searching and not necessarily knowing everything we might want to about developing ideas or even history, or just the state of things. Or simply getting information in a form or in an order we can digest. So sometimes we gain understanding, sometimes we don’t, it can be hit and miss, and there isn’t one central place in which we can start at the beginning (say, what is bisexuality, anyway?) and then move on to more advanced concepts and tools.
In my view, Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution is the first time all this knowledge has been collected into one place, in a clear and coherent way, defining not only what bisexuality is and is not, but also the societal forces that influence attitudes towards bisexuals, and their consequences. What it has taken me a couple of painstaking years to learn and internalize, Eisner has brilliantly collated into a comprehensive, yet readable book, accompanied by her own unique analysis. While the book certainly deals with advanced concepts, it takes care to define them, and is geared to be an accessible and useful tool for both beginners and those more deeply involved in bisexual discourse.
So why should you read the book?
First of all, you are guaranteed to learn something new, or get a new perspective on familiar topics. For example, even the most basic question of how bisexuality is defined is not free from disagreement, controversy, and political significance, and the book’s explanations are very illuminating. And that is just the beginning – the book introduces many other concepts we should all know, from monosexism to bisexual erasure to gender subversion… Even familiar terms are explored in a way that uncovers their revolutionary potential and places them in contexts that are both surprising and revealing.
In addition, you will learn about issues surrounding bisexuality – such as how bisexuals are disproportionately and detrimentally affected in terms of health, finances, and sexual violence. The book also discusses how bisexuality and the bisexual struggle intersect with, and are influenced by, other oppressions and struggles (there are entire chapters on bisexuality and feminism, bi and trans, bisexuality and the homo-centric gay movement, and bisexuality and racialization).
Finally, you will also gain tools for understanding and dealing with some of the challenges and concepts presented – such as deconstructing common biphobic stereotypes and tropes (bisexuality doesn’t exist, bisexuals are just confused, bisexuals are really either gay or straight, bisexuals spread diseases, bisexuals are inherently unfaithful, and more).
But perhaps what most appeals to me is that while Eisner certainly does instruct, the book in no way comes to excuse or to defend: Eisner is unapologetic and even aggressive in her insistence on the inherent legitimacy of bisexual identity and community, without seeking approval from any external source; moreover – in seeing the subversive and intrinsically revolutionary potential of bisexuality, as a challenging force to oppressive, binary, mono- and cis-sexist, hegemonic cultures.
I feel extremely validated by the very existence of this book. I like it very much when things I know, or believe in, or strive for, are put in writing and can be referenced. I like learning new things and being challenged to see things in new ways. And I feel very privileged to have been a part of the community Eisner uses as her point of reference and example in this very important document.
Oh! – and I am not recommending this book only to bisexuals and other non-monosexuals… My ardent wish would be for all “normative” (monosexuals and cisgender) people to read this book. Perhaps they would begin to become aware of how they contribute to the oppression of others, even if they are doing so in the most unintentional way.
* Since that time, we have also met socially and have done activism together.
I have a spotty relationship with the Tel Aviv Pride Parade. Where I started out, several years back, was excited support: My city sponsored a colorful, loud, LGBT parade! In spite of this country being largely religious, conservative, homophobic… Yay for liberal Tel Aviv! Yay for gay tourism! Yay for gay couples being able to walk down the street holding hands! Most people I know are still exactly there.
But as I became more politically aware, as I began to embrace and express my own queer identity… I realized that not everything was truly awash in pride-colored beauty. I learned how the Agudah (Tel Aviv Gay Center) is run by white gay bourgeois men, who push forward gay white male middle-class issues, such as surrogacy, and same-sex marriage. All the while budgets are either non-existent or under constant threat for issues such as homeless LGBT youth, transgender housing and health, and HIV/AIDS (which is on a terrifying rise in Israel). Bisexuality as a topic or issue is entirely erased. I became aware of the pinkwashing policies of the Israeli government, who use Israel’s relatively good record on LGBT issues (the middle class ones) to cover up heinous crimes against the Palestinians. And of course the government is not above spreading outrageous lies about the treatment of LGBT Palestinians, claiming Israel is a haven for them, whereas the truth is quite the opposite.
So two years ago, I participated in the alternative radical campaign and march – we started out with the main parade in solidarity with the blocs we identified with – the Transgender Bloc, the Asexual Bloc, etc. – and when the main parade turned right to go to the beach, we turned left and headed to an open mic event for anyone who felt their voice was being silenced.
Last year, no alternative campaign took shape, so I went on record as shunning all city-sponsored pride activities. I was happy with my decision, but was disappointed that no counter-action was in play.
So this year, I was thrilled that a group called Mashpritzot, an anarcho-queer activist group I am part of, decided to take action and do a protest and event. I am extremely proud to have been part of this event, proud that we had an impact on what turned out to be the largest TA Pride Parade ever (over 100,000 by some estimates, who were mostly straights by some other estimates). And I am both happy and proud to record that action here.
In this action against the “gay” community’s priorities, group activists painted themselves pink in protest against pinkwashing – the cynical use of the Israeli “gay” community in order to paint Israel as a “liberal”, “progressive” country, and divert attention from the occupation and apartheid against the Palestinians.
Initially marching along with the main parade, we carried signs highlighting issues not dealt with by the community, such as “While You Fight for Gay Marriage, LGBTQs Are Sleeping in the Street”, “While You Fight for the Right to Have Children, LGBTQ Youth are Facing Parental Violence”, “One Quarter of Bisexuals Suffer from Poor Health”, and more.
In the middle of the Pride Parade, we spread a huge rainbow flag, and cordoned off the area, blocking the parade. Participants then fell upon the flag, feigning death. The sign seen in the picture reads: “Here lie the victims of the community’s priorities”.
Fliers were distributed as onlookers surrounded the display. Some were amused, some were annoyed. One man told me he hoped we really would die. Others were truly moved and excited, shook our hands and expressed support. Some people took the opportunity to learn more about transgender and bisexual issues. Some made transphobic remarks. But no one who passed by at the time of the action was able to ignore us.
Some of my friends and colleagues got asphalt burns, but according to them it was well worth it.
Afterwards, we went back to the park where the Gay Center is located (while the commercial parade went to dance on the beach) and had another open mic event, where every single person who wanted to, had their voice heard.
For more about pinkwashing:
BDS, LGBT, and Why You Should Care About Pinkwashing
Pinkwatching Israel: Pinkwashing Kit
Reblogged from Random Shelling
Post: Palestinian Women: Trapped Between Occupation and Patriarchy
On a warm and bright Sunday morning, three-year-old Saqer was cuddling with his mother when she was shot several times in the head and chest. Dishevelled, tremulous, and smirched with his mother’s blood, Saqer was spotted by a neighbour pleading for help, but was unable to give utterance to what had just befallen his household. Saqer’s mother, Mona Mahajneh, had just been murdered in cold blood in front of his own eyes; the only suspect so far is his maternal uncle, whose detention has been extended in order to allow the investigation of the murder to progress.
Mahajneh, a 30-year-old mother of three from Umm al-Fahm in the Northern Triangle, is the latest martyr of domestic violence against Palestinian women in the Palestinian territories occupied by Zionist militias in 1948 (hereinafter referred to as the Green Line, Israel’s internationally-recognised armistice border). She tried to start a new life after her divorce, despite being separated from her other two children. However, in a patriarchal society, where divorced women are often dehumanised and treated like scourges and onerous burdens, Mona paid with her life for seeking independence and the freedom to choose.
Ironically, Mona was murdered only two days after a protest against killings of women under the cloak of “family honour.” On Friday, 26 April, the Committee Against Women Killings, a coalition of 20 Palestinian feminist groups, toured Palestinian villages and cities in the Green Line in two separate motorized processions. Dubbed “The Procession of Life,” the protest called for an end to the phenomenon of “honour” crimes. Two motorcades, one that took off from the Naqab in the South, and another from Kafr Manda in the lower Galilee, eventually converged for a joint protest in Kafr Qare’ near Umm al-Fahm. The processions passed through Palestinian villages in the South and the North, sending a vociferous message against violence throughout Palestine. Names of women killed by their family members, as well as placards and signs that read “No honour in honour crimes,” and “She was killed for being a woman” were raised on the cars. The impressive turnout for the protest and the media attention it attracted, however, could not prevent Mona’s murder.
This is not the first time that a Palestinian woman had been murdered shortly after a protest against gender-based violence. On 10 March of this year, Alaa Shami, 21, was stabbed to death by her brother in the northern town of Ibilline, just two days after International Women’s Day. On 7 February, 2010, Bassel Sallam fatally shot his wife, Hala Faysal, and left her to bleed in her bedroom. Hours before the murder, his father Ali Sallam, deputy mayor of Nazareth, participated in a demonstration against violence on women and gave a speech denouncing it.
Six Palestinian women have been killed in the Green Line so far this year, two more than those killed in all of 2012. Statistics provided by the Nazareth-based organisation Women Against Violence show an even more distressing picture: Since Israel ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1991, 162 Palestinian women in the Green Line have been killed by their husbands or other family members. Since 1986, 35 Palestinian women have been murdered in the towns of al-Lydd and Ramleh alone. Numbers provided by “Women Against Violence” also show that an overwhelming majority of the women killed in the Green Line are Palestinians. In 2011, for instance, 14 women were killed in the Green Line, nine of whom were Palestinians. Of the 15 women killed in 2010, ten were Palestinians. A total of eleven women were killed in 2009 and nine of them were Palestinian women. In that same year, 13 Palestinian women were killed across Gaza and the West Bank. Accurate figures about women killings in Gaza and the West Bank are harder to obtain, and not all cases are documented or covered by the Palestinian media, but by no means is the situation less disturbing than that in the Green Line.
A recent high-profile initiative targeting violence against women and challenging the concept of “honour” killings was the music video “If I could Go Back in Time,” released in November 2012 by the Palestinian hip hop group DAM. The moving music video, co-directed by Jackie Salloum and funded by UN Women, has drawn over 200,000 views and received positive feedback in Palestine and beyond. A major drawback of the video, though, was that it de-politicised violence against women and traded depth and intersectionality for populist drama and reductionism. As Lila Abu Lughod and Maya Mikdashi wrote in their critique of the video, “it operates in a total political, legal, and historical vacuum.”
When it comes to violence against women in the Middle East in general, and in Palestine in particular, there are two dominant and completely opposing paradigms: The first blames the violence on a backward tradition and an inherently misogynistic society, choosing to focus solely on the category of “honour” crimes, as if they represent the only form of domestic violence women are subjected to. The other paradigm, meanwhile, holds Israeli colonialism and its institutionalised discrimination responsible, claiming that one cannot expect women to be free when Palestine is under occupation. Both paradigms are obviously too simplistic and unrepresentative. They avoid asking the tough questions and ignore both the multi-layered reality and the politics of daily life that Palestinian women on the ground face.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Arab bourgeois feminist movements, including the feminist movement in the West Bank, shot themselves in the foot and chose to ally with tyrannical Arab regimes in order to promote their social rights through legislation. By standing with the authorities and power structures, they operated as a fig leaf for so-called “secular” dictatorships. Moreover, by opting for an elitist and apolitical “feminist” struggle, bourgeois feminists ignored that real social change cannot be brought about in the absence of political freedom, nor can it be achieved by groveling before a repressive system. Feminism is not just about fighting for gender equality; it is about shaking the hegemonic dynamics of power and domination. Gender subordination is a fundamental factor in this matrix of power, but it intersects with political oppression and exploitation on the basis of class, religion, ethnicity, physical ability, and related aspects of personal identity.
Despite its many structural problems and shortcomings, the feminist movement inside the Green Line, to its credit, understood early on that the personal cannot be separated from the political, precisely because the state of Israel plays an active role in marginalising Palestinian women and strengthening local patriarchal elements such as clan leaders and religious courts that oppress women. Most Palestinian feminists also never had the illusion that advancing the rights of Palestinian women can come from the Knesset, the Zionist parliament.
It is naïve to believe that the police, a violent, militaristic, and intrinsically patriarchal organ of the state, could be genuinely committed to eradicating violence against women. It is even more naïve to think that Israeli police, a law-enforcement tool for the occupation, would be determined to abolish violence against indigenous Palestinian women unless it is under immense pressure to do so. The stories of Palestinian women who complained to the Israeli police about threats by their family members – only to be turned down by the police and later killed by their family members – are too many to recount. For instance, few months ago in Rahat, the largest Palestinian city in the Naqab, A young woman approached the social service office and reportedly informed the police that she feared for her life. Police officers reportedly told her to go back home, assuring her that she would be safe. Almost 24 hours later, she was found dead.
The latest incident occurred on 21 May, 2013: Two girls, aged three and five, were strangled to death in their home in Fura’a, an unrecognised Palestinian village in the Naqab. The girls’ mother had approached the police station in the nearby Jewish colony of Arad and said that her husband threatened to kill the girls, but her plea was ignored. These horrific events demonstrate marriage between the state – a patriarchal, masculinist entity – and the conservative patriarchal elements in the community.
The Israeli police treat domestic violence among the Palestinian minority as a “private affair” that should be left for the clan and its leaders to solve. It is much more comfortable for the police to link domestic violence against Palestinian women to “family honour” and thus absolve themselves of the responsibility to intervene under the pretext of respecting “cultural sensitivity.” Using this pretext to justify lack of enforcement of women rights stems from Israel’s racist presumption that the abuse and oppression of women are intrinsically tied to Palestinian culture and tradition. It also stems from Israel’s double standards in respecting and protecting multiculturalism.
On the one hand, Israel claims to respect the principle of multiculturalism to buttress and sustain the oppression of women. On the other hand, Israel shows little respect to multiculturalism when it comes to the recognition of minority rights: The ostensible status of Arabic as an official language is solely ink on paper; Palestinian culture, history, narrative, and political literature are intentionally snuffed out of school curricula; and collective memory is targeted through constant attempts of Israelification. In addition, the same Israeli police that evades its duty to protect women from domestic violence because it is a “family” affair is, in the end, has no such concern for “Palestinian family affairs” when its forces demolish homes and displace entire families on a regular basis in the Naqab.
Not only is protection desperately scarce in all of this, but so is accountability. The majority of cases involving violence against women are closed either for lack of evidence or lack of public interest. Although Israel, unlike many Arab states, does not have a provision in its criminal law that mitigates punishment for so-called “honor crimes,” women’s rights organisations repeatedly accuse the police of not investing enough effort in the attempts to find the killers and hold them accountable. Some of the worst cases of violence against women occur in Lydd, Ramleh and the Naqab. Those places also happen to boast some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates; they are also subjected to a targeted Israeli policy of extreme discrimination, denial of basic rights and services, and constant threats of eviction and home demolitions. Add to that the inaccessibility of the Israeli justice system for Palestinian and under-privileged women, and the social retribution that women face for approaching the police and complaining about their family members, and it should be no surprise, then, that Palestinian women do not trust the state to protect them.
It all begins with the huge difference between the way Palestinian media covers the killing of a man and the killing of a woman: the first is often referred to as a “tragedy” while the latter is referred to as an “ambiguous incident”. When Palestinian politicians, religious leaders, and public figures are asked to speak out against women killings, they begin by blaming the police and then reiterate that violence against women is part and parcel of mounting violence in the Palestinian society in general. Indeed, hardly a day passes by without hearing of shooting or stabbing incidents involving Palestinian men in different Palestinian towns. So pervasive has violence been that almost 10,000 demonstrators flocked to the streets of Haifa – one of the largest protests in Haifa’s history – on 7 May to say enough is enough. People who conflate gender-based violence with violence in general ignore the reality that women are murdered simply for being women; they are also killed in places that are supposed to be the most secure, and by people who are supposed to be the closest and most intimate to them. It is trendy to voice condemnations and call for respecting women’s rights immediately after a woman is killed… and then to completely and utterly forget about it two days later and wait until the next killing. Women killings, under whatever euphemism, are only one manifestation of patriarchy. The root problem is much more entrenched and less spoken about.
The seasonal and rhetorical condemnation of physical violence against women by those who promote or remain silent over less visible forms of patriarchy helps explain the failure of the society as a whole to take a firm position on crimes against women, let alone prevent them. The Northen Branch of the Islamic movement, for instance, condemns physical violence against women while it rejects participation in mixed-gender political protests and segregates women in their public events. How can Talab Arar, a Knesset member for the Unified Arab List, have a moral ground to denounce violence against women when he is polygamous?
Misogyny and patriarchy are, by no means, exclusive to religious and conservative Palestinians. Many left-wing activists and politicians do not hesitate to use sexist language, give tacit justifications for sexual harassment, or claim that fighting for women rights is not a priority as long as we are under occupation. How can we ever be free, as women and Palestinians, when a protest leader and a poster boy of Palestinian popular resistance is implicated in sexual harassment and everything is done to cover-up for him? As long as Palestinian women are expected to push their demands for gender liberation to the fringe, and as long as a large chuck of the population cannot concede that women are structurally oppressed, women will continue to be killed with social and legal impunity.
A first step towards challenging the hegemonic lexicon of the local and colonial patriarchs would be to quit using the term “honour crimes,” even with quotation marks. Its very use legitimises the concept and gives the false pretence that “honour” is the real motive for the crime, when it is really only a guise to strip women of their autonomy and dignity. The second step is to speak out, for silence is complicity. Sweeping the ugly truth under the rug will not hide it; it will only make its force more brutal and intensify the cycle of violence that has literally destroyed the lives of large numbers of women over time. The third, and most important step, is not to wait for the police to protect us. Women should take up arms to protect themselves and organise street militias to combat sexual harassment.