Trans* Woman Told by National Insurance Psychiatrist: Go Work as a Prostitute

News from Israel, the ostensible LGBT paradise:

Psychiatrists sends trans woman to be a prostitute

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.

Where All Arabs Are Terrorists

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.

  • Don’t worry about the children, they’d just grow up to be terrorists anyway.
  • Beautiful picture!
  • LOLOL what a pleasure! And I’m not a racist, just a [sports team] fan! Buh-bye!
  • What a waste of good body bags.
  • Here’s to more in the ditch, amen.
  • Hoping for more, and more!
  • Pour acid on them, and then burn B’Tzelem (a human rights org) along with them
  • Death to them all, happy day
  • Great to wake up to good news in the morning!
  • Only 1000… Hoping for more.
  • Not enough
  • Praise God forever!
  • Pleasure 🙂
  • As Naftali Bennet said, “Terrorists must be killed”. Period.
  • The creator be praised!
  • More
  • God willing, all the Arabs will die, amen.
  • More, with God’s help.
  • LOL, you all are making me laugh.
  • God willing, so it shall be, every day
  • [image, parodying Arabic phrasing] what a beautiful sight!
  • More, and more
  • I’m lighting the grill, who’s joining me? It isn’t every day 1000 whores die
  • Let’s party! Who’ll bring the sweets? I’ll bring chips.
  • Oh no, what a tragedy!…. A thousand is too few!
  • Assad is the best!
  • So much fun to see this picture! Amen that this happens again and they all die! Amen!
  • Only 1000? Can’t we add some zeros to that?
  • My son is only four, and he passed by the computer so I quickly closed the picture, but he glimpsed it and asked me, “What’s that? Rats?” LOLOL He pretty much got it right.
  • Too bad there weren’t more.
  • So wonderful, God willing we’ll see beautiful images like this every day.
  • Do the math – how many virgins required?

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.

Palestinian women: Trapped between occupation and patriarchy

Reblogged from Random Shelling
Post: Palestinian Women: Trapped Between Occupation and Patriarchy
by 

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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.

Tragic Irony

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.

Shocking Spike

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.

De-Politicising Violence

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.

No Protection

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.

Tacit Justifications

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.

Michael Oren Strikes Again, Rewrites History

Ah, Pinkwashing. Is there anything cheerier to wake up to in the morning?

Today, I woke up to to this article, an interview with Israel’s ambassador to the US Michael Oren. Oren, who starred in this blog about a week ago regarding the debacle of trying to forestall CBS News from airing a 60 Minutes piece on the plight of Christian Palestinians.

This time, Oren is preparing for his keynote address at the Equality Forum, an annual LGBTQ conference in Philadelphia. This year, its “featured nation”, inexplicably, is Israel — the nation identified by the UN as the only democracy that limits human rights, the nation carrying out a military occupation of a nation of people for 45 years, the nation doling out wave after wave of anti-democratic legislation aimed at limiting public roles of non-Jews, placing refugees in concentration camps, upholding segregation of women in public spaces, and the list seems endless…

That Israel presents itself as a paradise for LGBT folk is beyond ironic, but it also has a name: PINKWASHING. Pinkwashing is the idea that Israel has conceived of that if it flaunts its relatively good record on LGBT issues, it can divert attention from its anti-democratic, human-rights-violating, occupation-and-conquest-based policies and agendas. (More about pinkwashing here and here.)

And thus, featuring Israel at the Equality Forum, and having the Israeli ambassador as the keynote speaker, has quite rightly been branded the pinkwashing event of the year.

Back to the interview that started this post. It is filled with gems (read: lies, lies, and more lies), but my favorite is this part, which in a nutshell neatly wraps up everything that is wrong, and sick, about how Israel presents the issue:

Michael Oren Reinvents History

What do you say to those that criticize Israel being featured at the Equality Forum?
Israel was fighting for gay rights before the 1967 war. Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays.

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Where do I begin????
(Well, I will just do my best to deconstruct this for you. )

Israel was fighting for gay rights… Really? Fighting? Fighting whom, exactly? Israel is the STATE. If the state wants someone to have rights, it GRANTS them. Who are these nefarious powers FIGHTING with Israel to prevent gay rights?

…before the 1967 war. Again — REALLY?? Two parts here:

  1. Connecting the issue of gay rights and Israeli-Arab war is at the heart of the pinkwashing mentality: What is the relevance? Are the ARABS those evil geniuses preventing Israel from achieving true equality for gays? And,
  2. Gay rights were not a policy issue prior to 1967, given that, for example, sodomy laws were only taken off the law books in 1988, and even then (swear to the spirits!) it was apparently done only through clerical error (accidentally on purpose). When the legislature voted on the new version of the sex crimes law, they didn’t realize that the final bill did not include the sodomy clause. So actually: Israel, the STATE, never actually voted on the issue, never “fought” for inclusion of gay rights in the law.

Note that the vast majority of LGBT rights in Israel were not passed by law — but rather informed by the courts, in which case, the STATE was often the party objecting to those rights. And to the extent that rights have been legislated or incorporated into national policies — NONE of that has been done under the current government, the one Michael Oren represents. So even if there is credit to be handed out, it isn’t credit they get.

Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays. Again, this weird conflation of Arab violence and gay rights. And is this still before 1967? Is Oren claiming there was a state of ongoing terrorism on buses and cafes before the war in which he apparently fought for gay rights? Because there have been spates of terror attacks in Israel, but the worst of them — particularly those aimed at buses and cafes — were after the collapse of the Oslo peace plan, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

So is Oren claiming gays have always has rights in Israel? And yet, oddly, that Israel has had to fight for them? And that the fighting was apparently against Arabs — because otherwise, how does this last sentence even compute? “Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes (bizarre thought trick connection) there was equality for gays”.

(And the more observant among you already noticed (and are probably biting your tongues) that somehow all we are talking about here is “gay rights”. That is Oren’s level of awareness — in this LGBT heaven! — that “gays” are the only ones who need rights, and BY GOD they already have them! He is giving the keynote address at this LGBTQ convention, and he has no fucking clue what LGBTQ even means. Or rather, to him it is just a means to an end. And the Equality Forum is going along with this.)

Thinking about this made me imagine Oren’s vision of Israel’s war in 1967: Amid exploding buses and cafes, running through the smoke and debris are crack Israeli combat troops — carrying rainbow flags. They halt, and create a phalanx before the Arab enemy with whom they are fighting for their gay rights, and they firmly state: This shall not pass!

Which is how this meme was born 🙂

Six Day War History According to Michael Oren

Among Oren’s other lies: Israel (or rather “his” ministry) is the only one in the world that grants spousal privileges to gay partners; that Israel provides shelter to Palestinians who are brutally persecuted in their own culture (that has NEVER happened. EVER. Yes, there is an ex-pat Palestinian community in Israel, but they must hide from the authorities because they will be DEPORTED if caught); that Israel is a LIBERAL DEMOCRACY (while his own party is passing laws that create racial, religious, and sex discrimination); Oren claims that proof of this is that groups like alQaws (the Palestinian organization for gender and sexual diversity) are “headquartered in Israel” rather than in the Palestinian territories… Totally ignoring that East Jerusalem is NOT LEGALLY PART OF ISRAEL, and is considered by those very groups to be PALESTINE… The extent of the hijacking of both Palestinian and Israeli queer issues by this most oppressive Israeli government ever is truly staggering.

Here is a statement by Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) and Pinkwatching Israel.

Here is an open letter by the first LGBTIQ delegation to Palestine.

How I Was Blocked From Facebook

This week, a Facebook friend published a record of how she was detained by Israeli security, held, and questioned for hours. Her crime? Political activism on behalf of Palestinians and against Israel’s occupation of that nation. Not surprisingly, some of the responses she got were belittling ones, “boo hoo, you’re quite the martyr, having spent three whole hours in security!”, blatantly ignoring the fact that she was being intimidated, threatened, sexually harassed, her freedom curtailed… Also (as she alluded to in her article) she has had other more intrusive run-ins with Israeli security.

As a matter of fact, she is well-known to Israeli security forces because of her activism, but as long as her politics are on the “wrong” side, she is to be belittled, and reduced to a whining little girl, rather than the intelligent, political woman she is.

Well, this story has moved me to do a little whining of my own.

I must admit that while I am also an outspoken, strong, intelligent, and political woman, I have never been arrested for it, or threatened, or tear gassed. I’ve had shouting matches with police, been shoved by them, threatened as part of a group… But so far, I’ve escaped their notice as a focal point. Until, that is, the dreaded FACEBOOK police.

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This week, the Tel Aviv Pride Parade campaign kicked off. Lo and behold, it is entirely based on nationalistic ideas and imagery. Homonationalism is a problematic concept anywhere, but in Israel it takes on special significance, given the sharp divides between Jews and Arabs (whether citizens or not) and the treatment of other marginalized groups.

The reproduction of hegemonic power structures into the “LGBT” community is an ongoing issue. I am fond of calling the LGBT center the “gay-white-man center”, that’s how obvious and blatant the marginalization is. All the men in positions of power there are quick to deny it, and point at the one or two women in the room (somehow, never named, never quoted, never heading up any important projects…). But even the two token white lesbians, does NOT an “LGBT” community make. Nor does it encourage any idea of commitment to equality when Ethiopians, Palestinians, any non-Jews (unless they are cute European gay guys), trans folk of any ethnicity, and others are continually made to feel unwelcome.

So back to the Pride campaign. Based on and inspired by the ultra-nationalist idea of celebrating Israel’s independence, just using the rainbow flag… A white-Jewish-male-gay-guy-spokesman felt obliged to note that “this is not meant to promote nationalist sentiments, and community members from minority sectors are included and invited to participate in the parade.

Well, um. Yeah. Minority sectors = Arabs, right? How kind of you!! I mean, it doesn’t really matter how unfriendly you make it for Arabs, as long as you then add a disclaimer in the small print.

(To put this in context, Arab supreme court justice Salim Joubran was excoriated by Knesset (parliament) members and the public recently for not singing the national anthem (which calls for the *Jewish* national state), and as this is being written, the latest outrage around Arabs (and other minorities) being entirely excluded from Israel’s upcoming Independence Day ceremonies.)

So, back to me, and Facebook. I made a poster/caricature of the Gay Center similar to this one:

It’s not about the WHITE, it’s about the PRIDE, dummy!

Israeli Gay Pride Welcomes Minorities!

Having gotten carried away with my own annoyance at the Center, and my desire to point out the ridiculousness in their assertions of inclusion, I disregarded the fact that Facebook runs bots on your pictures, and can pick out certain symbols. They immediately flagged the klansman, and blocked me indefinitely, putting a dent in my political activism as well as my social life!

So now I know what it feels like to be singled out by the police for my activism for social justice. And just for kicks, here is another draft of the idea.

Israel Gay Pride -- Minorities Welcom

Highlighting Women

The more I get involved with feminist activism and the more I read and research for this blog, the more I discover how many women are out there every day in every aspect of public and private life, dedicating themselves to changing the order of things.

Isn’t this beautiful?

2010 performance highlighting women’s rights in Tajikistan. The show, Three Stories, emphasizes issues affecting rural Tajik women. The first scene focuses on women’s right to education. The second scene shows the consequences of being in an unregistered marriage, and the third illustrates how mothers can get child support payments from their children’s fathers.

One of the pitfalls of any activism that wants to change existing power structures is falling into the place of a victim: On one hand, the “system” does victimize the other, whoever is defined as lower in the hierarchy. Such as women, transgender people, people of color, atheists… The list, of course, goes on and on. On the other hand, developing a victim mentality is not necessarily the best way to get out of that morass, IMHO. (Not that everyone has the luxury of making that choice.)

So I believe in highlighting not only the injustices, rife as they are. I want to put a bright shining spotlight on the women who can and do stand up and insist their voice be heard. I really can’t do enough to give credit to these women. But I promise to continue featuring them as they come across my desktop and consciousness.

Haneen Zoabi

Haneen Zoabi is the first woman to be elected to the Israeli parliament (Knesset) on an Arab party’s list – the Balad (National Democratic Assembly) party.

Zoabi first came to public prominence because of her participation in the controversial 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In the ensuing raid on the flotilla, Zoabi mediated the evacuation of the wounded from the flotilla, and was subsequently among those arrested by the Israeli military. She was later censured by the Knesset for her participation, and stripped of parliamentary privileges. An investigation of Israeli nationals (including Zoabi) who participated in the flotilla took place, but ultimately was closed without charging anyone. Public opinion ran strongly against Zoabi (among Jewish Israelis, that is); she received death threats, and was jeered in the Knesset, and even faced a physical attack by fellow member of parliament Anastassia Michaeli.

See some great coverage of the entire saga in the Tikun Olam blog, including articles, pictures, and videos.

→ Here is an interview with Haneen Zoabi on challenging Zionism and demanding co-existence ←

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.”

“I cannot emphasize enough how wrongheaded this is. Withholding criticism and ignoring differences are racism in its purest form. Yet these cultural experts fail to notice that, through their anxious avoidance of criticizing non-Western countries, they trap the people who represent these cultures in a state of backwardness. The experts may have the best of intentions, but as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Caged Virgin:
An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam

“I would like to be judged on the validity of my arguments, not as a victim.”
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a controversial figure, to say the least.

Born into a traditional Muslim family, Hirsi Ali was raised in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, and like most girls of her background, underwent genital mutilation. When in her early twenties she found herself being forced into marriage with a distant cousin she’d never met, Hirsi Ali escaped and sought political asylum in The Netherlands (under circumstances that were later a subject of controversy as well, though the issue has since been put to rest).

She has since become an author, politician, feminist and anti- female genital incision activist, and outspoken critic of Islam, having renounced her religion and become an atheist. She was a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. She founded the AHA Foundation, whose mission is to protect the rights of girls and women in the west from oppression justified by religion and culture.

The controversy surrounding Hirsi Ali centers primarily on her opposition to Islam. Some critics accuse her of playing into right-wing Christian hands with her anti-Islamic stances. Others accuse her of over-generalization on the topic.

In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made Submission, a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The film resulted in van Gogh’s assassination by an Islamic extremist, who pinned a death threat against Hirsi Ali to his victim’s chest. Because of the ongoing death threats against her (she is under fatwa for apostasy), Hirsi Ali subsequently announced that she would not make the planned sequel Submission II out of fear for her life. She now lives in the US in safe houses, under constant police protection.

Hedy Lamarr

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“Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” Lamarr would know — the film star hid a brilliant, inventive mind beneath her photogenic exterior. In 1942, at the height of her Hollywood career, she patented a frequency-switching system for torpedo guidance that was decades ahead of its time.

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If you are a fan of Hollywood’s glamour era, you probably know one of its major sex symbols, Hedy Lamarr. However, beyond being crowned by some the most beautiful woman in the world, and being famous for the first on-film simulated orgasm, Lamarr was a brilliant mind and a groundbreaking inventor.

Together with avant-garde composer George Antheil, Lamarr invented and patented a frequency-hopping radio signal intended to prevent jamming by the enemy of torpedo guidance systems (they called it the “Secret Communications System”). While the Navy didn’t immediately put the technology into use, they eventually dusted it off and found new applications for it. The kind that most of us now use.

Like wireless communications (ever heard of Bluetooth?). Yep, based on the invention of Hedy Lamarr.

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“Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” by Pulitzer prize winning author Richard Rhodes

NPR: ‘Most Beautiful Woman’ By Day, Inventor By Night

Palestine-Israel Medley

Selected posts and articles from the Israel/Palestine frontier. Mostly about women, of course. 

Palestinian artist is removed from art competition

Larissa Sansour is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist, who uses Middle-East politics in her work. Sansour was shortlisted for the 2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize, an art competition hosted by the Swiss Musée de l’Elysée, with funding from the Lacoste clothing brand.

The theme of the competition this year was la joie de vivre, and participants were given free rein to interpret this any way they desired. Sansour’s project, Nation Estate, envisioned “a Palestinian state rising from the ashes of the peace process.” The project depicted a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population.

Sansour was then notified that Lacoste requested she be removed from the competition, as her work was too “pro-Palestinian”. Controversy ensued, with accusations of censorship against Lacoste and the Musée de l’Elysée. The museum eventually withdrew from hosting the competition. The museum and Lacoste stated that Sansour’s work did not fit the theme. The museum offered to do a separate exhibit of Sansour’s work.

♦ Larissa Sansour Speaks Out
 Detailed interview with Larissa Sansour
 Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate

Palestine: Women First / Photographic Exhibition

Photographed by Mati Milstein and curated by Saher Saman, the exhibition will open May 25th at Marji Gallery & Contemporary Projects, in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“This is the story of a new generation of radical Palestinian activists who stand out from their society in the most distinct way: they are women. These activists are on the front lines of West Bank protest, they are beaten and face arrest and sexual harassment for their bold role. “ Read more…

Palestine: Women First II from Mati Milstein on Vimeo.

Milstein was inspired to do this project by the following analysis by Gila Danino-Yona, on photographic documentation of women in the Arab Spring:

Women of the Revolution, or Revolutionary Women?

How have women been depicted in these Arab Spring uprisings? Danino-Yonah identified several typical categories.

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Category I – Weakened Femininity

Women crying, women frightened, women throwing up, women screaming….


.Category II – A Woman is Always a Woman

Women cleaning, women preening, women pretty in pink and chatting on the phone…

Category III – Thanks to Our Men

Women being grateful, women being worshipful, women swelling with maternal pride…

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Category IV – Female Gaddafi supporters beyond the consensus

The “good” women are represented according to the feminine stereotypes above. But when a woman supports, say, Gaddafi, she is shown ugly, angry, scary, crazed, violent…

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But – if you look for them – you will find revolutionary women, too.

Maybe not the typical image shown, but they were certainly there!

(You can see my personal take on some revolutionary women here)

Reflections of an Arab Jew

This article is by an American, but it relates directly to the Israeli-Arab conflict. One of the major casualties of this conflict is the identity of millions of Jews who are from Arab countries. In today’s political climate, “Arab” and “Jew” are deemed opposites. What does that do to someone who is both? Especially when the “Jew” in that equation is assumed to be European — related to via European literature, humor, art, food, music… That they have nothing to do with?

Ella Habiba Shohat is only the second person I have had the privilege to read on this greatly underrepresented topic, and I am so glad I found this short, but poignant article.

B’Tselem West Bank Video

B’Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

In January 2007, B’Tselem launched its camera distribution project, a video advocacy project, providing Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public.

In 2011, volunteers in the camera project filmed over 500 hours of footage in the West Bank. The video was edited into two minutes meant to sum up the passing year