Palestine

In today’s narrative we salute the women who face the pain of gender-based violence with dignity and hope for the future. Here we take a look at the stories of women who may not be women’s rights activists in the traditional sense. Yet, in their own understated way, are they not survivors and fighters? We invite you to read about these resilient women and take a moment to think just how we should define activism against gender violence.

Palestine – November 2010

Jubilant Palestinians have rejoiced at the historic - but largely symbolic - vote at the UN General Assembly in New York granting them non-member observer status.

Some people seem to be born with the ability to rouse the passion of crowds with speeches or compel youth to rethink their lives with a poem, but most talents are cultivated over years. Janan Abdu’s multi-faceted talent for advocacy, however, was hatched out of necessity when her husband, Palestinian activist Ameer Makhoul, was arrested and sentenced to nine years in an Israeli jail. 

A new group running for municipal elections in Hebron is offering residents an alternative to politics as usual in the conservative West Bank city: Women at the helm, instead of men. The all-female list, which is called “By Participating, We Can,” is gearing up for next month’s vote with a campaign that aims both to win at the polls and to convince voters that women can lead just as well as men. 

Behind the blockade, conservatism is rising, but so too is unemployment, poverty, depression and domestic violenceEman, 23, is dressed in a black, veiled jilbab and lives in a collapsing shack on the outskirts of Gaza City. She left school at 10 and seven years later she was married, with a baby daughter. An open sewer flows past her front door. When it rains, rubbish streams into the kitchen.

I was recently part of a fact-finding delegation to Palestine organized by the US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

We live in historic times. People in the Arab world are rising up against political dictatorship and corruption; they demand reforms and are organizing for freedom, human dignity and social justice. Women have been shouldering the responsibilities in all uprisings and their movement is an integral part of the democratic forces for social and economic justice. But they are systematically excluded from the decision making processes that shape the future of their countries. What democracies are then being prepared and negotiated?

The enormous role of women in the uprisings in the MENA region is undisputed. They faced verbal and physical abuse, violence, arrest and death just as their male counterparts. The transformation of these countries has been groundbreaking, and their participation is as important as ever. After the dust of the battle settles, will Arab societies remember to include women in the rebuilding of their countries?

Israeli military forces have demolished 27 houses in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank over the last two weeks. More than 140 Palestinians have been rendered homeless by the demolitions, while Israeli settlement expansion continues to threaten more land and restrict water access — affecting the vitality of dozens of Palestinian villages in the area. According to the Jordan Valley Solidarity (JVS) campaign, an organization working with local communities, Israeli military and police jeeps and two bulldozers invaded the Bedouin community of al-Hadidya on 21 June. The bulldozers “demolished seven residential tents, 18 animal shelters and four kitchens, leaving 32 people homeless,” the group reports (“Big wave of demolitions in the Northern Jordan Valley,” 21 June 2011).

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