Image Credit: Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Last month, BruFem printed an article titled “Israel Empowers Women,” praising Israel’s apparently progressive advancements in regards to women. To say these claims of advancements are flawed would be an understatement. The only women Israel may be empowering are the Jewish Israeli citizens of Israel—but what of the thousands of non-Jewish women that Israel strips of empowerment, freedom, life? Since the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine began in 1967, non-Jewish women, particularly Palestinian women, have been subjected to inhumane treatment by Israel, a state that claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East” while simultaneously imposing over 30 laws of discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens.
From laws that forbid Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from living in Israel with their spouses who possess Israeli citizenship, to laws that forbid children from marriages between Palestinians and Israelis from living in Israel after age 12, to laws that allow Israeli landowners to deny Arab tenants housing, Israel’s legislation has consistently proven to be racist and suppressive to its Palestinian citizens.
In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel employs systematic segregation to oppress and disable Palestinians: over 500 checkpoints; a 25-foot high, over 400-mile long wall that cuts through Palestinian land; over 120 Israeli settlements that are internationally recognized as illegal, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention; segregated roads; and separate Israeli and Arab buses certainly do not fit the characteristics of an “empowering democracy.”
Not only was the content of this article misleading, its timing was particularly ironic. Around the time of its publication, soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces violently dispersed demonstrations of women throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories on International Women's Day, hospitalizing one woman. These demonstrations were in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoner Hana al-Shalabi on the 24th day of her hunger strike, and with the 10,000 other Palestinian women prisoners who have been methodically abused in Israeli prisons since the start of the occupation. Gender-based torture of Palestinian female prisoners includes:
- Invasive strip searches, during which women are forced to squat while naked while being physically violated
- Rape and threats of rape, which are used as tools to fortify Israel’s power over vulnerable women. When prison guards are not the ones committing the rape, they often force family members of the prisoners to commit the act.
- Forced nakedness
- Denial of gender-sensitive health services. Palestinian women are denied gynecological services. They are also denied hygienic pads during menstruation.
- Maltreatment of pregnant women and their babies, including limited to no pre-natal care. Women are shackled before, during, and after childbirth and are denied preferential treatment with regards to living conditions, diet, and transfer to hospitals. Once born, their newborn babies are also treated like prisoners.
- Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association Palestinian Women Political Prisoners: Systematic Forms of Political and Gender-Based State Violence
- Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem by Issa Nakhleh
- Palestinian Munadelat: Between Western Representation and Lived Reality by Nahla Abdo. In Thinking Palestine
- Palestinian Women Political Prisoners and the Israeli State by Nahla Abdo. In Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel
- Violence against Palestinian Women: Alternative Country Report to the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women