How Israel exploits gender roles to discredit Palestinian female activists

Imprisoned Palestinian women are derided for neglecting their 'traditional' role and denied psychological care

Palestinian women in a protest near the border Gaza Strip-Israel border, 30 March 2018

Samah Jabr writes in Middle East Eye:

In A Dying Colonialism, Frantz Fanon describes the French colonial mindset in Algeria: “If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight.”

In Palestine, Israel’s oppression of men and women differs in impact. Men are exposed to occupation-related violence due to their greater presence in the public sphere, while women are targeted in other ways. Oppression and colonialism exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities, as political violence encourages a “protective” attitude that hinders women from participation in community life.

The occupation undermines the masculinity of Palestinian men by humiliating and belittling them. A man whose dignity is assaulted at a checkpoint can easily displace the sense of defeat onto one weaker than himself, often a woman at home.

The pervasive impoverishment of families under occupation, and the sense of a bleak future, encourages early marriage for girls and dropping out of school for boys.

Women are further insulted as Israeli politicians describe their wombs as demographic time bombs, as the Palestinian birth rate soars. This prejudice can impede the access of pregnant women to hospitals, causing them to give birth at checkpoints, with tragic death rates for both the infants and their mothers, as reported by the Lancet.

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