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Palestine Women's Resistance: An Anticolonial Feminism?

Gilliam Nauman Iqbal is a Brazilian Muslim, political activist, graduated in History, specialist in Sociology of Interpretations of Maranhão

Gilliam Nauman Iqbal


Keywords: Palestine, Women, Resistance, Feminism, Imperialism, Zionism

We begin this text citing the alarming data presented by Soraya Misleh, about the deprivation of freedom of Palestinian women, in the exercise of the defense of their land and their identity, resistance expressed in the most varied forms, in addition to the physical torture to which they are subjected. There are 48 Palestinians deprived of their freedom in Israeli prisons. Soraya brings us this data through the report produced by the Palestinian organization Addameer, a movement in support of Palestinian prisoners. In the constant attempts to erase a people, the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli State does not require a major act of "rebellion", it is enough just to be born a Palestinian and this constitutes sufficient justification for imposing punishment, demolition, arrests, bombing, murders, terrorisms.

The struggle of the Palestinians to maintain their existence has been relentless for over seventy years, when the loss of their territory gave way to blocks of land in which armed Zionists circulate, practicing daily terror on the elderly, women, children. Having their homes demolished, children, husbands, fathers, brothers imprisoned or murdered, Palestinian women are pushed into combat, be it in the face of military force or developing other mechanisms of resistance.

It is common in the daily lives of Palestinian women to go on with their lives without their husbands, who are often killed by the Zionists, or are imprisoned in some Israeli prison. This reality allows these women to be at the mercy of violence from settlers who illegally occupy those lands.

Another fact is that, in addition to all sorts of violence and deprivation, Palestinian women still have to experience the harshness of obstetric violence or even the lack of care and necessary follow-up during pregnancy. In Gaza, for example, pregnant Palestinian women do not have the right to prenatal care. Statistics prove that the death of children at birth is caused by the denial of care at the time of giving birth, at Israeli checkpoints, which is still another strategy developed by the Zionists, to decimate this population, already in the womb of the mother. The factors that place these women in a serious context of humanitarian crisis are accentuated by the lack of employment and the minimum elements that guarantee their livelihood.

In 2019, Zionist snipers targeted the Palestinian Amal al-Taramsi, and the list continues to grow in criminal attacks carried out by Israel.

Among so many sad and cowardly pictures, there is the 21-year-old paramedic Razan al Najjar (a woman we chose to honor her memory, naming our movement with her name: Palestinian Alliance Razan al Najjar -MA). Al Najjar was murdered, in the exercise of her profession, while caring for the wounded in protests taking place on the Gaza-Israel border, on June 1, 2018, by a soldier of the Israeli occupation forces. The murders that took place in Palestine by occupation forces are countless and there are more deaths of women.

The sniper policy is an action arm of the cruel ethnic cleansing imposed by the illegitimate State of Israel, which for more than 70 years has been decimating and trying to erase the Palestinian people from the world.

Palestinian women, throughout the occupation, are under the hand of all kinds of abuse and violence against their bodies. Not only do we have a territorial space illegally occupied, female bodies have become an extension of this violent occupation.

The count of 800,000 Palestinians, as refugees, the 500 villages destroyed, brings in its sum, the sexual rape of several Palestinian women, as part of the extensive list of crimes accused in the 31 villages where Zionists carried out their massacres.

The circumstances imposed by colonization awakened in Palestinian women the feeling of combat in the anti-colonial struggle. Such a reaction to imperialism imprints on these women an idea that is totally contrary to what is dumped in the media, about the women of the East. In the Western collective imagination, the idea that these women are submissive, voiceless and imprisoned in garments that violate their freedoms is nurtured. Eurocentrism does not allow the reflection that identity signs are carried with pride and that these women obey a cultural code that makes them free, outside of Western standards. Let us understand that patriarchy is a system that swallows the world and is present in all cultural systems. Everywhere, there are struggles and banners, in which women organize to reclaim rights and spaces.

There is no feminism, there are feminisms. We cannot standardize struggles around the world with a Western “shape”.

The feminist movement is largely lost when it disregards these women's trajectories, ethnicity, culture and spirituality. A discourse of salvation was constructed, in which liberal, white and European feminism must rescue these women from their society and their native cultural systems. This discourse is instrumentalized by colonial domination.

The feminist movement, which must obey an anti-oppression agenda, ends up serving imperialist projects. Western feminism will never have the property to talk about the garments of

Muslim women, placing them as a symbol of oppression (in the case of the hijab and other clothing), as there is a totally different reading of what oppression, freedom and choice are for these women. Liberal feminism does not understand that there is also a political ownership in a choice that must be purely female within Islam and what in fact must be fought against is compulsory political use. The ban on wearing the hijab, in some European countries, provokes reactions of protest, which demonstrates that these women do not carry the feeling of oppression due to their clothing and the codes of their religion. On the contrary, they feel free and fight for the maintenance of these elements.

The analysis made of episodes like these is that precisely the instrumentalization of the feminist movement, mentioned above, endorses the imperialist projects, structured in Zionist agendas, which seek to place the Orient as a space of barbarism and backwardness and which needs the intervention of a civilized and white plane. A civilized and white plan means denying the capacity of these peoples to govern, it means creating stereotypes of men who are violent by essence and geographic and cultural determinism and who, therefore, must be dominated by means of a colonizing project.

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Adopting this policy of cultural lynching, we have there several phenomena in Latin America, after the advent of the takeover of power by the far right in some countries, such as Brazil. The “natural” result of this political anomaly is inflamed, prejudiced and xenophobic speeches. For several moments, President Jair Bolsonaro, adopted postures and speeches that marry with this ideology of annulment and discriminatory of the peoples of the East and blunt declaration of support for Israel and its Zionist practices.

With a more sophisticated discourse, we have in Europe, a France that defends the secular precept of the State, but which, however, wages a fierce persecution of Islam, using the same discriminatory discourse of barbarization of culture and the false maxim of salvation for girls Muslim women imprisoned in a veil. Emmanoel Macron's policy is a contradiction of the secular state itself, given that we understand by secularity, the principle in which all creeds can coexist in the same space, and where there is no State interference in religion and vice versa.

The struggle of Palestinian women brings together in their efforts several elements that turn this resistance into a new feminism. Here we have women who, in the face of the massacre of their people, and the natural gender oppression of the absorption of patriarchy into cultures, rise up in an anti-colonial struggle against gender oppression. The movement is enriched by finding footholds with Islamic feminism, sectional feminism, anti-racial feminism and even Marxist feminism, if we consider the struggle for just land tenure and for taking a stand against imperialism.

The history of Palestine, post-occupation, is full of actions led by women. In the years 1936 and 1939, a woman led the stockpiling of weapons for the insurgents. Fatma

Khaskiyyeh Abu Dayyeh was not only the guardian of arms but also led a group of 100 women, in the advent of the Nakba, in 1948. In a more welfarist role, and linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in 1965, the General Union of Palestinian Women. The need for representation and the strengthening of the defense of Palestine, made many women adopt a more combative and incisive posture, given the silent posture of the international commissions on Human Rights, regarding the occupation of Palestine and the constant violation of these rights.

In the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the most expressive icon of the women's struggle was the militant Leila Khaled, who since her adolescence has become an extremely active element in the struggle against the Israeli occupation. As a teenager, Leila joined the Arab Nationalist Movement. Years later, she joined the Marxist-Leninist movement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Her most famous action, on September 6, 1970, was the hijacking of the Israeli airline El Al, traveling Amsterdam-New York, and in which she was detained.

Women have always been actively involved in all acts of resistance to guarantee the autonomy of their people, the maintenance of their land, and the non-erasing of the memory of their people. In the Intifadas, which covered the years 1987-1993 and 2000-2004, women from the peasantry were mainly present. Faced with colonization, women are the most affected, as the vast majority find themselves in a situation of total despondency, without a job, with families to lead, children to protect from Zionist violence and, even so, fear does not take them away from the combat. Amid the desolate scenario of the occupation, they manage to articulate themselves politically in associations that can fight for the least amount of their survival.

Still very young, or even in their childhood, these women are already aware of the struggle to maintain the elements that guarantee their existence and that of their people. It is common to see children defying soldiers, proudly carrying the Palestinian flag as an act of resistance to Israeli forces. Many have their status as children vilified and are even arrested and judged as adults.

Considered a model of democracy in the Middle East, Israel does not even manage to outline a coherent policy and shows all its monstrosity, creating laws that make it a crime, the revolt of a child when seeing his house demolished, his parents imprisoned and his life destroyed. There are currently an average of 400 children in Israeli prisons.

About the arrest of children, we have the story of young Ahed Tamimi, arrested on charges of beating a Zionist soldier. The Tamimi family bears in its trajectory the mark of resistance against Israeli imperialism. Several members of her family are active in the struggles and the girl is the symbol of the revolt against the violations that Palestine suffers. Ahed was released in August 2018, after eight months in prison, and upon arriving home his first words were: "The resistance will continue until the occupation ends." Ahed will always be a symbol that the revolt

and the dignified and combative spirit of the Palestinian people is in the DNA of this generation, and today, at the age of twenty, Tamimi becomes a reference in the struggle of women against colonial gender oppression.

The struggle of women in Palestine must be embraced by anti-colonial feminism and all the others, because regardless of the struggle banners of each movement, cohesion is achieved through bonds of solidarity and the struggle against all forms of oppression. It is necessary to protect the place of speech of these women, veiled or not, and consider the mechanisms of resistance developed by them, whether they are insurgent militarily; whether through associations that seek to act in health, education, work and politics; whether in the arts; be it in the act of giving up your body so that the Palestinian people will never disappear.

In the feminist struggle, it is necessary to consider and reframe any action or mechanism that women's groups develop to resist the oppressions of the system. And in the Palestinian resistance, generating lives is an act of resistance. The maternity of Palestinian women cannot be analyzed in the context of family construction, reducing it to the element of family constitution, as the one that generates offspring alongside a man and becomes the traditional cell of society. Palestinian motherhood, in this context, must be uncoupled from any specter of patriarchy. Being a mother in occupied territory means keeping alive memory, history and strengthening the revolutionary ranks that will continue this resistance. No wonder that Zionist policy boycotts the pregnancy of these women, denying them obstetric care, drugs, and even help during childbirth. Many children die at birth or even in their mothers' wombs. Many are born underweight or malnourished. Being born a Palestinian is already an act of struggle. The identity of the Palestinian woman is built on a militarized, revolting background, loaded with symbols that preserve the memory of her people with the flag and the kefiyah.

However, it cannot be denied that the Palestinian womb ends up becoming a vehicle of militarization. The Palestinian woman's body has a dual occupation. If violated, it is occupied by the colonizer. If sown, it is occupied by the need to generate resistance.

In the feminist perspectives we have, the Palestinian women's struggle finds space in Islamic feminism, especially when we think of motherhood as a way of resisting, when one thinks about the re-signification or free interpretation of the Quranic literature, observing the patriarchy present in this code, as something specific to a given time. Islamic feminism makes visible the resistance of everyday life, the daily struggle to retake a place that has always been guaranteed in the sacred scriptures and that has never been invisibility or submission to man, but one of equity. What is sought with works that discuss this struggle is that feminist movements can open themselves to this perspective and embrace the trajectory of these women.

*Gilliam Nauman Iqbal** graduated in History from the State University of Maranhão (UEMA), post-graduated in Sociology of Maranhão Interpretations, student of Photojournalism at Cruzeiro do Sul College, president of the Razan Institute of Studies and Solidarity for Palestine al Najjar -MA, member of the national coordination of the Islamic Solidarity Committees – CIS, Muslim activist, feminist, member of the Arab Palestinian youth Sanaúd.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Gilliam Nauman Iqbal

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