Palestinian women Face Challenges From Political and the Social Arenas

Palestinian women live amidst situations which are not only compromising and oppressive on a political level, but also from the perspective of gender bias. Within the established ambit of Israeli authority, these women are forced to negotiate travel, education, general routes to and from home, dress, personal safety and security, and gender bias. Not only are Palestinian women victims of political humiliation, they are rendered completely vulnerable in all spheres of their lives.

Fears of arrest or interrogation affects the sense of personal security of up to 79 percent of Arab women. These women also remain fearful of being harmed because of their appearance.

“In Jaffa, we feel safe; it is our home,” said Safa Younes, the founder of Arous Elbahar, a centre that works to empower Palestinian women in Jaffa. “But most women don’t feel comfortable going out – especially older women, those who don’t work outside the house. I heard stories of women being verbally abused, or someone might try to pull their hijab.”

Such concerns have been magnified amid a worsening security climate for Palestinians.

Accusations against women of intending violence against Israelis have mostly been found to be untrue, yet seem to have mitigated violent attacks against women.

“These days, it is enough for a Jewish man to say a woman has a knife in her bag,” Salaime said. “That’s what happened in Lyd. When Fauzya Jamal was attacked, they called the police and the police beat up the woman and her daughter in front of everybody. When they searched her, they didn’t find anything in her bag.”

In a more publicized case, Israa Abed, was shot based on allegations that she intended to carry out a stabbing attack. This was later an accusation that was later found to be untrue.

Naila Awwad, the coordinator of Women Against Violence, an organization that supports Palestinian women living in Israel, told Al Jazeera: “I myself am careful about speaking Arabic in public, or opening my bag,” Salaime told Al Jazeera. “Some women avoid answering the phone in public; others have started changing their clothes, wearing their headscarf differently. Security and police are not predictable.”

“We’re talking about traditional women with a headscarf,” she added. “If you get on a bus, they might ask you to leave. Or they might try to take your scarf off”. The reality is that women in Palestine, as well as those Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are not only susceptible to domestic and cultural violence, but also to institutionalized and politically motivated violence, rendering them weakened and often powerless.

(PC, AL JAZEERA)

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