Week 47: Gender-Based Violence

Women in the occupied Palestinian territory face persistent gender-based violence through night raids, settler violence, collective violence towards their families, humiliation and assault from occupation forces, and the restrictions of a patriarchal society. This week, the United Nations observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about gender-based violence so that together we can rise up.

Topic: Gender-Based Violence

Worldwide, the United Nations reports that 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime and concludes that, “Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.” To be clear, gender-based violence is a serious problem facing every society and country.

Thus, it is no surprise that in the occupied Palestinian territory  gender-based violence is further exacerbated by the realities of the occupation. One of its most prominent forms within the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is night raids. In their report, “Israeli military night-raids on Palestinian residences in the West Bank and East Jerusalem”, penned for official submission to the United Nations special rapporteurs on offenses directly affecting women in Palestine, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) estimates that approximately 1,360 night raids occur every year, commonly resulting in arrests, even of children. Settlement construction has been directly linked to the increase in night raids and arrest cases and a surge in settler violence.

WCLAC’s motive is the documentation of testimonies from Palestinian women who are survivors of occupational violence and attacks. Women field workers are employed by WCLAC to collect these testimonies by collecting interviews in the affected areas. This is to obtain a first-hand account of the effects of night raids and arrests on Palestinian women. Direct accounts are a vital step in identifying offenses so that we can take an evidence-based, legal approach in reporting the issue.

The WCLAC report highlighted the effects of night raids on women through 50 testimonies collected during the reporting period. The report noted that there was a direct correlation to night raids and the proximity of the location to Israeli settlements (illegal under international law) and checkpoints. The safety of settlers illegally occupying land in the Palestinian territory has forced Israeli military to act as a protector for them, increasing tensions, and leading to the implementation of fear tactics such as night raids and unlawful arrests. The psychological harm inflicted on women by these tactics is made blazingly apparent from the testimonies collected.

In May 2017, WCLAC was invited to submit a report to the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories on issues affecting Palestinian women in Jerusalem. During the reporting period 30 testimonies were collected; almost half of all testimonies involved night raids. WCLAC reported that the emotional and mental effect of night raids on women and their families was severe and sustained. Tensions are high between Palestinians and settlers within East Jerusalem (designated as Palestinian territory). Settlers are 40% of the population, meaning that interactions between between Palestinians and settlers live in close proximity. Attacks by settlers on Palestinian women are not uncommon and many women live in fear and insecurity. Women report they are scared their children will be arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

WCLAC has submitted a number of suggestions to the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) for Israel’s 6th periodical review in 2016. Night raids were a prominent theme in the submission, noting that the frequency of raids had increased since the upsurge in violence following settler attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in October 2015, and in that month alone 42% of testimonies claimed that soldiers made death threats. The submission urged that CEDAW include a section on night raids in its final report to Israel. Other issues directly affecting women included in the submission were the treatment of women’s rights defenders, the unlawful transfer of female prisoners outside of the occupied Palestinian territory, and the effect of Israel’s war in Gaza, including the enormous casualties and destruction of infrastructure, including water and sanitation structures.

In 2017, WCLAC contributed to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodical Review for Israel by submitting a report on the situation in Israel/Palestine regarding the treatment of Palestinian women and presence of gender-based violence. WCLAC identified specific issues which are having the largest and most detrimental effects on women. WCLAC argued that night raids were used to intimidate Palestinians and maintain a system of authority, resulting in long-term psychological effects on women and their children. In many cases, women have reported symptoms of trauma following a night raid. WCLAC recommended that Israel take immediate action to stop the abuses and violations against women and children by its forces.

In addition to the aggression and detrimental effects seen in night raids, Palestinian women are also subjected to the restrictions of a patriarchal system which culturally and socially weighs over women’s lives. In Gaza, WCLAC reported that while women in the occupied Palestinian territory face the highest levels of gender-based violence, they lack support services and ways to access them. Many offences will go unreported from fear of social consequences and lack of safe spaces. Israel’s blockade on Gaza traps civilians in a space without adequate resources or services, and with a lengthy, expensive, and exhausting process to attain them. During Ms. Dubravka Šimonović’s (the special rapporteur on violence against women), visit to the occupied Palestinian territory, WCLAC submitted data in regards to gender based violence in Palestine. The presence of dangerous and discriminatory acts perpetrated by patriarchal systems, and Israeli occupation, is an ongoing issue. Within her report, she noted the importance of WCLAC’s co-establishment of a legal/health/social service program (TAKAMOL) and centers for women who are survivors of gender-based violence.

Most recently in WCLAC’s work, members of the center attended the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva to co-host a special side-event on “Violence Against Women: The Case of Palestinian Women Under Occupation.” The event invited open dialogue between women’s rights experts and members of the audience about how occupational violence is intertwined with gender-based violence within family and society. One topic addressed was the discrimination women face under family reunification law, restricting them from accessing social benefits and medical care and essentially stripping them of their rights as wives of Jerusalemite husbands. 

Throughout the week, Kumi Now will publish more pieces exposing the effects of gender-based violence on Palestinian women and highlighting organizations and individuals working to eradicate such violence. 

Essay contributed by WCLAC. Updated for the second edition of Kumi Now.

Story: Shereen

For Shereen, a mother of four from the West Bank city of Hebron who married a Palestinian man with a Jerusalem ID, the family reunification process has been lengthy and expensive. “For about nine years I lived in Jerusalem in fear; I couldn’t apply for family reunification because I was younger than 25 years old, thus I was not free to move around. I missed many of the family occasions at my parents’ house in Hebron, and also my family couldn’t visit me.” After applying in 2016, more than six months later she was still waiting for her permit, and now remains trapped in her home waiting for random checks to prove she lives in East Jerusalem. “I feel that I am a stranger living in my own country, I don’t have the most basic rights of living with my family and moving freely.”

Originally published by WCLAC. 

Kumi Action

Draw a picture of flowers or take a photo of flowers and send it to the U.N. Women’s office at the following address with a note asking why the U.N. is not keeping Israel accountable to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325. Explain that by not holding Israel accountable to international law, the U.N. is allowing violence against Palestinian women and girls. In your note, encourage the U.N. to act by fully implementing UNSC Resolution 1325 and to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

U.N. Women
Two United Nations Plaza, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10017
United States

Post a picture of the flowers you shared on social media along with the message “By not holding Israel accountable to international law, the U.N. is allowing violence against Palestinian women and girls.” On Twitter you can tag U.N. Women @UN_Women, while on Facebook it is @unwomen (https://www.facebook.com/unwomen/). Include a link to this page of the Kumi Now website along with the hashtags #KumiNow and #Kumi47.

Literature:  “The Deluge and the Tree” by Fadwa Tuqan

When the hurricane swirled and spread its deluge 
of dark evil 
onto the good green land 
‘they’ gloated. The western skies 
reverberated with joyous accounts: 
“The Tree has fallen! 
The great trunk is smashed! The hurricane leaves no life in the Tree!”
Had the Tree really fallen? 
Never! Not with our red streams flowing forever, 
not while the wine of our thorn limbs 
fed the thirsty roots, 
Arab roots alive 
tunneling deep, deep, into the land!
When the Tree rises up, the branches 
shall flourish green and fresh in the sun 
the laughter of the Tree shall leaf 
beneath the sun 
and birds shall return 
Undoubtedly, the birds shall return 
The birds shall return

By Fadwa Tuqan, a famous Palestinian female poet of the resistance, published in the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture.

Additional Resources

UN Women – Palestine: https://palestine.unwomen.org/en

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