Honor killings an increasing problem among Israeli Arabs

The phenomenon of honor killings among Arabs is well-known. But a recent story about an Israeli Arab family in Ramle (central Israel) stands out:

One day in mid-January, Hamda Abu-Ghanem, 19, was found lying in her bed in her home in Ramle, her body riddled with bullets. She was the eighth woman in her family to be killed in the past six years, and this time the other women in the family decided to break their silence. One after the other, they came to the police station, in order to read to the investigators the writing on the wall. Most of them couldn’t say for certain just who had killed Hamda, but unlike previous times, when they’d kept quiet, this time they told the detectives what it was like to live with the fear that they would be next in line, a fear that had stalked Hamda as well. — Ha’aretz: Grave no. 9

Why does this continue to happen in Israeli Arab society, one of the most well-educated and well-off Arab communities in the Middle East?

“You can’t ask me what’s possible to do from the bottom up in Arab society, against violence toward women,” says criminologist Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who specializes in the subject. “Those are a man’s questions. It’s like asking battered women why they remain at home. You can’t ask me what I can do. I first of all want to protect my girls, to see that they get to school safely. To deal with this problem you have to take apart the centers of power – to take the weapons out of the hands of the phallocrats” – the term she uses to describe men who use their sexual power to dominate others. Phallocrats, Shaloub-Keorkian explains, are those men, Jewish and Arab, to whom the state has given the power of control over women.

“From all we know from other Arab countries, there was never another case like this one in Ramle, of the murders of eight women from [the Abu-Ghanem] family. There was one case in which a father murdered his three daughters and then killed himself. That was the worst.”

Now, Shalhoub-Kevorkian explains, there is panic also among Arab women in the North. Many see a connection between the case of Reem al-Qassem of Haifa, who was murdered in front of her house in the Hadar neighborhood about two months ago, and the death threats received by Angelina Fares, the Druze woman who wanted to compete in the Miss Israel beauty pageant and was forced to pull out. — Ha’aretz: ‘Don’t tell us that it’s Arab society, that it’s Islam’

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