It’s been an open secret among pro-Palestinian activists that the attitudes of the people they are trying to liberate from ‘occupation’ are somewhat less than enlightened. A recent article in Ha’aretz details the complaints of some female international and Israeli activists who have found themselves demeaned, sexually harassed, and even raped by their Arab counterparts.
I am sure that the situation is even worse than described in the left-wing Ha’aretz newspaper, whose description is bad enough.
There are also complaints against left-wing Israeli activists, and fury at an incredibly vulgar poster created by the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement. Even women sharing their political viewpoint were outraged by the normalization of anti-woman violence implicit in the posters.
The usual excuses are being made. That women should understand that the goal of ‘ending the occupation’ is more important than these unfortunate phenomena, and they should be quiet. Or even that the Arabs (does this go for the non-Arab leftists too?) have been damaged by ‘occupation’ and therefore it is, naturally, the fault of Israel and particularly of ‘settlers’.
Similar claims are made by anti-Israel gay activists that ‘occupation’ causes Palestinian homophobia, while Israel’s tolerance of gays and lesbians is cynical ‘pinkwashing‘.
Because protest movements often are driven by young males, there is often a certain amount of macho posturing. In 1964, Stokely Carmichael famously said that the only position for women in his movement was “prone.” Eldridge Cleaver — in his case it was more than just posturing, as he admitted committing violent ‘political’ rapes of white women — remarked that women were useful because they had “pussy power.”
The Arab culture is a different story. Women are traditionally respected only insofar as they are protected by male relatives. One way to show disrespect for someone — or for an entire nation — is to steal his property, which includes ‘his’ women — wives, sisters, daughters. So Arabs steal cars and sheep from Jews, and rape their women.
The international and Israeli female activists are in a difficult position, because with no husbands or brothers around to protect them, they are nobody. Not even whores that have to be paid. Any unprotected woman is in danger, as Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy found out in Tahrir Square:
The affair of the posters may have irritated the women activists enough that they will insist that the European and Israeli men at least pretend to understand their concerns if they want continued female participation in the ‘movement’.
But the idea that women are property — a particularly sensitive form of property whose damage besmirches family ‘honor’ (a grotesque form of male pride) — is deeply embedded in Arab culture and results in countless murders of women by their own family members throughout the Arab world, including the Palestinian Authority and even among Arab citizens of Israel.
It would probably behoove both female and male activists to think a bit about the real nature of the Palestinian Arab culture that yearns to replace Israel, and ask themselves if they are really sure that this is the outcome they prefer.