Palestinian women throw stones at the Zionist occupiers during clashes on International Women’s Day, at Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank, Palestine, March 8, 2014. (Photos: Majdi Mohammed / AP Photo)
“I have been photographing in Gaza for several years, initially to cover the conflict with Israel, but over time returning because I am mesmerized by the women, and their strength,” says photojournalist Monique Jacques.
Palestinian woman in the 1930s, by the first Palestinian photographer Khalil Raad.
As Palestinians we’ve tended to respond to the attacks on our existence by saying no– look how civilized we were… before Israel invaded, we had paved roads and cars… we had built hospitals and schools… we had European-style railroads… we were so secular… we built great cities and we have deeds to prove the land was ours..
We prove our indigenous right to the land by invoking European/western (read: colonial) standards of what legitimises a people’s right to be somewhere. They tell us land is only yours if it’s your legal property, only nation-states are real countries…and we have forgotten that these are not universal standards and they are not our standards. They invoke civilized/savage, light/dark, progressive/backwards, rational/irrational, science/myth…and we play into their hands.
In doing so, we throw the experiences of half of our people under the bus. It’s true that we had built grand cities with beautiful architecture, but we also existed as Bedouins who did not have stagnant homes. We’ve left the Bedouin Palestinian out of our narratives so much and they continue to face the most amplified ethnic cleansing because they reject dominant ways of organizing their society.
It’s true that we had an amazing diversity of unimposing religions, but when we share historic photos of unveiled Palestinian women only to show how “progressive” we were/are, we only add to Islamophobic and Orientalist discourse.
Here is the rule: indigenous people have a connection to the land that their colonizers do not.
P.S. if connection to the land sound too emotional or unscientific to you, or if it’s just not enough, then you probably need to decolonize your mind, friend.
More than 700 young Palestinians have received leadership and gender-sensitivity training and several have collectively drafted an alternative constitution that challenges the status quo.
“I used to be afraid to give my opinion, but now I tell people about complex issues like politics, women’s rights and the Constitution. I feel strong,” says 24-year-old Amani Thawabta, a law school graduate from Palestine. Although she speaks about lobbying for women’s rights as powerfully as a lifelong advocate, that wasn’t always the case. Amani is from the small Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar in the central West Bank, where the conservative culture makes it hard for young women to take part in public life or claim their rights. Even travelling to nearby Bethlehem to attend university was a challenge.
Amani came out of her shell after meeting representatives of the Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy and the Jerusalem Centre for Women, who are implementing a programme supported by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality. They visited Beit Fajjar in early 2013 to recruit and train young educated Palestinians like Amani to lobby for greater gender equality in the Constitutional drafting process, which has been underway for decades in Palestine.
Members of the Constitutional Shadow Committee participate in a constitution drafting session after completing a capacity development workshop. Photo: Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy/Ibrahim Abdeljawwad
At first shy and reserved, Ms. Thawabta soon emerged as a committed organizer, taking part in many of the programme’s workshops and organizing others in her own community. Through 29 workshops held across Palestine, more than 700 young Palestinians like her have learned about political analysis, lobbying and advocacy, and Constitution-building.
She is also among a group of 26 young women and men representing 25 community-based organizations from rural and urban Palestine who formed a coalition called the Constitutional Shadow Committee. Drawing on the knowledge gained through such workshops, they drafted an alternative constitution that challenges the lack of gender equality in the current third draft, prepared by the official Constitutional Committee, which is comprised only of men.”
Next month, the Palestinian non-violent resistance movement will take center stage at an art gallery in New Mexico. Mati Milstein, an Israeli photojournalist, has spent the last year documenting the activities of a group of women activists fighting the occupation. He discusses “Nesa’iyéh (a woman thing),” his exhibition of their struggle, as depicted through his lens.
The Israel-Palestinian conflict is dominated by a very specific sort of visual images: armed soldiers shooting guns, young men throwing stones, tanks, warplanes, flags, suffering. These images are dictated by an accepted and assumed paradigm that dramatically influences our perception of the conflict, of each side party to the conflict, and of the nature of “acceptable” interaction and communication. You rarely see conflict-related images of women – Palestinian or Israeli – unless they are mourning the loss of a loved one or themselves suffering in one way or another. You almost never see strong women, in control of and making decisions about their own fate.
My meeting with this subject matter came, coincidentally, just after reading an analysis by Gila Danino-Yona of photographic news coverage depicting the presumed role and place of women in the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa. I realized that right here at home, I was witnessing women taking an outspoken and proactive approach to political activity that runs directly counter to the West’s dominant perception of Arab women.
I also realized that I could document Palestinian protests in one of two ways. I could choose to reinforce and maintain the current, ego- and male-dominated paradigm of conflict: you shoot, I shoot back. My gun is bigger than your gun. Or I could choose to allow my own perception to be altered and evolve – starting at the immediate, visual level – and attempt to honestly and accurately capture images of this new paradigm and new approach now being written by Palestinian women.
Palestinian women plead with an IDF soldier to leave their territory and leave their men and boys alone.
The women were complaining about the arrest and mistreatment of stone-throwing Palestinian youths. It became official policy, during this period, for the occupying forces to break the arm and leg bones of any youth caught throwing stones at military personnel.