• Tuesday, December 1, 2015
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Up In More Than Arms

    Credit: Mohammed Omer

    Credit: Mohammed Omer

    Mel Frykberg

    RAMALLAH: The image of the woman suicide bomber endures in much of the media as the face of Palestinian women’s resistance. But away from those instances, Palestinian women are taking a long struggle forward against Israeli occupation.

    What Israel calls terrorism the women see as a legitimate fight that is theirs, and not just for men. “Palestinian women have borne arms, undergone military training, and also reached out regularly to Israeli women in peace talks as part of the liberation struggle,” Rabiha Diab, Palestinian Authority (PA) minister for women’s affairs tells TerraViva in an interview.

    The fighting made the women firm. “The political side of the struggle was a sphere in which Palestinian women excelled,” says Diab. “Women became heavily politicised in Israeli jails, and leadership qualities were forged which subsequently produced some of the current female leaders in the PA.”

    The political role of Palestinian women developed further in universities as women led student unions that organised strikes and other student resistance activities.

    Women have provided support in many ways for the struggle, some of them seen as more traditional. They formed cooperatives which provided food, grew vegetables from home, and raised rabbits and poultry for eggs and meat.

    Medical unions, ambulance services and clinics recruited females. When Israel closed schools and universities, practically crippling Palestinian education, women held alternative classes at home for school children and university students.

    It was during the second Intifadah which began in 2000 that some Palestinian women became more militant. Ahlam Tamimi, a single young woman from Ramallah, is currently serving 16 life sentences for transporting a suicide bomber to Israel who blew himself up and killed 16 Israelis in a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001.

    Rawda Habibi from Gaza city and a former member of Islamic Jihad, was released from an Israeli jail last year, during a prisoner swap, after serving two years. Habibi, a mother of four, was accused of trying to enter the West Bank to carry out a suicide bombing.

    “Despite the solitary confinement and the brutal interrogation in jail I have no regrets, and believe it is the duty of women to fight for liberation on an equal footing to men,” Habibi tells IPS.

    But peace remains a priority. “We are constantly reaching out to Israeli women from various peace groups to try and build a consensus as mothers and women,” says Diab. “But a just peace can only be based on Palestinians being given their legitimate rights.”

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