It was exciting and inspiring to meet face to face with these brave and tireless women who continue to dedicate themselves to the struggle against Israeli occupation despite enormous odds and grave challenges. We analyze that women are at the crux of imperialism, super exploited as both a source of free reproductive labour in the home and in the community, and as cheap labour within the working class. As Comrade Parvati from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) so brilliantly explained, women face a three-prong struggle: the struggle for national and social liberation, the inner-party struggle to advance women’s leadership at great odds given the enormity of the chauvinism and male violence women face in society, and the inner struggle against the internalized sexism against which women themselves must struggle. The stories of both hardship and resistance the delegation heard today highlighted that Palestinian women bravely face this three-prong struggle.
The heart-wrenching stories of women arrested for defending their land, their homes, and their husbands and sons from Israeli aggression are ones I will never forget. Of women forcefully dragged from their homes and sentenced to serve time in Israeli prisons for resisting displacement and Israeli encroachment into historic Palestinian homeland . Women separated from their infants, tortured, sexually harassed, fearing for the lives of their children, and enduring long separations from their families. Women shared how their sons were killed while being tortured or detained. The women insisted that our delegation decry the lies propagated by the imperialist aggressors and tell the world that Palestinian women love their children! What choice to they have but to resist when the very existence of the Palestinian people is threatened by Israeli apartheid. “Why is our resistance illegal?”They ask. “Who is violating international law?”
Following the incredible stories of the women freedom fighters we met with the leadership of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. The UPWC struggles for women’s political and economic rights and for increasing women’s political participation in electoral politics in society at large and within the progressive movement. The UWPC is economically independent, raising funds through food production and traditional Palestinian textile arts; at lunch we had the absolute pleasure of sampling their incredible food and perusing their stunningly beautiful crafts. Through these efforts the Committees have been able to provide cultural, political, economic, and social programming to the most marginalized women in Gaza.
The UPWC works in the community, engaging women in political education in their homes, recruiting women to participate in political formations led by women, and assisting women to develop economic independence, in particular for those who have absent husbands. During our discussions UWPC leaders explained that, while they struggle against male violence and women’s oppression in Palestinian society, the greatest source of violence against Palestinian women is Israeli occupation. Women’s rights to dress freely and participate more fully in society must accompanied by liberation from the extreme violence and deprivation of the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land and the accompanying economic domination.
Palestinian women resist occupation on all three fronts that Comrade Parvati describes. Palestinian women face great personal barriers to participating in the national liberation struggle; through the efforts of the UPWC women overcome major social and psychological barriers erected by male supremacy and chauvinistic social norms to their political struggle and participation. The struggle to liberate their minds and concurrently incite change at the community level goes hand in hand with the national struggle for liberation. The efforts of the UPWC contributes to the development of leadership within the progressive sectors, raising women’s perspectives and demands at the movement level. Lastly, Palestinian women participate in the Palestinian liberation movement as armed combatants; in 2009, 10% of armed Palestinian combatants were women.
I have always been inspired by the struggles and leadership of Palestinian women, and today I witnessed first-hand the reasons why Palestinian women should be and are at the forefront of anti-imperialist women’s struggles for liberation across the world!
Martha from Gaza – June 19, 2012