The Guardian • Issue #2088

HALF THE SKY

Palestinian women

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2088
Half the Sky column logo

Since the events of 7 October the people of the western world have been subject to an unceasing propaganda campaign aimed at getting us to feel sympathy for the settlers engaged in an active genocide against the Palestinian people. One of the most notable aspects of this has been the weaponisation of sexual assault and the orientalisation of Palestinian men – ie treating Palestinian men as exotic, unchangeable and fundamentally different to white, European ‘us.’ We are encouraged to believe that the attacks on 7 October were so savage and barbarous that any amount of violence meted out in return is justified. The existence of Palestinian women is almost completely erased in this narrative.

So, how are the women of Palestine doing? According to the UN agency for women, not well. Since the beginning of Israel’s assault on Gaza, approximately 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel. The UN states that 70 per cent of those are women and girls, a disproportionate number especially considering assurances that only Hamas is being targeted. Almost 1 million women and girls have been displaced from their homes and are currently living in makeshift refugee camps. Many of these camps have been struck by Israeli bombs on multiple occasions, lending credibility to suspicions that it may be intentional. In the past governments of settler states have tried to wipe out their indigenous population by sterilizing women, or removing children. Israel’s killing of Palestinian women may be a more direct method.

Israel has also set itself the goal of destroying Palestinian infrastructure. Most hospitals have now been bombed multiple times and many have been stormed by soldiers on the ground with the dubious justification that Hamas has tunnels underneath them. This puts significant pressure of pregnant women of which there are currently 50,000. Of those, 180 are giving birth every day without access to obstetric services and in unsanitary conditions. This has had a flow-on effect of increasing mortality rates of mothers and infants. The blockade of food has meant that once a child is born, mothers often can’t produce enough milk or acquire formula to feed their baby further increasing child mortality and creating untold trauma for the mothers. According to the Turkish public broadcaster TRT even once a child is born it is not safe as there are reports of Israeli soldiers kidnapping blond Palestinian children under the guise of rescuing hostages.

One of the big lies of the media coverage in this conflict is the idea that the “war” started recently. This is obviously false, and by examining the condition of women we can see this clearly. Most of the problems written about here existed before 7 October, although at a more moderate level. Palestinian mothers and children have been suffering from malnutrition since the beginning of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in 2007. Sexual assault of Palestinian women and girls in the West Bank by soldiers and settlers almost always goes completely unpunished, allowing perpetrators to act with impunity.

Impunity is the key, as women around the world know only too well. So long as Israeli settlers and soldiers are allowed to act with impunity and with support from the quisling west,  the women of Palestine will suffer a large share of the brunt of settler imperialist violence.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More