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Photo Credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
By: Lina Abirafeh/Arab America Contributing Writer
Without a single Palestinian insight, two wealthy, entitled, white men took it upon themselves to determine the fate, not only of the state of Palestine but of the entire Arab region.
On January 28th, United States President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered up the so-called “Deal of the Century,” a plan that Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, called the best “opportunity that [Palestinians] have ever had in their existence.” Kushner told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that this plan is nothing less than the total fault of the Palestinians, who are now “trapped because of bad leadership,” which has, Kushner continued, prevented them from coming to the negotiating table.
This 180-page “Delusion of the Century” is of further concern because, on either side of this already one-sided negotiation, we only see men. Peacemaking is more sustainable when women play a major role. We know this to be true; women not only ensure gender equality in peace processes but are better equipped to create peace agreements inclusive of human rights and social justice. What is a peace agreement about, after all, if it doesn’t ensure that all those affected have the right to live in peace?
Palestinian women continue to practice sumoud, or “steadfastness,” remaining rooted to their land, “in the face of indignities, injustices, and humiliation,” (El Said, et al., 2015;13) as the occupation persists. This is the legacy of women’s civil disobedience that began during the First Intifada. Though it was illegal at the time for women to be formal political party members, they continued to mobilize in secret under the guise of “homemaking” groups. And yet, time and again, Palestinian women have been notably absent from the negotiating table.
However, Palestinian women are not just victims of circumstance but have been agents of change across various resistance movements throughout Palestinian history. The arrest of then-16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who confronted Israeli soldiers is just one example. Women in Palestine have always been at the forefront of the resistance, and even more so as their fathers, brothers, and sons are injured, incarcerated, killed – or mysteriously disappear as a result of the occupation.
Doubly marginalized as women living under Israeli occupation and both Israeli and Palestinian patriarchal norms, Palestinian women have an equal stake in peace and equal claim to any peace process that will determine their fate.
Palestinian women’s movements are at the forefront of gender progressive initiatives in the region, despite their continued marginalization under occupation. Palestine was one of the first Arab States to develop a National Action Plan in fulfillment of its obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. The primary goal of such a plan is to increase women’s meaningful participation in peacekeeping and conflict negotiations.
In September of 2019, factions of the women’s movement organized simultaneous demonstrations across Palestine as part of a movement called, Taliaat , or “Going out in the streets”. Under the banner “No liberated homeland without liberated women”, Palestinians marched together against domestic violence, uniting diverse Palestinian groups in a way that previous movements have yet to accomplish.
Were Jared Kushner and his father-in-law actually concerned with the “bad leadership” of the Palestinians, or with the likelihood that Palestinians would, once again, “screw up” this “opportunity” before them, they might have considered reaching out to any of the thousands of Palestinian women at the forefront of peace and liberation.
“Palestinian women represent the heart of the struggle,” as Manal Omar, the CEO and founder of Across Red Lines noted: “Nobody can be free and live in dignity unless ALL are free and live in dignity.” Omar continued, “This goes beyond one country, one region and exemplifies the reality of the long-term effects of colonialism and an apartheid state that refuses to be held accountable.”
To shroud an attempted consolidation of power in peace-making rhetoric is to make a mockery of the oppression Palestinians experience every day for generations under occupation. Palestinians rightfully refuse to lend legitimacy to the “Deal of A Century” coming from an impeached, sexual predator of a President and a criminally indicted, extreme right-wing Prime Minister. Seeking peace requires a commitment to transformational justice and reconciliation, a commitment to accounting for generations of violence, a commitment to real liberation.
At the intersection of multiple oppressions, Palestinian women’s struggle resonates with intersectional feminism that engages with colonialism, class, and capitalism. It is only in the dismantling of these layered oppressions that we can speak about liberation. Palestinian women – and all Palestinians – can no longer be on the menu without a seat at the table.
Dr. Lina Abirafeh is the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University – based in New York and Lebanon. Her background is in gender-based violence prevention and response in development and humanitarian contexts.