Can You Be a Pro-Palestinian Feminist?
A recent article in The Nation attracted lots of attention for its eye-popping headline:
Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Linda Sarsour Says No
Her arguments are nutty, but Sarsour knows how to get publicity.
So let’s use her own methodology to ask whether it’s possible for Linda Sarsour — or anyone else — to be a feminist, while also supporting Palestinian Arabs.
According to the UN, there are no specific laws or provisions in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas legal codes that protect women against domestic violence and sexual violence.
If women cannot prove that they were raped or forced to cheat on their husbands, they risk being criminalized for “adultery.”
Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has adopted the Jordanian 1960 “rape marriage” law, which states that a rapist will not be prosecuted if he marries his victim.
While rape is technically illegal, the woman is often the one who must defend herself, because the rape laws only apply “provided that such a woman is not a prostitute and is not known for her immoral character.”
In addition, murderers who kill women in order to “maintain family honor” often escape punishment. And marital rape is not illegal.
One study showed that Palestinian women only went public about being sexually abused when the abuse was extremely traumatic, publicly apparent and when the victim was absolved of blame. And 10 percent of those women who did go public were subsequently murdered.
Women in the Palestinian territories are not allowed to marry without permission from their guardian. Men, however, can marry up to four wives.
A Palestinian man can divorce his wife for any reason, but Palestinian women can only request a divorce under certain circumstances. And when a divorce is initiated by the woman, she must give up all financial rights and return her dowry.
Sexual abuse of women and children in Palestinian lands is rampant, but swept under the rug. According to one study, 37% of married Palestinian women were exposed to some form of violence by their husbands; 65% of those victims stayed silent because of societal pressures.
Furthermore, 20% of Palestinian women are married before they turn 18, almost always to older men — which is a human rights violation. Because of these marriages, 10% of all Palestinian women between 15-19 give birth every year.
The highest rates of violence against women are found where the families tend to be more religious, such as in Gaza and Hebron.
I’m not even going into Sharia law here, which is far worse than Palestinian law for women. (Linda Sarsour has publicly defended Sharia law, which calls into question her own qualifications to be a “feminist.”)
Liberal “Pro-Palestinian” activists rarely, if ever, mention any of these issues. The media is also complicit in its silence on these topics. Yet Palestinians know all about them, and it is likely that Sarsour is quite aware of them as well. Still, she chooses to remain silent, because that would blunt her anti-Israel message. Her hate for Israel is more important than the rights of Palestinian women.
Sarsour says that “you either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”
This means that Sarsour is not a feminist by her own definition. In fact, her anti-Israel stance often diverts attention from the very real discrimination and abuse that Palestinian women suffer.
Linda Sarsour, and all so-called “feminists” who use their platform as a means to bash Israel, are in fact anti-feminist. And they tacitly support the abuse of Palestinian women.