The Palestinian authority: the recreation of the “nonviolent Palestinian”

Table of Contents:

Since the establishment of the PA in 1994, it has faced trouble focusing on the peacebuilding process. However, by 2000, it was evident that the Oslo Accords had failed, and all other attempts at negotiation were unsuccessful.47 The situation for Palestinians was only deteriorating, with no foreseeable political solution.48 On September 29, 2000, following the then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa mosque along with 1,000 Israeli soldiers, Palestinian protests erupted. This marked the start of the Second Intifada, which killed thousands of Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis.49 Palestinians utilized several tools in fighting the Israeli occupation and aggression, including the usage of arms.

In the wake of the Oslo Accords, the new image of Palestinians as carriers of a “peaceful” message suffered a setback after the Second Intifada. Three specific images of the Second Intifada come to mind. The first is of Muhammed Al-Durra, a twelve-year-old boy hiding behind his father as countless Israeli bullets penetrate his body. The second is of Faris Odch, a fourteen-year-old child throwing stones at an Israeli tank. The final one is a photograph of a young Palestinian man raising his bloody hand after the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. Palestinian scholars Rema Hammami and Salim Tamari indicate that images of the Second Intifada, including that of Muhammed Al-Durra, were “soon superseded by the far more numerous images of the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah.”50 This image, along with others, reintroduced the image of the violent Palestinian man.

The rhetoric of nonviolence was reinforced, however, with the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as Prime Minster of Palestine and, a few years later, as its President.51 Nonviolent rhetoric can be clearly mapped out when examining the policies and speeches of President Abbas. In an interview in 2013, he stated, “[Regarding the word ‘resistance,’ yes, I tell you that I will not utter the words ‘armed resistance.’ We have tried it, most recently in the Second Intifada, which destroyed everything for us.”52 Instead, President Abbas continuously called for peaceful popular resistance,53 even financially supporting the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which is responsible for coordinating popular resistance activities.54 Moreover, in 2014, in a speech to 300 Israeli students visiting the PA’s headquarters, he claimed that the security coordination with Israel is “sacred” and that it shall continue whether Palestinians and Israelis politically agree or not.55 Such coordination is seen as a pillar for preventing Palestinian usage of armed resistance in the West Bank.56

President Abbas and his government have repeatedly depicted Palestinians as nonviolent and peaceful to the world. The Arab Uprising provided an excellent opportunity to group Palestinians with their fellow nonviolent Arab

Media representations of Palestinian women 101 revolutionists. This depiction directly served the PA’s message in attempting to prove to the world that Palestinians are more “civilized” than the infamous “terrorists.” The PA and its leaders continuously seek to justify Palestinian resistance and align it with what seems to be a more palatable Western notion of resistance: unarmed, Gandhi-style, and nonviolent. The portrayal of Palestinian women in the Arab Uprising is one way to illustrate a neutral, palatable version of active women’s revolution as an empowered nonviolent one.57

NGO-ization

The image of these “nonviolent women” is further elaborated through the process of NGO-ization. NGO-ization is defined by Islah Jad as a combination of professionalization and projectization.’8 She posits that the establishment of the PA, the hegemony of the donor agenda, and the NGO-ization of local grassroots organizations were all significant factors that resulted in demobilizing more militant and effective organizations—including the women’s movement—in Palestine. Jad further criticizes that NGO-ization watered-down “many political positions concerning vital issues related to refugees; Jerusalem, forms of resistance, and the formation of the future state are adopted by the official participants in international conferences without any consultation with the Palestinian population.”’9 According to Jad, international donors have hijacked the Palestinian agenda and replaced it with a Western-led approach. Jad asserts that this has resulted in a dichotomy between the leadership and its people.60

Like most others, Palestinian NGOs are defined as mediators that communicated “peace processes],” thus intervening in national and international policy processes. These NGOs became a continuing reflection of how the Palestinian elites compromised their agendas to adhere to international proposals. It is apparent that the women’s standpoint has shifted from earlier activism to a world of internationally funded institutions. Evidently, NGOs provided a platform for Palestinian women to continue their activism, as their activism took a different approach, transforming their political agenda. After the First Intifada and immediately after the Oslo Accords, a growing numbers of NGOs became a dominant trend in the evolution of the Palestinian women’s movement.61 The creation of a nonresistant society post-Oslo helped overwhelmed Palestinians with a general feeling of incapability and hopelessness. The issue of losing track of a Palestinian personal national agenda is evidently not one specific to the Palestinian women’s movement but is a feature of the Palestinian national movement in general.

Sociologist Ala Alazzeh maps out the role of NGOs in promoting nonviolence as an ideology and explains how NGO-ization “functioned as a force of re-politicization through the construction of a new paradigm of ‘non-violence’ to narrate the Palestinian history of struggle.”62 Alazzeh argues that NGOs assisted in perceptions of the Palestinian struggle within the binary of violence and nonviolence, thus moving away from the overall colonial struggle structure. Such binary vision is part and parcel of the shift from national liberation to a state-building phase, in which most NGOs altered their agendas to adopt a moreglobalized apolitical agenda.63 This transformed role of Palestinian civil society hinted at a false narrative for women’s activism in Palestine and created a gateway for the media to shape the image of female activists as “sexy” and “new,” thus isolating it from the Palestinian women’s movement and its history.

Within the context of “gendering” the Arab Uprisings, the PA’s emphasis on the nonviolent Palestinian and the emergence of an apolitical civil society, women’s bodies were deployed as important actors of nonviolence. Images of women leading nonviolent protests depicted them as “modernized,” “Westernized,” and peaceful, and became important icons in the newly structured phase.

Conclusion

While watching the Arab Uprisings unfold, it was natural for Palestinians to reflect on their own local context. Amid the revolutions, Western media fixated on the women of the Arab world as pioneers of the uprisings at a time of national and gender awakening of the masses. Palestinian women in popular resistance also dominated the media’s attention as the news focused on Palestine. Media images portrayed the women as leaders of nuanccd “nonviolent resistance”—but at the same time detaching them from the surrounding context and the earlier women’s movement. With the NGO-ization of Palestinian civil society, and the eagerness of the PA to deploy a resistance message approved by the Western world, women’s bodies were used as carriers of this modernized, nonviolent message.

In this context, it was, at first, hard to contextualize Yasmin Hamdan’s three-minute love song within the Palestinian national struggle and emancipation; however, later on, the choice of the song vis-à-vis the images of protesting Palestinian women made sense. Yasmin, an icon for alternative music, provides the background for an alternative reality: along with kohled eyes under a Kufiyah face wrap, a ring adorned with Arabic calligraphy, colorful tennis shoes, white sunglasses, and some bold, defiant images, her voice assisted in recreating the new Palestinian.

Notes

  • 1 Emphasis mine.
  • 2 For the purposes of this chapter, the term “active women” refers to women who frequently participate in and lead political and social activities.
  • 3 Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment (London: Pluto Press, 2011), defines popular resistance on page 11:

Muqawama sha’biya, the term commonly used in Palestine, is roughly translated as popular resistance. The word sha’biya has its roots in sha’b (people) and is understood by many Palestinians to refer to the kinds of resistance practiced by large numbers of the population, as opposed to more narrow-armed resistances (muqawama musallaha). On the other hand, we do have in common use thawra sha’biya, or people’s revolution .... In English, it is more accurate to use nonviolent resistance to differentiate it from violent resistance; but the term translated literally into Arabic would be a very poor (and rather negative) description of the complex and empowering acts of popular resistance practiced in Palestine that cannot count as armed resistance. But because of the limitations of language, we shall use the term “popular resistance” in this book.

Ellen L. Fleischman, “The Emergence of the Palestinian Women’s Movement, 1929-39,” Journal of Palestine Studies 19, no. 3 (2000): 18-20.

Islah Jad, “Women at the Cross-Roads: The Palestinian Women’s Movement between Nationalism, Secularism and Islamism” (PhD diss., School of Oriental and African Studies University of London, 2004), 77; Ellen Fleischmann, The Nation and Its “New” Women: The Palestinian Women’s Movement, 1920-1948 (London: University of California Press, 2003), 95-115.

Jad, “Women at the Cross-Roads,” 79.

Fleischmann, The Nation and Its “New” Women, 7.

Islah Jad, “Re-reading the Mandate: Palestinian Women and the Double Jeopardy of Colonialism,” Review of Women Studies, Birzeit University 3 (2005): 8-29.

Jad, “Re-reading the Mandate,” 21.

Ibid.

Fleischmann, The Nation and Its “New” Women, 63-80. Ibid.

Jad “Women at the Cross-Roads,” 85.

Hamida Kazi, “Palestinian Women and the National Liberation Movement: A Social Perspective,” in Women in the Middle East, edited by The Khamsin Collective (London: Zed Press, 1987), 26-39, www.matzpen.org/english/1987-07-10/palestinian-women-and-the-national-liberation-movement-a-social-perspective-hamida-kazi/.

Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangement, Isr.-PLO, September 13,1993, 32 LL.M. 1525.

The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Isr.-PLO, August 27, 1995, 36 LL.M. 551.

Letters between Yasser Arafat, Chairman, The Palestine Liberation Organization, and Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, in Israeli-PLO Mutual Recognition, 13-14 Letters and Speeches, 107, September 10, 1993, http://mfa.gov.il/mfa/ foreignpolicy/mfadocuments/yearbook9/pages/107%20israel-plo%20mutual%20 recognition-%201ettcrs%20and%20spe.aspx.

Ibid.-, President of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, sent a letter to Rabin recognizing the right of Israel to exist in peace, and, more importantly, “renounce[ing] the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and [assuming] responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.” Jad, “Women at the Cross-Roads,” 120-125.

Ibid.

Eileen Kuttab, “Palestinian Women’s Organizations: Global Cooption & Local Contradictions,” Review of Women’s Studies 5, (2009): 70-71.

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Militarization and Violence against Women in Conflict Zones in the Middle East (London, Cambridge University Press, 2009), 2.

See Linah Alsaafin, “Imperfect Revolution: Palestine’s 15 March Movement One Year On,” The Electronic Intifada, March 13, 2012, https://electronicintifada.net/ content/imperfect-revolution-palestines-15-march-movement-one-year/l 1092; Harriet Sherwood, “Young Palestinians Call tor Protests on 15 March,” The Guardian, February 24, 2011, www.theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/24/palestinian-you ng- people - protests.

Conal Urquhart and Harriet Sherwood, “Palestine Rivals Fatah and Hamas on Verge of Historic Deal,” The Guardian, April 27, 2011, www.theguardian.com/ world/201 l/apr/27/palestine-rivals-fatah-hamas-deal.

See, for example, Facebook pages “Tamimi Press” at www.facebook.com/Tamimi presspage, and “Palestinians for Dignity,” www.facebook.com/palestiniansfordignity? ref=ts&fref=ts±

Salem and Mourtada, “The Role of Social Media in Arab Women’s Empowerment,” Arab Social Media Report 1, no. 3 (November 2011): www.researchgate.net/ publication/23 0709416_The_Role_of_Social_Media_in_Arab_Women%27s_ Empowerment.

Ibid.

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “Е-Resistance among Palestinian Women: Coping in Conflict-Ridden Areas,’’ Social Service Review 85, no. 2 (June 2011): 179-204.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “Е-Resistance among Palestinian Women,” 181.

Ibid., 180.

“The Uprising of Women in the Arab World,” Facebook post, accessed on October 29, 2012, www.facebook.com/intifadat.almar2.

Sara Abbas, “Revolution is Female: The Uprising of Women in the Arab World,” December 2, 2012, www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sara-abbas/revolution-is-female-uprising-of-women-in-arab-world.

Katherine Jane O’Neill, “More Arab Females Join Women’s Rights Movement to Demand Equality,” Al Arabiya, October 10, 2012, http://english.alarabiya.net/ articles/2012/10/09/242742 Jttml.

Carla Power, “Silent No More: The Women of the Arab Revolutions,” Time, March 24,2011, http://content.tirne.eom/time/world/article/0,8599,2059435,00.html;

Emine Saner, “What Will the Changes of the Arab Spring Mean for Women? Journalist Nabila Ramdani is Wary of What will Happen Next, but Rana Kab-bani is Rapturously Optimistic [Interview],” The Guardian, December 16, 2011, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/dec/16/the-conversation-women-arab-spring; “Women and the Arab Awakening: Now is the Time,” The Economist, October 15, 2011, www.economist.com/node/21532256; Sheera Frenkel, “After the Revolution, Arab Women Seek More Rights,” National Public Radio, August 6, 2011, www.npr.org/2011/08/06/1374824 42/after-the-revolution-arab-women-seek-more-rights.

Lazar Simeonov, “Women Protesting in Ramallah,” Demotix, March 15, 2011, www. demotix.com/news/643133/women-protesting-ramallah; Mati Milstein, “Nesa’iyeh (a Woman Thing),” Vimeo video, 03:22, December 7, 2011, https://vimeo.com/ 33312186.

Mati Milstein, “There are Already Palestinian Gandhis—They’re Women [Interview by Yasmina Mrabet],” Peace and Collaboration Development Network, January 23, 2012, www.peacexpeace.org/2012/01/there-are-already-palestinian-gandhis-theyre-women/.

See for example, Maath Musleh, “Women Activism in Palestine,” Uprooted Palestinians, April 16, 2012, http://uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.co.il/2012/04/from-disappointment-of-first-intifada.html: “But the year of 2011 certainly took the role of women in the Palestinian struggle to a new level. For the first time, women decided to act equal rather than seek permission for an equal role.”

Deema Alsafin, “Her Resistance is the Large Beauty,” Thekfemonument, accessed on July 29, 2013, http://thekfcmonument.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/her-resistance-is-the-larger-beauty/; Sami Kishawi, “‘Nesa’iyeh’ and Its Objectification of Women in the Face of Resistance,” Sixteen Minutes to Palestine, June 30, 2012, https://smpalestine.com/2012/06/30/nesaiyeh-and-its-objectification-of-women-in-the-face-of-resistance/.

See comparisons between women and men throwing stones: Emily Harris, “Palestinian Girls Look for Ways to Protest, Without Stones,” National Public Radio, May 30, 2013, www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2013/05/30/181928768/ Palestinian-Girls-Look-For-Ways-To-Protest-Without-Stones.

Mati Milstein, “Nesa’iyeh (a WomanThing)/Photographic Exhibition,” Facebookpost, accessed on July 27,2013, www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=241790195904804& set=a.208633409220483.51904.208046755945815&type=3&theater.

Ibid.

The author makes no note regarding the artistic value of the pictures.

Sophie Richter-Devroe, “Defending Their Land, Protecting Their Men: Palestinian Women’s Popular Resistance after the Second Intifada,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 14, no. 2 (April 2012): 181-201.

International Women’s Peace Service, “Palestinian Women Mobilizing to Resist Israel’s Apartheid Wall,” The Electronic Intifada, September 17, 2003, https://electronicintifada.net/content/palestinian-women-mobilising-resist-israels-apartheid-wall/1341. Fatima Khaldi, “Women against the Wall,” The Electronic Intifada, July 16, 2004, https://electronicintifada.net/content/women-against-wall/5163.

Tori Lee, “Palestinian Gandhis?” The New Mexico Jewish Link, August 2012, w ww. face book. com/PalestineWomenFirst/photos/a. 26465602 02 8488 8.64024. 208046755945815/342939969123159/?type=3&theater.

Akram Hanieh, “The Camp David Papers,” Journal of Palestine Studies 30, no. 2 (Winter 2001): 75-97.

See Rema Hammami and Salim Tamari, “The Second Uprising: End or New Beginning?” journal of Palestine Studies 30, no. 2 (2001): 5-25; Jeremy Pressman, “The Second Intifada: Background and Causes of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Journal of Conflict Studies 23, no. 2 (Fall 2003), https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/jcs/ article/view/220/378.

See “Fatalities before Operation ‘Cast Lead,”’ B’Tselem, accessed on May 2, 2014, www.btselcm.org/statistics/fatalities/before-cast-lcad/by-date-of-event; U.N. Secretariat, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli-Palestinian Fatalities Since 2000—Key Trends, last modified August 31, 2007, http://unispal. un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/BE07C80CDA4579468525734800500272; “Intifada Toll 2000-2005,” BBC News, accessed on September 17, 2017, http://news.bbc. co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3694350.stm.

Hammami, “The Second Uprising,” 15.

For more on nonviolence, see Ala Alazzeh, “Non-Violent Popular Resistance in the West Bank: The Case of the Popular Struggle Committees,” International Institute for Nonviolent Action (February 2011): 18-19.

Jean Aziz, “Abu Mazen: I Will Not Utter the Words ‘Armed Resistance,”’ Al-Monitor, July 5, 2013, www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/07/palestine-abbas-oppose-armed-resistance-israel.html.

Sufian Abu Zaida, “Changing the Status Quo: What Directions for Palestinians? Peaceful Popular Resistance: Is it an Option?” Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, May 2016, www.pcpsr.org/sites/default/files/Sufian%20Abu%20 Zaida%20print%20English.pdf.

Michael J. Carpenter, “Unarmed and Participatory: Palestinian Popular Struggle and Civil Resistance Theory,” (Doctoral diss., University of Victoria, 2017), 177.

Falafelcafe, “RAW FOOTAGE—Muhammad Al Durrah Incident,” YouTube video, 3:12, May 22, 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=arRgkXDLwlM; Isabel Kershner, “Abbas, Talking to Israeli Students about Peace, Finds a Receptive Audience,” The New York Times, February 16, 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/world/ middleeast/abbas-talking-to-israeli-students-about-peace-finds-a-receptive-audience. html?mcubz=l.

Hani Al-Masri, “Changing the Status Quo: What Directions for Palestinians? Is It Possible to Suspend Security Coordination?” Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, May 2016, www.pcpsr.org/sites/default/files/Hani%20Masri%20print%20 English.pdf.

See Ala Alazzeh, “Locating Nonviolence: The People, the Past and Resistance in Palestinian Political Activism,” (Doctoral diss., Rice University, 2014).

Islah Jad, “NGOs: Between Buzzwords and Social Movements,” Development in Practice 17, no. 4/5 (August 2007): 622.

Ibid., 626.

Ibid., 625.

Kuttab, “Palestinian Women’s Organizations,” 70.

Alazzeh, “Locating Nonviolence,” 18.

See Tariq Dana, “The Structural Transformation of Palestinian Civil Society: Key Paradigm Shifts,” Middle East Critique 24, no. 2 (2015): 191-210.

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