[Marxism] UN Study: Palestinian Women Hard Hit by Israeli Occupation

usman x sandinista at shaw.ca
Wed Apr 14 15:11:33 MDT 2004

Printed in Third World Resurgence Mar/Apr 2004

UN Study: Palestinian Women Hard Hit by Israeli Occupation

By Thalif Deen
Inter Press Service Agency (IPS)
February 5, 2004

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 (IPS) - Israel’s repressive policies in
military-occupied West Bank and Gaza have had a devastating impact on the
lives of Palestinian women and children, a new U.N. study says.

And only an end to Israel’s occupation of the territories will reverse that
trend, add experts interviewed by IPS.

“The capacity of Palestinian women to cope with this new situation has been
declining, and the number of women dependent on emergency assistance,
particularly food assistance, has risen,” the report said.

Women have not only been subject to increasing violence, but their
responsibilities within households have expanded due to the death,
imprisonment or unemployment of male members of households.

The study quotes the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) saying that 38 percent of
Palestinian mothers have reported increased difficulties in gaining access
to health services, and 65 percent reported the quality of their food had

Since the Israeli military restricts the physical movement of Palestinians,
there has also been a sharp increase in the number of births in ambulances
and at home, “causing distress and complications to mothers”, said the
study, which will go before a meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status
of Women, Mar. 1-12.

According to the Palestinian ministry of health, delays at military
checkpoints have resulted in 46 women delivering their babies while waiting
for permission to pass. As a result, 24 women and 27 newborn babies have
died since June 2003.

The study also says that the construction of a controversial wall inside
occupied territories — described by Israel as a security barrier — has
resulted in the demolition of Palestinian homes and the confiscation of some
1,150 ha of high-income-generating land.

Despite strong protests from Palestinians and the 15-member European Union
(EU), the Israeli government has refused to terminate the project.

In December, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution seeking an
advisory opinion on the legality of the security wall from the International
Court of Justice (ICJ). The court’s public hearings are scheduled for Feb.
23 in The Hague.

Since the Palestinian uprising began in Sep. 2000, over 2,600 Palestinians
and more than 825 Israelis have been killed in the ongoing violence. The
continued Israeli repression and the targeted assassinations of Palestinian
leaders have, in turn, triggered a rash of suicide bombings against

“Foreign governments need to press these issues with Israel”, John Quigley,
professor of law at Ohio State University, told IPS.

The European Union (EU) in particular, he argued, is well positioned to
bring about changes in Israeli policies because the country depends on the
European market to sell its products.

“The United Nations can use its moral authority on the issue, and can
mobilise collective action by member states. The United States is well
positioned because of the financial aid it gives Israel,” Quigley added.

Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid, worth more than three billion
dollars annually.

Much of the suffering of Palestinian women happens beyond the international
media spotlight on violence in the territories, said Quigley.

“Instances of use of armed force gain media attention, but what does not get
attention is the living conditions that are the result of the totality of
Israeli policy in Gaza and the West Bank”, added the author of ‘Genocide in
Cambodia and Palestine and Israel’.

He said hardships of daily life, felt most acutely by Palestinian women,
have been severe during the Israeli occupation going back to the 1960s, but
they have worsened in the past two years.

“These hardships are not simply side effects of Israeli actions. Israel’s
policies in Gaza and the West Bank through the entire period of the
occupation have spurred an outflow of population, since Palestinians are
unable to make ends meet, unable to pursue their professions, unable to live
a normal life,” he added.

The Palestinian economy has continued to accumulate losses, currently equal
to one-half its annual gross domestic product (GDP). By March 2003, the
number of poor had tripled from 637,000 in September 2000 to nearly two
million, and more than 50 percent of the Palestinian workforce was
unemployed, according to the World Bank.

But women and children continue to bear “a special and enduring burden” from
the military occupation, the U.N. study said.

Such reports on the situation of Palestinian women can help the
international community better understand the vast ways in which Israel’s
occupation negatively affects and impedes the development of all sectors of
Palestinian society, says Catherine Cook, senior analyst and media
coordinator for the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP).

“But such information in and of itself will do little to improve the plight
of these women” said Cook, who lived in the Israeli-occupied town of
Ramallah from 1999-2002, and is co-author of ‘A Road Map to the Oslo

“Over the past three years, there have been tens of reports outlining the
devastating impact Israel’s occupation policies have on civilians, including
women and children, on the economy, on social and cultural life, civil
society and Palestinian institutions,” she added.

But none of these sectors will improve until the policies that have
generated such horrific conditions are ended — “and that requires an end to
Israel’s occupation”, Cook told IPS.

“What is desperately needed now is for the international community to move
beyond simply reporting, and towards taking concrete action designed to
pressure Israel to abide by its obligations under international law,” she

A Middle East “road map” to peace, which initially had the backing of the
United States, has also been shelved because of Israeli intransigence. Its
rejection has been accompanied by intense restrictions on the movement of
Palestinians, including road closures, curfews and the multiplication of

“In some cases, women were injured near or inside their houses when
attempting to cross checkpoints in the course of going to work or seeking
employment,” the report said.

The study reveals the extent to which women’s living conditions have
drastically deteriorated under the draconian measures applied by the
government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Naseer Aruri,
professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts.

The crimes committed against Palestinian women, and other civilians, have
been neglected by global civil society, added Aruri, author of ‘The
Obstruction of Peace: the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians’.

These crimes, he added, continue to be committed under a protective umbrella
provided by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, which bears
legal and moral responsibility to provide international protection to the
occupied rather than the occupier.

“Such wanton acts by the Israelis designed to destroy indigenous Palestinian
society can only be checked by an increasing role for the United Nations in
the so-called Middle East peace process,” Aruri told IPS.

But, he warned, “as long as the United States continues to be the
self-styled peacemaker, Israel’s bankroller, chief diplomatic backer and
arms supplier, there will be neither peace nor security for the innocent
Palestinian civilians, including women and children”.

"The proletarian is dead. Long live the housewife!" Claudia von Werlhof

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