Rana Baker responds to Dawber’s article in The Independent: Misconceptions Abound On Gaza’s Women, Politics

By: Rana Baker for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse

Posted on April 25.

It has become commonplace when reading about Gaza to come across descriptions of it as an “Islamist enclave” or “Hamas-controlled territory” and so on. In case someone exists who does not know what Hamas is all about, commentators make sure their readers understand that it is the “fundamentalist” group bent on the “destruction of Israel” and nothing else.

The Palestinians of Gaza, therefore, are often categorized as either ardent Hamas supporters or suppressed dissidents, including women, who receive the severest treatment imaginable, not only from the Hamas government, but also from misogynistic and backward average male residents. Such categorizations are then followed by sweeping generalizations about each of these stereotypes. Whereas the Hamas supporters consist of “terrorists” and “bloodthirsty barbarians,” the dissents are seen as peace-loving minorities who seek neighborly relations with Israel, the occupying entity.

A recent example of such portrayals can be found in a feature story published in The Independent on April 13. In “Tales from Gaza: What Is Life Really Like in ‘the World’s Largest Outdoor Prison’?” the author alledges to provides “a small snapshot into life in Gaza.” Before he proceeds, however, he assures us that what follows are “testimonies” by people “who can rarely get their voices heard.”

At the start of six interviews, the author makes clear that all of those featured are men not because that was his intention — he is a Westerner who believes in gender equality after all — but because in his two and a half days in Gaza, he could not find a woman willing to speak to him “independently.” In fact, the only occasion when he had the chance to speak to a woman, he tells us, was in the presence of a male guardian, the woman’s husband in this particular instance. Hence, while he was able to “give voice” to men, his attempts to do the same for women were all thwarted.

Such assertions play into Orientalist notions. This usually results from foreign journalists coming to Gaza with a set of preconceptions about the place and its people and then seeking to confirm them rather than verify them. While Gaza is, indeed, no haven for women or anyone else, there are thousands of educated women who are willing to speak for themselves and do so in every field, from medicine, theater, and politics to fishing and farming.

Just a few months ago, a play written by the renowned Palestinian writer Samah Sabawi was read at one of Gaza’s cultural centers, which continue to thrive despite Israel’s ceaseless attempts at cultural de-development. Nearly all the participants who performed the play were women, as was the case with the vast majority of the audience. They were not accompanied by husbands, brothers or fathers in order to attend or to perform.

Events like this, however, hardly ever make it into the mainstream media. Moreover, any mention of a considerable number of women going out without a hijab instantly provokes expressions of surprise by those who have only heard about Gaza through mainstream and particularly Western publications. To say women in Gaza are also allowed to drive would sound like a lie to many ears.

Women are not the only part of this story. To claim that Gaza is “Islamist” automatically dismisses the existence of the leftist and secular groups there, most of which denounce religion in its totality. Homogenizing “life in Gaza” could not be more obvious than in The Independent feature.

Of the six interviews the author conducted, one was with a Hamas official, while four were with blue-collar male workers, and the remaining one was with an unemployed man. Despite being at odds with Israel, five of them belong to the category of “ready to forget the past,” has no problem inviting former Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon for coffee, and even views Yitzhak Rabin — the man behind the Iron Fist that broke hundreds of bone in the lead up to and during the first Palestinian intifada — as a man of peace.

With the exception of the Hamas official, the interviewees followed suit in reiterating the same unconditional desire to achieve peace with Israel that one might think no other viewpoint existed. At the same time, they viewed Hamas as the primary source of their distress. Israel was seen as only secondary to their everyday ordeal.

That no evidence was provided to challenge the views in question suggests that there is none — just as the author claims to have found no women able to speak to him. Thus, portraying the residents of Gaza as a homogenous people who all experience life in the same way is condescending at best and Orientalist at worst. The views expressed in the article are undeniably extant but do not reflect the reality.

Israel, which has launched two deadly assaults on Gaza in less than five years, is rarely perceived as a friendly entity. The vast majority of the politicized and non-politicized segments of Gazan society are not ready to “forget the past” that continues to shape the lives of 1.1 million local Palestinians officially registered as refugees at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Rana Baker is a student of business administration in Gaza and writes for the Electronic Intifada

This article appeared here: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/gaza-misconceptions-women.html#ixzz2RVnXaJdB

Imra’a: For my sisters in the Arab world and beyond

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I

am

woman

Imra’a

Whole

Not a fragment of your shadow

Not a rib torn out of your torso

Not a mail order

Not a house slave

Not a fairytale princess

Not a damsel in distress

Not a genie in a bottle

Not a saint

Not scattered

Not arranged

Not lacking in brain or piety

Not a fountain of propriety

I am eternity

Lived in an instant

I am constant

Randomness

I am chaos in stability

In songs you ache for me

I am your refuge and your refugee

Your barren desert and your fertile field

Your homeland

Your ‘watan’

My womb yields the fruit of life

I am your daughter

Mother

Sister

Wife

A prince of poetry wrote of me

 “Alommo madrasaton…”

A mother is a school

 When well prepared

You prepare a well-mannered nation

A thousand and one Arabian nights

I am inspiration

In the holy scriptures

I am temptation

I am your Eve in the Garden of Eden

My qualities revealed in the holy Quran

‘inna kaydahonna azeem’

I am your dream

Your ‘hoor alayn’

Your seduction

Your redemption

Your struggle

Your salvation

I am your strengths and weaknesses

All rolled into one

I am your lived reality

And all that you refuse to see

I am what you cannot define

Cannot confine

To a fantasy

I am human

Of flesh and blood

My virtue unquantifiable

My faults monumental

I am neither a reflection of you nor on you

Your ticket to paradise does not begin with my virtue

Your redemption does not begin with my submission

Your peace of mind does not begin with my conformity

Your honor is not defined by my chastity

Your vice is your own

Your honor is your own

Your fantasies are your own

For I can barely carry

My own burden

Alone

I am

woman

Imra’a

Whole

Written by Samah Sabawi February 18, 2013

DAM featuring AMAL MURKUS – If I Could Go Back In Time لو أرجع بالزمن

http://www.DAMRAP.com
Translation and Credits
Arabic script: If I Could Go Back In Time
‏Suhel Nafar:
‏Before she was murdered, she wasn’t alive
‏We’ll tell her story backwards from her murder to her birth
‏Her body rises from the grave to the ground
‏The bullet flies out of her forehead and swallowed into the gun
‏The sound of her echo screams, she screams back
‏Tears rise up from her cheeks to her eyes
‏Behind the clouds of smoke, faces of her family appear
‏Without shame, her brother puts the gun in his pocket
‏Her father throws down the shovel and wipes the sweat off his forehead
‏He shakes his head, satisfied from the size of the grave
‏They pull her back to the car, her legs kicking
‏Like a sand storm, she’s erasing her own tracks
‏They throw her in the trunk, she doesn’t know where she is
‏But she knows that three left the house and only two will return
‏They reach the house; throw her to the bed in violence
‏”So you want run away huh?” they wake her with violence

‏Amal Murkus (Chorus)
‏If I could go back in time
‏I would smile
‏Fall in love
‏Sing
‏If I could go back in time
‏I would draw
‏Write
‏Sing

‏Mahmood Jrere:
‏She dreams before falling asleep
‏We’ll tell her story backwards, maybe understand
‏The clock hands move right to left
‏She reconstructs her steps as if she were lost
‏She sleeps prepared, money for the taxi
‏Plane ticket and passport under her pillow
‏Answer: leave the clothes in the closet; she plans to wear a new life
‏Question: what if they ask what the suitcase is for?
‏She went to bed, leaves table
‏Eats well, she must act today
‏Her nose stops bleeding, that’s what they see
‏But it’s a fresh wound; before they will beat her she will beat them
‏Her mom says “your life is like heaven”
‏She’s right, if you taste the forbidden you better know someone is watching
‏Two hours before dinner, the phone hangs up
‏Her mom is shocked “the flight is delayed”
‏Phone rings

‏ Amal Murkus (Chorus)

‏Tamer Nafar:
‏Before she answers, she isn’t even asked
‏The story is like the logic in her life, all backwards
‏Her hands up in the sky, begging for help
‏Their hands up in the sky reciting the Fatiha (ceremony before marriage)
‏The calendar page moves one day back, the time is
‏Afternoon, the argument is over, her brother commands her
‏Blood flows from her lips to her nose
‏A sound of a fist, his hand jumps from her face
‏It’s the first time in her life that she says “NO!”
‏Her mom announces happily “tomorrow you will marry your cousin”
‏If I look through the album of her life
‏I won’t see a photo of her standing up for her rights
‏It’s hard, the pages are stuck to my hand
‏Her past full of blood and tears
‏But we promise you, from her murder to her birth
‏Their expressions filled with anger as if someone announced a crime
‏”Congratulations, it’s a girl”
‏The beginning.

Arabic script:Freedom For My Sisters

Lyrics written by DAM
Music produced & arranged by NABIL NAFAR
Mixed by SAQIB and NABIL NAFAR
Mastered by SAQIB

Directed by JACQUELINE REEM SALLOUM and SUHEL NAFAR
Produced by LAURA HAWA
Assistant Director ELI REZIK
Director of Photography ARI ISSLER
Editor ABDUL JABBAR MAKI
Composting and Visual Effects CONRAD OSTWALD
Colorist SETH RICART
Costume Designer and Stylist NADA NAFAR
Art Director BASHAR HASSUNEH
Production Manager JAMAL KHLAYLEH
Makeup Artist VERED NIVO
Lighting Director ARI ISSLER
Steadicam Operator HAIM ASIAS
Focus Puller GEORGE DABAS
Key Grip MORDI BOAZ
Key Gaffer YANA MITNICK
Production Assistant MANAR YACOUB
Best Boy Gaffer REA’OT GING
Best Boy Grip FADI MATAR
Art Assistant PAULINE CARBONIER
V
Visual Effects Supervisor HASHEM ODEH
Sound Playback JAMIL NAFAR
Catering NADIA NAFAR and MONIRA GOHAR

Cast
Main Girl SAMAA WAKEEM
Brother DORAID LIDAWI
Mom KHAWLA DIBSI
Dad BAHJAT YOUNIS

Chorus scene
YARA ZRIEK
ISIS AZAM
NERIAN KEYWAN

Fateha Readers
BAHA KADURA
ABEDALLAH NAHFAWI
RAMI YOUNIS
SAMI AWADI
WAEL ABU SHAREKH
ABED SHAHADA
MUHAMAD HADDAD

Young girls
ASIL KADURA
CILIN AWADI

Special Thanks
UN WOMEN
JULIEN VAISSIER
FAIEZ NAFAR
MARKO MATKOVIC
MARTIN BJERREGAARD
AdTomic
WALEED ZAITER
SALIM SHEHADEH
SALMA SAMARA
AHMAD KANAAN
AYED FADEL
NINA ZIDANI
ABED HATHOT
BAHAA RASHED
ADI KHALEFA
ADI KRAYEM
ELYAN BASEL
MANAL BASEL
RASSLAN BASEL
ABEER AWADI
RASHA KADURA
CINDY THAI THIEN NGHIA