Mary Robinson and Lakhdar Brahimi have a piece in HuffPo today in which they argue, probably correctly, that it is Gaza’s women and children who are paying the highest price for Israel’s now years-long siege of Gaza.
- Women in this conservative society find their domestic responsibilities made all the more difficult and time-consuming by the blockade — and they bear the brunt of society’s frustration and anger in such trying times.
But they immediately go on to add this:
- Equally disturbing are the creeping restrictions on women’s freedom imposed by Hamas activists.
Equally disturbing??? That is, they are claiming that Hamas is just as culpable as the Israel of the crime of oppression of women??
They cite allegedly Hamas-led “initiatives” to harrass schoolgirls not wearing headscarves (and leave the impression that this applies to even the youngest schoolgirls.) They write,
- Women are punished if they smoke in public, while their male compatriots are allowed to do so. And at the beach, Gaza’s main source of fun and entertainment, women and men are strictly segregated.
And then, this amazing untruth:
- The erosion of women’s freedoms is compounded by their lack of participation in politics.
And then they refer to an alleged “absence of women from politics.”
This last claim is simply untrue. Hamas has at least four women MPs on its roster, at least two of whom live in Gaza. One of them is the smart and dedicated Jamila Shanty, whom I interviewed in 2006.
Why do Robinson and Brahimi ignore these and the many other signs there are that Hamas supports the participation of women in public life?
It is true that there are many Islamist activists in Gaza who pursue campaigns to persuade people to live pious lives. Some of them are Hamas members; many others belong to much more fundamentalist Islamist movements. But I would love it if Ms. Robinson and Mr. Brahimi could cite one Hamas party document in which the party claims ownership of the kinds of campaigns of harrassment they describe.
I also really hate the faux “feminist” tenor of their closing line, which strongly implies that Gaza’s women somehow “yearn to be free” even more than their menfolk. What kind of nonsense is that?
… I am disappointed to see these two generally respected members of the generally wise “Elders” group engaging in this imperialistic kind of faux “feminism”… that is, the articulation by people strongly connected with the west (and that now certainly includes my old friend Lakhdar Brahimi) of a “particular” concern for the plight of the women living in non-western societies, based on the divisive argument that their own menfolk (based on their alleged backwardness, etc) repress them just as badly as their western colonial occupiers do.
Certainly the French used to adduce just exactly this same argument to help support the conceit that they were pursuing a mission civilisatrice in Brahimi’s own native Algeria, back in the day. It is really disappointing to see him dragging it out of the attic now, 50 years later.