Palestinians: Does Anyone Here Care about Muslim Women?

by Bassam Tawil
May 1, 2017

The Palestinian Hamas terror movement recently banned Palestinians living under its control in the Gaza Strip from celebrating International Women’s Day. Hamas dismissed a decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the West Bank to give all civil servants a day off on this occasion, arguing that International Women’s Day was a “Western and foreign” event that is incompatible with Islamic traditions and teachings.

The Islamic movement also issued a warning to all public and private institutions in the Gaza Strip, including schools and universities, to refrain from marking the occasion.

Hamas’s decision drew sharp criticism from many Palestinians, especially women’s groups and human rights organizations, as well as the Palestinian Authority. The critics maintained that the ban was a sign of Hamas’s disrespect for women and their contribution to Palestinian society.

The General Union of Palestinian Workers issued a statement in which it condemned Hamas’s refusal to acknowledge and honor the role of Palestinian women. The statement said that Palestinian women have made huge sacrifices and contributed remarkably to the Palestinian labor force and the development of society.

The Hamas ban also angered many Palestinian men, who expressed outrage over the “humiliation” of Palestinian women. Fathi Tbail, a leading Palestinian journalist, commented: “I will celebrate International Women’s Day, whether you (Hamas) like it or not. All you represent is retardation!”

But not all Palestinians were protesting the latest Hamas insult against Palestinian women. Take, for instance, Linda Sarsour.

Sarsour is a US-based supporter of sharia law and the anti-Israel BDS movement who chose, instead of condemning Hamas for cancelling International Women’s Day, to spew her hatred against Israel and Zionism.

The prominent Palestinian-American feminist declared in an interview that support for feminism and Zionism are incompatible. Sarsour told The Nation:

“It just doesn’t make any sense for somebody to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”

Sarsour seems somewhat oblivious to the suffering of her fellow Palestinian women under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. She demonstrates concern for women’s rights under one condition: when she can blame Israel.

One wonders what her position is on Hamas’s cancellation of International Women’s Day. Or about severe restrictions imposed on Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip, including denial the right to sit in a restaurant or go to the beach unaccompanied by a male relative. How about her response to Hamas’s ban on women smoking water pipes in cafes, under the pretext that it violates traditions and leads to divorce?

Just as an aside, is the feminist Sarsour aware that women living under Hamas have been banned from riding motorcycles and scooters? Is she aware that Hamas has also banned women from running in a marathon organized by the United Nations?

These are embarrassing truths that the pro-Hamas feminist does not want to hear. Why? Because Linda Sarsour’s hatred for Israel and Zionism supersedes her solidarity with her fellow Palestinian women. The rights of women who are being oppressed by Hamas are the last thing on her mind. For Sarsour and her ilk in the Palestinian-American feminist movement, the delegitimization and demonization of Israel and Jews is what matters. Sitting in the comfort of the U.S. and other Western countries, Sarsour and her colleagues are too busy inciting against Israel to remember the plight of women in most Arab countries, including those living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Perhaps it would be helpful to the cause of Palestinian women if Sarsour chose to raise the case of Palestinian lawmaker and anti-corruption campaigner Najat Abu Baker. Because of her heroic campaign and outspoken criticism against corruption in the PA leadership, Abu Baker has been stripped of her parliamentary immunity and expelled from the ruling Fatah faction by PA (and Fatah) President Mahmoud Abbas. Recently, the PA also banned Abu Baker from leaving the West Bank. She was supposed to travel to Lebanon to attend a ceremony in which she was expected to be honored as the most respected lawmaker in the Arab world.

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