I attended a talk last month by Palestinian woman and activist Yafa Jarrar as part of Israeli Apartheid Week at Carleton University. She spoke on a panel entitled “Indigenous and Palestinian women,” which addressed the struggles Aboriginal women in Canada and Palestinian women faced living under apartheid policies. Later, we sat down and discussed the topic of her lecture: Western feminism’s interest in Palestinian women in the armed struggle.
The second intifada, Palestinian uprising, began in 2000. It was after the September 11, 2001 attacks in particular that Western discourse took an eager interest in grouping suicide bombing, Islam, and Palestinians together; anti-colonial feminist scholar Nahla Abdo refers to them in a 2008 essay as the Western media’s “sexiest” topics. The portrayal was both politically-fuelled and colonially-influenced.
Women have always played a role in the Palestinian struggle, both armed and peaceful, but women suicide bombers emerged for the first time during the second Intifada. As Abdo notes, it was then that feminist discourse took a special interest in Palestinian women in the armed resistance. The “conclusion” that mainstream Western feminism came to was shocking to those of us familiar with the historical context of Palestinian women freedom fighters. [Read more...]