35th session of the Human Rights Council- Violence against women: the case of Palestinian women under occupation

Maria Butler, the Global Programmes Director forWomen International League for Peace and Freedom was the moderator of the conversation on “Violence against women: the case of Palestinian women under”. She started the side event by inviting the audience to greet the virtual audience (the event was streamed online on their Facebook page) by a cordial and warm “Salaam” in order to foster a sense of sisterhood and solidarity amongst the different participants.



Randa Siniora, the General Director of Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) started the panel discussion by stating the purpose of this side event: “We are here to discuss the issue of living under Israeli military occupation” and the impact that the latter has on women and gender issues in Palestine. She recalled that 2017 marked the 50th “anniversary” of Israeli military occupation, which continues to be associated with the implementation of punitive measures affecting Palestinian lives of women both directly and indirectly. To further her point she evoked the settler violence and vandalism and the issue of regular night raids inflicted upon Palestinian families by the Israeli military. The gender component of such violence must not be omitted: Palestinian women have to be constantly alert and ready to protect their families otherwise, given the patriarchal society they live in, they “would be blamed if something happened to their family”. She emphasized the fact that the political violence exacerbated by the occupation (for eg, the checkpoint system, the blockade on the Gaza strip) exacerbates the gender-based violence against women. She thus ended her speech with a call for an end to the Israeli occupation.


Nada Awad, the Advocacy Officer for the Human Rights Clinic at Al Quds University & Community Action Center in Jerusalem (CAC) concentrated her presentation on the crimes of war perpetuated by the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.  Indeed, she focused on the specific and systematic punishments that target Palestinian families in East Jerusalem. For instance, residency revocations (the arbitrary cancellation of residency status) or the prohibition of family reunification in Gaza are used as direct tools to forcibly transfer people out of the city.  Not only is forced transfer of people a crime under international law, but such “collective punishment has disproportionate effects on women”.  She thus urged the international community and civil society to hold Israel accountable for the collective punitive acts committed against the Palestinian people and called for states to stop providing support to Israel through armament. With the lack of freedom of movement often imposed on Palestinian women, Nada Awad compared the occupied Palestinian territories to genuine “prisons”.


The last speaker of the panel was Razan Nammar, the Human Rights Officer for the Palestinian Center for the Development and Freedoms, who talked about the threatened freedom of expression and attacks against Palestinian women journalists. With a short yet shocking footage of the violence inflicted upon female journalists in Palestine, Ms Nammar’s message was made clear: women are the target of direct violent threats due to the mere fact that they are women attempting to expose the injustices and realities of their lives. Such gender-based violence leads “to self-censorship and forces women to abandon their career”.


Maria Butler then opened the floor to questions.


A former UN Staff urged for a “good cooperation and collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian peace activists” and civil society to work together.  He expressed the need for the Israeli and international civil society and NGOs to show their solidarity and vocally support the Palestinian’s human rights. He urged everyone to stop closing their eyes in front of such injustices and act upon the latter.


A woman from the audience asked what would be a viable solution to tackle the violence against women in Palestine? Although no single answer was given due to the complexity of the situation, Ms. Siniora urged civil society and member states of the UN to seek solutions in the framework of international law and humanitarian law. Furthermore she explained that Palestinian civil society’s work is increasingly difficult to carry out due to counter-campaigns lead by the Israeli government and the “shrinking space for civil society”.


The online version of this discussion can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/ridhglobal/videos/10156470848839616/?hc_ref=PAG...