Palestinian Women under Occupation - by Stephen Lendman
The Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations is a Beirut, Lebanon-based organization engaged in "strategic and futuristic studies on the Arab and Muslim worlds, (emphasizing) the Palestinian issue. In early 2010, it published the second of its series, "Am I Not a Human," a report titled, "The Suffering of the Palestinian Woman under the Israeli Occupation, " discussed below.
In spite of their "exceptional suffering," Palestinian women display remarkable endurance qualities. Living under stress in poverty, their homes destroyed, lands razed or expropriated, children sick, husbands imprisoned, fathers killed, and more, they plant seeds of hope, fulfill their daily social role, and participate in political and every day resistance. Since the 1948 Nakba, they've been denied basic human rights, security, free expression and movement, a safe and healthy environment, and education. They became refugees in their own land and abroad, bearing burdens beyond the capacity most women can bear anywhere.
Under occupation, they struggle daily to endure, survive, and provide the best for their families and children - as spouses, mothers, caregivers, fighters, nurses, workers, and teachers.
Annually on March 8, International Women's Day commemorates their economic, political, cultural, scientific, and social achievements, but for Palestinian women, it's more - their struggle under Israeli occupation, their lost freedoms, and imposed hardships, testing them to the limit to cope. For Gazans bordering on Israel, one mother said she:
"sleeps with her eyes wide open, and lives with her heart broken, expecting grief to be renewed at any moment."
Another woman searches daily for a medicine her son Muhammad needs, hospitalized without it. Some mothers have only photos of lost loved ones, or others imprisoned out of reach.
In Gaza, the burden is greatest. Also, however, after Israel's 2003 law banning family unifications of Israeli citizens married to Palestinian spouses in Gaza or the West Bank. It legalized Israel's longstanding practice, forcing some women to live illegally as virtual house prisoners to avoid arrest or deportation without their husbands and children.
Other problems include poverty, unemployment, regular violence, home demolitions, and the dilemma of living day to day in uncertainty, a step away from enough essentials to survive. Too little of everything, including few medical centers, endangers their health, especially when pregnant or coping with serious illness.
Maysoon Saleh Nayef al-Hayek described her experience, saying:
"It was 25 February 2002, not long after midnight, I started having contractions. I woke up Muhammad, my husband, and we went to his parents' house to call an ambulance. We couldn't get through, so my husband took his brother's car and we set off for the hospital in Nablus. My father-in-law came with us. We arrived at Huwara checkpoint (and) were stopped by Israeli soldiers."
"Muhammad was ordered out of the car and they checked his papers. Then my father-in-law and I had to (show ours). Then the car was thoroughly searched. We told the soldiers I had to go to the hospital to give birth as soon as possible, that I was in severe pain. They first refused, then told me to uncover my belly, so they could see I was telling the truth. After all this (for about an hour), we were told to go ahead. We drove on and after a few hundred meters I heard shots. There was heavy gunfire coming from the front of the car."
"The car stopped, and I saw that my husband was hit and was lying on the steering wheel. He had been shot in the throat and upper body, and was bleeding heavily."
Her father-in-law was also hit in the upper body, and shrapnel and flying glass injured her. Contractions were coming faster. Soldiers pulled her out of the car, made her undress to be examined, then left her on the ground, bleeding and in labor.
When she finally reached the hospital, she gave birth to a baby girl in the elevator. Her husband died. Her father-in-law remained in a coma for 40 days. The incident irrevocably changed her life.
Other pregnant women face similar situations, harassed and forced to give birth at checkpoints with no adequate hygienic or medical care to help. In February 2007, the UN Commission on Human Rights addressed the matter in a report titled, "The Issue of Palestinian Pregnant Women Giving Birth at Israeli Checkpoints," noting 69 cases from 2000 - 2006, according to Information Health Center of the Palestinian Ministry of Health records.