Center for Peace and Reconciliation Studies
Conflict Resolutions skills
EFFECTS OF HOUSE DEMOLITION
Professor Andrew Rigby
24 December 2008
I. Introduction 2
II. Background: Demolitions and Expulsion 4
III. Israeli Justifications for Demolitions 7
IV. The Need for Building Permits 9
V. Demolitions under International Law 10
VI. Setting of Demolitions 11
VI. 2. Demolition Orders 11 VI. 2. Milieu of demolition: 14
VII. Impact of Demolitions 15
VII.1. Social Impact 16 VII. 2. Economic Impact 17 VII. 3. Psychological impact 18
VII. 4. The Impact of Demolition on Education 21
VII. 5. The Impact of Direct Military Action (in demolitions)
On Women 23
VIII. Structural Effects: The Effects and Links of Various Systems
On Women 24
IX. Conclusion 26
Effects of House Demolition on Palestinian Women
This essay explores the different impacts of house demolition carried out by Israeli authorities on Palestinian women and the role women perform before, during and after such demolitions. It also compares this situation of house demolitions in comparison with other cases that Palestinian women have faced in times of crisis, and asks the question whether this new crisis falls into a similar pattern.
Throughout the Palestinian experience since 1948, women have played significant roles, both in the social and political sphere. However, the dominant patriarchal structure of Palestinian society tended to contain the position of women during intervening periods, thus preventing the augmentation of their overall social status. The prominence of women in crises is followed by the relative disappearance.
Although women were visible in instances throughout Palestinian history, the first major period of women’s prominence occurred during the first Intifada. “The intifada, Uprising. This massive and spontaneous popular uprising released the hidden or suppressed resources and energies and transformed them. Women reconverted from all directions, teenage girls, middle-aged women, middle-class women, professional women, older white-haired, all formed a chain of resistance in one voice, each from her place”. (Ashrawi, page43).
The woman proved to be a dominant component and asset in the attempts to resolve the conflict. She proved to have the power, capability, charisma, eloquence that once man only took charge of. During the Intifada, women emerged as the designers and speakers of a new language for the Palestinians—an approach that humanized the resistance. Women exercised their option for directness and honesty, bringing an aspect of innocence to the Intifada, a willingness to confront the realistic circumstances, to take the initiative, to assert existence, and not to succumb to intimidation. Most of all, women brought to the encounter with the occupier, and subsequently to all others, that one essential component that was to become the most remarkable quality of Palestinian political discourse: the human dimension.
During the Second Intifada, women’s role was remarkably held back and reverted to the shadows of the society. The same resisting woman was now kept at home, submissive to a patriarchal system—first controlled by a husband and then also the male children. The previously strong woman who faced a bulldozer and an army was driven back home and subjected to all the old limitations that accompany living in a patriarchal society.
On the political level, once leading spokeswomen whose views and words were beautiful TV screens retreated to the echoes of an oppressive patriarchal system.
Despite the fact that more women voices are filling additional spaces, nevertheless, their effectiveness has largely been diminished in overall effect in society.
II. Background: Demolitions and Expulsion
Since 1947, the act of dispossession took place in four systematic waves, and in 1967 a new phase of dispossession started over again.
The First Wave:
Approximately 30,000 Palestinians were forced to leave the country during the period from January 1947 up to March 1948 (Tamari: 2002).
The Second Wave:
Over 300,000 Palestinians left West Jerusalem, Tiberias, Haifa, Jafa, Bissan, and those who survived the Deir Yasin massacre (Tamari:2002). These huge numbers were forced to leave during the period from March 1948 up to May 1948. They were terrified by the horrible massacre committed by Hagana forces against innocent civilians in Deir Yasin village where the death toll reached 250 persons including children, women, and older adults.
The Third Wave:
The Israeli armed forces deported approximately 100,000 Palestinians from Lod and Ramla cities to Jordan during the period from May 1948 to December 1948 (Tamari: 2002).
The Fourth Wave:
Given the Israeli hostilities, which continued even after the 1948 war, over 200,000 Palestinians were forced to move to the Gaza Strip (Tamari: 2002).
Since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinian homes have been demolished. Some had been built and inhabited for years; they are furnished, often occupied by more than one family with many children, who are often given only 15 minutes to gather their possessions and leave. A squad of workers may throw the furniture into the street, or the furniture may be still in the house when the family sees the bulldozers move in. Other houses are still uninhabited but have been built as the fruit of months of work and the expenditure, sometimes, of all the family’s savings (Amnesty International: 1999)
18,000 houses Palestinian homes have been demolished. At least 6,000 homes were destroyed immediately following the 1967 war. Four entire villages were razed, while hundreds of old homes were destroyed in Jerusalem’s Old City to create a plaza for the Wailing Wall. In 1971, 2,000 houses in the Gaza refugee camps were cleared to facilitate military control. At least 2,000 homes in the Occupied Territories were destroyed in the course of quelling the first Intifada. Almost 1,700 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories were demolished by the Civil Administration during the Oslo peace process. Since the start of the second Intifada, about 5000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed in military operations, including hundreds in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and other cities of the West Bank, more than 2500 in Gaza alone. Tens of thousands of other homes have been left uninhabitable. Around 50,000 people have been left homeless. (Halper: 2005).
During the same period about 1900 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the Civil Administration for lack of proper permits. More than 628 Palestinian homes have been demolished during the second Intifada as collective punishment and “deterrence” affecting families of people known or suspected of involvement in attacks on Israeli civilians. Also, tens of thousands of other homes are under threat of demolition, their occupants living in fear of forced eviction and homelessness. (ICAHD: 2006)
At the same time, at least 155 Israeli settlements, containing more than 170,000 Jewish Israeli citizens, have been established (B’tselem: 2007). Israeli Settlements benefit from an efficient system of planning and supervision of construction, and establishment of comprehensive planning schemes for all the settlements. Despite this, thousands of houses were built in these settlements without permits. Israel refrained from demolishing these houses, and instead issued retroactive building permits for thousand of houses constructed without permits. This building-permit policy blatantly discriminates between settlers and Palestinians. (B’tselem: 2007).
In this situation, and with no option, many Palestinians are compelled to build without a permit. The construction is not a political act or an act of protest. It is the only way left to them to provide housing for themselves and their families.
III. Israeli Justifications for Demolitions
Israeli authorities justify house demolitions in various ways. Among the reasons often cited are:
Illegal Building, without permits: Officials and spokespersons of the Israeli government have consistently maintained that the demolition of Palestinian houses is based on planning considerations and is carried out according to the law. Palestinians build homes illegally, without planning permission and therefore these houses are destroyed. Governments and local councils, they point out, have planning rules and forbid the building of houses outside designated areas.
Military/security needs: The vast majority of the homes, land and other properties destroyed by the Israeli army in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years fall under the category, which Israel defines as destruction for military/security needs that can be divided into four, at times overlapping, sub-categories which are punitive demolitions of houses belonging to families of Palestinians who are known or suspected of involvement in attacks against Israelis. The Israeli authorities assert that these homes are destroyed as a “deterrent,” to dissuade other Palestinians from carrying out attacks against Israelis.
Houses, land, and other properties which the Israeli authorities claim it is necessary to destroy for security needs, notably to build or expand roads or other infrastructure for the benefit or protection of Israeli settlers or soldiers
The destruction of houses, land and other properties which the Israeli authorities contend were used or could be used by Palestinian armed groups to shoot or launch attacks against Israelis, and which Israel argues it is entitled to destroy at any time.
Another category is properties which Israeli authorities claim were destroyed in the course of combat activities. The majority of the homes that were demolished and damaged on the grounds of “military/security-related needs” were located in the Gaza Strip and a large percentage was in refugee camps. These demolitions have targeted the poorest and most vulnerable sector of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories. The declared objective of house demolitions was deterrence, achieved by harming the relatives of Palestinians who carried out or were suspected of involvement in carrying out, attacks against Israeli citizens and soldiers. Indeed, the main victims of the demolitions were family members, among them women, the elderly, and children, who bore no responsibility for the acts of their relative and were not suspected of involvement in any offense. In the vast majority of house demolitions, the person because of whom the house was demolished no longer lived in the house, either because he was “wanted” by Israel and was in hiding, or because he was being held by Israel and was awaiting a long prison sentence, or because he had been killed by security forces or in the attack he carried out. (Badil: “Palestinians residency and refugees.”)
IV. The Need for Building Permits
The legal pretext for house demolition has been the control of development in the amended Jordanian planning law. Meanwhile, virtually no opportunity has been given for legitimate development to take place. The result has been the demolition of houses which, without the possibility of building with a permit, Palestinians have had to rely on without a permit. The objective has apparently been to confine Palestinian development to existing urban areas to preserve the maximum opportunity for land confiscation and Jewish settlement.
The general procedure operated by the military government for granting permission to build houses has remained unchanged for 20 years. It is centralized, complex, lengthy and costly. Guidance on procedure has never been issued. Neither the composition of the committee of the High Planning Council nor the agenda nor the minutes of meetings is published.
Since 1967, Israel has employed a policy of planning, development, and building that severely restricts construction by Palestinians through freezing land registration and planning in Palestinian towns and villages, making it easy to deny applications for permits on the grounds of failure to prove ownership of the land.
V. Demolitions under International Law
Israeli officials have ignored the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires “the occupying power to protect the welfare of the people in the areas it has occupied, and international human rights law, which recognizes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including housing.” Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Occupying Powers are prohibited from destroying property or employing collective punishment. Article 53 reads: « Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered necessary by military operations .»(Amnesty:2007)
Ostensibly, demolition of houses is a purely administrative procedure based solely on planning considerations. However, examination of the location and timing of demolitions and comparing them with the planning policy in the settlements indicate that the mass demolition project serves objectives entirely unrelated to planning.
VI. Setting of Demolitions
VI.1. Demolition Orders
The West Bank is divided into 18 districts, each with its own ’inspection officer’ with a white Toyota truck who is responsible for tracking development in his district. These agents are known only by their first name, which appears on the demolition orders, and are feared by Palestinians as they often break into private property. The fact that the rules are cited with a regular unofficial car tends to confuse people and diminish the difference between the ordinary Israelis and the army. It tends to make the Israeli system appear to the Palestinians as one military system that people inside it dress regularly but at the end they are all militants.
The orders are completed in Hebrew and do not specify either the location or nature of the violation. The first (’stop work’) order (often not received) is delivered to the site and gives a date when the case can be argued before the Inspections sub-committee of the High Planning Council at one of their regular Monday meetings. Cases last between one and five minutes each – unless land ownership is the main issue (Margalit: 36: 2006).
Demolition orders (and demolitions) are distributed widely throughout the Palestinian neighborhoods. Threatened houses exist in almost every street, and it is probable that economic Palestinians live in or next to a house due for demolition.
There is no apparent rationale why one house is demolished while another similar is left standing: It seems that the objective of the Israeli authorities (in East Jerusalem as in the West Bank) is to prevent Palestinian development by threatening and demolishing particular houses, perhaps randomly selected, as a warning to others, rather than scheduling whole neighborhoods for destruction, which would be politically damaging.
Nothing further will happen until the arrival of troops and bulldozers; this may occur after seven days or after as many months or years. The only respite the family has from the fear of imminent destruction of their home is on Fridays and Saturdays: by experience; they know that demolitions do not take place on the Jewish Sabbath.
Um Mohammad Hamdan, a 60 year old woman from Anata , describes her endless days and nights awaiting for the day of the second demolition saying: “I could only sleep for the first time in six months, the fear and terror of waiting for them (the army) is worse than the rubbles that surround me at this moment, the first demolition they came at dawn. They stole my jewelry and 500Jd that I had kept for my son’s university tuition. They stole it, they vandalized our belongings, I had to pay my part of inheritance in Amman, they demolished it again, but at least I can sleep now (Harhash: interview, Um Mohammad, 2007).”
In her interview Um Mohammad went further in describing the man in the Toyota, who according to her became evident in the future as being part of the military system, who at the beginning when he spoke to them in perfect Arabic, she tended to think that he might be there to at least be helpful in convincing his authorities not to perceive the demolition. Her trauma about the demolition and about who performs it.
The number of demolition orders in force at any one time is high.The Israeli authorities thus have an extensive portfolio of cases from which particular houses can be chosen for demolition, in the light of internal (Israeli) or international political pressures, the local priorities for confiscation and settlement expansion, and the message which selection of a particular home will signal to Palestinians wanting to build elsewhere in Area C . There are many occasions where the political motivation in carrying out house demolitions appears to be compelling, and house demolition for lack of permits seems to be used as a collective punishment. For example, 45 Palestinian houses were demolished the month following a double suicide bombing in West Jerusalem on 30 July 1997 (Amnesty International, 2004).
VI.2. The milieu of demolition:
Forced evictions and house demolitions are usually carried out without warning, and the occupants are given little or no time to leave their homes. Sometimes they are allowed a few minutes or half an hour, too little to salvage their belongings. Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army’s bulldozers, and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes. Thousands of families have had their homes and possessions destroyed under the blades of the Israeli army’s Caterpillar bulldozers. In the wake of the demolitions men, women and children return to the ruins of their homes searching for whatever can be salvaged from under the rubble: passports or other documents, children’s schoolbooks, clothes, kitchenware or furniture which were not destroyed.
The result is the same: families are left homeless and destitute. They must rely on relatives, friends and charity organizations for shelter and subsistence.
Also, tens of thousands of other homes are under threat of demolition, their occupants living in fear of forced eviction and homelessness.
VII. Impact of Demolitions
Demolitions have a different impact on women than on men. Women are not just individuals but mothers, sisters, and wives. Whatever happens to their families affects their lives completely, and they have to take responsibility for it.
Men are ensnared in these situations with incompetence and surrounded with complete inefficiency towards their duties to their families. In a society where a person is considered to be the source of security to the household, the demolition of the house makes him in a single moment ineffectual.
The link between all the effects are so closed and integrated that so often it repeats itself, it is hard to separate the economic effect from the social effect which is both incorporated into the psychological effect of the demolition particularly on women.
One more time, the women’s role and hence her force is incorporated with all the current structure, where it is combined with her role as a female and her role as a human.
VII.1. Social Impact
The house is the space which women feel is their own. Men spend more time outside the home for work and social activities, and children go to school and play outside, whereas the running of the house is mainly women’s responsibility or their primary business. Whether they work outside the house or not, women devote a significant amount of their time and energy in unremunerated and often overlooked works in the home. They are therefore
Particularly affected by forced eviction and the destruction of their homes. When families are made homeless by the demolition of their homes, women bear the brunt of rebuilding the home. The violation and ensuing trauma of losing one’s home are akin to that of rape for many women (see Shalhoub). In this societal structure, abused woman is a woman who loses or her life and is isolated and surrounded with disgrace and shame, even though she is a victim. In demolitions, the woman loses what once was her pride, her secured place, and kingdom.She has lost her world in a physical sense, and in a social sense, too, because she is no longer in charge but living in someone else’s house, and has to take on the subordinate status of a daughter to her mother-in-law.
“I feel constantly tense, desperately needing a private place for my family; even a small room with mice would be okay for us! I want my children to be able to move around as they wish and to play freely with their Toys. I want us to feel that we are still a family. I have become so depressed that I cannot eat, and this depression has had an effect on my husband and children.” (Suhad, testimony: WCLAC: 2005).
The demolitions affect the direct social lives of women, regarding moving them physically from an independent visible place that once was theirs to another that they don’t own, and in reality, moves them backward to a phase they thought was over.
The loss of privacy and space often puts a strain on the relationships between family members, which often results in the mothers feeling undermined in their role as a source of authority and emotional and material support for their children.
VII.2. Economical Impact
In most cases, the families whose homes have been demolished cannot afford to pay for alternative accommodation and have therefore been forced to move in with relatives, who often do not have sufficient space to accommodate an additional family.
In most cases the first building would have already cost them their life savings, so moving with other relatives cannot be an option, and many women find themselves obliged to find other sources of living outside to help the extended family in participating in the household expenses from one side, and in many cases helping in paying the debts that resulted from building the first house and now demolishing it thus finding themselves taking another role.
For women who spend more time in the house it is they who are more affected by the discomfort of living in someone else’s space, where they can no longer take responsibility for the administration of the family area and activities.
Once being the primary administrator of the house, now she finds herself following the rules of another person, who could be her mother, mother-in-law, sister, or sister-in-law.
Another pressure women face by their children , where women have to cope by at least managing some space to their children, and absorbing the suffocation of the new lifestyle forces on them, as mothers, what the rules she has previously and naturally set are not the same again. So she has to develop new guidelines for her children while adapting to the situation.
In most cases, the result of the demolition results in cutting more expenses on the household expenses, where it affects the children costs that could have an impact on their schools.This, one more time intensifies the mother role in trying to manage the costs so that it won’t affect the children education.
VII.3. Psychological Impact
What a home, a house represents is a sense of only security. A house is the home, the homeland, and is the place where one lives, where one resides, where one ends a day journey and rests. A place where one leaves his belongings builds in his memories and rests and plan for tomorrow. The home is where women invest their time, make their safety nets, advance their talents and hobbies, carry on their work of looking after the family, and carrying on with their life responsibilities.
Demolition, an act by the sense of destruction it causes, both on the physical and mental level, destroys all means of security. Worse than choosing or forcibly leaves one’s home, seeing it turning into rubbles before one’s eyes, destroying one moment after the other, by each dig of the bulldozer’s fork, eternal destruction to any hope of what could mean life. The destruction of the home changed women’s previous gender roles sharply and required them to face new challenges, carry the burden of rebuilding a new house/home,
Moreover, women are left with individual responsibilities following the loss of the house and home. In creating yet another space for their families and themselves. The difficulties of organizing and creating a new home with literally nothing left to begin anew. Hardships in taking care of their own and family member’s needs following the demolition, their search for a place to live, their need for shelter, food, their hygiene and their health needs. Their feeling of despair, yet their need to be strong and calm down their children when they had no place to shelter or safeguard them. In an interview held by a group of women whose houses were demolished, women discussed their need to go to their workplace or school, upset, desperate, hungry and without having been able even to wash up, or change clothes. Such things highlight the vulnerability and dislocation that the trauma of losing their house causes.
Adolescent girls are expected to react to the demolition of the house in a feminine manner and were not able to give free reign to their emotions like their male brothers, which eventually affected their state of mind. The loss of the only haven that the young boys and girls have known, of course, affects them both deeply, but the gender ramifications of such violence are different, and far from being fully accounted for.
Once the home is destroyed, women are left with the metaphoric and symbolic burdens—which are no less real than the material loss of a safe place to live—of not having a sense of safety and location of belonging, a source of memories.Women, one more time, find themselves surrounded next to the rubbles with a new nightmare of despair, helplessness, fear, insecurity, and responsibility to gather and to embrace a family without a shelter. To protect without a ceiling to cover, and to bear one time after the other the suffering that such acts caused the whole being of what would mean to be a family.
The emotional and psychological impact on family members is often dire, and the trauma of dispossession can lead to family bitterness and breakup. Other relations will often take in the stricken family, but this is usually far from satisfactory as they are likely to be overcrowded already. If all else fails, the tent which the International Committee of the Red Cross provides will give some protection.
Women whose families have been made homeless as a result of the demolition of their homes feel even less able to complain and seek redress, both because they feel that in the face of the loss of the family home their Grievances are not seen as a priority and because the additional practical and financial Difficulties caused by the destruction of the family home make it harder to find a Solution to their individual problem.
VII.4. The Impact of Demolition on Education
Apart from such immediate, material consequences, house demolitions have long term effects such as limiting or negating women’s access to education, social services, medical services, support systems and economic resources.
As previously mentioned, the try it again impacts of demolition could directly .” education, and women try to cope with it as mothers to provide their children with the essential education. There is the case when girls stop going to school or universities because males are more likely to receive the benefits of getting the opportunity. Often, the psychological effect of the demolition creates more negative impacts on girl’s security, where girls suffer from traumas those results in weakening their educational level, and their fear of going to school.
In many cases, girls and boys feel guilty for leaving their home on that day and believe that they could have stopped the soldiers if they were there.
For teenager’s girls, the result is worse, when a teenager loses all the sense of privacy in one moment, and if the house stops becoming a home, then the world is a dangerous place that cannot protect her, and the school becomes another source of insecurity instead of support.
Amal, a teenager who came back from school seeing her home in rubbles describes what happened: “I thought that they will never demolish our home, I have just organized my room, I even kept my diary in the drawer, I came back, and I found my things all spread around , I was trying to find my journal, I felt naked, my stuff were everywhere, kids from the neighborhood were looking at my pictures, I couldn’t find my diary, I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to leave my mother, if we were all home maybe we could have stopped them . My father cannot work anymore, he is getting sick and weak, my mom, I don’t know my mom is alone, I want to be with her, I don’t want to see anyone, I don’t have anything anymore, I don’t have a home, I cannot look into books, I keep imagining what happened, my little sisters crying around me, we have nothing.” (Harhash: interviews: 2007)
The effect of demolitions of Adolescent girls is far too complicated in the trauma it causes them. At this age, girls tend to develop their means of privacy, which the demolition of the house destroys entirely. The world around them becomes unstable, and no one is reliable anymore. Their parents cannot provide them shelter, and their sense of security is lost for a long time if not forever.
VII.5. The Impact of Direct Military Action (in demolitions) on Women:
Palestinian women suffer in unique and distinct ways from house demolitions and all the other arbitrary military actions that accompany them. The caprices of the Israeli army have increased Palestinian women’s vulnerability to violence. The loss of the home added to the restrictions of movement, the constant humiliating treatment of the Palestinians and the increased hidden and apparent military measures to capture/threaten those that their houses are at the risk of being demolished changed and in some cases transformed women’s gender roles tremendously.
The gendered differences and gaps between men and women were not only enhanced but also abused by military forces when relating to house demolition.
Military forces violated social and familial norms and intentionally sexually and socially harassed women and humiliated and used violence against men and females publicly and privately. Women in own testimonies expressed their fear about mentioning such harassments (Harhash: interviews: 2007). The humiliation of men in front of women, and the abuse of women publicly and in their private spaces among their male family members, mainly before, during and following house demolitions increased the social fears and sense of insecurity towards the safety of women.
“Women suffer immensely from forced eviction. … Domestic violence is higher in the precarious and often stressful situation of inadequate housing, especially before and during a forced eviction.” (UN: COHRE: 2003)
The women end up to be suffering as a result of the men anguish from the demolitions. They pay the price twice, first directly from the military system and secondly from their people who release their agony on women.
VIII. Structural Effects: The Effects and Links of Various Systems on Women
“Politics, gender, space, race, occupation, capitalism, law and international globalized power games. Men and women come to know themselves, their roles and power through their gendered body and spaces. Understanding how gender roles and bodies are produced in areas and how spaces racialized bodies entails an interrogation of how subjects come to know themselves in and through spaces, within multiple systems of domination.”
Women’s ways of challenging the various systems of dominations, through the repeated attacks on their private and public spaces, both increased their vulnerabilities, but also empowered them to fight injustice. They try and keep trying to find ways and innovate methods to cope with the loss of the house and the home.
Others prefer to withdraw into the total, the collective, and at the same time into the self. Here, women try to merge again within the new space that they were given, probably with the extended family.
Others challenge the system and transform their gender roles. In many cases women challenge the army; they go to court and start a whole new role outside their traditional space. Um, Ahmad, a woman from Anata found herself taking charge of the entire legal proceedings after the demolition, going to lawyers, and standing in courts, and even issuing a jail order against her, and spending a week in prison for not paying the penalty in time. In this case, Um Ahmad who knows how to read and write unlike her husband, found herself driven in a role that she never even imagined of taking. (Harhash: Interviews: 2007)
Understanding the effect of the Israeli demolition policy on women entails that we look and examine carefully how systems of oppression mutually constitute each other and know how the political, legal, social, gender and economic are linked. Also, we need to look also at the way the various systems of domination and occupation operates on the domestic and local level and identify legal and social practices that produce racial hierarchies. Such racialized hierarchies enhance the differences between men and women and operate as an additional tool of discrimination and domination (Shalhoub: 2007). In the former example, Um Ahmad had to transform her roles in a switching mode, a woman fighting the occupation system in the day, and a woman forced into submission to the patriarchal system in the night. The pressure on her even increased because the man’s pride would entail him to suppress any power she might gain from her experience outside the house with the occupation authority (Harhash: Interviews: 2007).
Palestinian women are victims of multiple violations as a result of the demolitions which are part of Israel’s policies, and a system of norms, traditions, and laws which treat women as unequal members of society. These violations are closely interlinked and cannot be adequately addressed in isolation from each other.
What is happening is not much different from what happened 60 years ago when a series of attacks and threats resulted in the dispossession of more than half of a nation. And what is going on today in the systematic targeting of the homes of those left on the land by demolition policy. There is not much of a difference in women’s role from the time when they abide by what they were told to perform, trailing behind on the road to exile, to the women today, who still sit encased next to the rubbles of what once was home.
After observing tens of demolitions, and learning and examining dozens of cases, and talking and working with families and women, the similar scene of the first dispossession of the Palestinians keeps repeating itself, with each demolition, with each scene, with each word that is said, with every face that utters. It is the same story of suffering, helplessness, loss, and cry for help from a source wholly indefinite. It is a call to anyone who can have the sense of hearing, even as it is convinced that no one can act in response.
It is still the unquestionable soreness and suffering: a woman sitting with her hands around her cheeks, with tears enduring to descend, with a key of what previously was home, 60 years ago with a yearning to go back home. Now over the rubble, the woman shows the world that the tent was never home, and the home continues to be destroyed as long as an occupation is still there.
It doesn’t matter where these women come from, rich or poor, middle level or high class, educated or not, they are all distinguished with what seems to be eccentric submissiveness. It could be still analyzed as this massive supremacy of adapting to a situation. In 1948, in order to help the family survive, to keep each stakeholder at least administer to endure the viciousness of their loss, women had to make a home out of that tent , and still continue to maintain the core of that original house concealed in the midst of what they were able to grasp from their precious belongings. Adaptation to one terrible condition following the other, to one difficulty and adversity after the other, was undoubtedly accompanied by what became a mountain of despair and helplessness. Loss of hope and faith in the justice of the world adjacent to her, and certainly in the utter lack of power her spouse is competent to have.
Palestinian women may be deemed the strongest women alive when evaluated by the amount of hardship that they have endured, and one more time, it is not a perceived, a directly touched adversity. Palestinians are not threatened by poverty that could get them to famine; they are not surrounded by a war that could lead to their direct extinction. An Israeli writer described Israel as an abused child who became an abusive parent (Burg: 2008). Palestine is the abused wife, who is married to the possessive husband, who from outside looks perfectly handsome, eloquent, and no one can suspect.
What is fascinating about this society is its miraculous capability to move on, and forgive the ability of people in demolition cases to separate between the soldier who gets orders and the authorities who make the rules and the normal individuals who have nothing to do with anything. As Rashid Khalidi puts it: “This is the underlying strength of the Palestinian people: it is like water that cannot be dammed up, but finds a way to get through. This resilience is there no matter what new refinements the occupier devices to torture his captive”(Khalidi: 2008).
In a way, this has to do with the whole culture, with the raising up, with women, who are raised up to accept and hold a full burden of life under her arm and manage everything without any expectation except the best for her family. There are no better words to describe the situation that results in women’s role as the UN Special Rapporteur : “This is the point where two systems of subordination – occupation and patriarchy – converge in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: women in confronting the former submit to the latter”(UN, “Occupation and Patriarchy, women carry the burden”).
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