Daughters of Palestine: Not a Review
Before I even put a sentence into this, I am definite this will not be a review.
The title of the book, as much as the content is so personal in its real perspective, that it makes it impossible to study. But yet, I wanted to do that, because I believe the book provides a critical stage, bringing Palestinian women into the front line of the Palestinian National movement.
The book brings over thirty women into the spotlight in a study that attempts to track the Palestinian women movement through two groups, that of the Diaspora and led the General Union of Palestinian women, and that of the west bank and Gaza with the ladies who led various women organizations. She categorizes the movement into three generations, the Pre 48, the 60-70s, and the 80s until the 90s. Of course, each wave is motivated by a period of time that led to the kind of growth they encountered, the first generation was anti- colonialists and protested the British colonization and were awakened by the two successive Palestinian revolts in ’29 and ’36. The second generation of women leaders was energized by the Arab nationalism led by Abdel Nasser, and the communist revolutions that marked the decades. The third generation is an outcome mainly of the first intifada.
The book’s chapters move from one city to another in a significant account that describes the Palestinian national movement as well. Amman, Beirut, Tunis and Jerusalem.
The book is a fascinating journey of Palestinian women leadership that somehow seems like metamorphoses. It is very close with the Palestinian struggle, and somehow it is impossible to detach it from it. From the very first day of any movement, the plight for liberation and for justice always came first. It is a long journey of ongoing sacrifice. A role women always tend to take it be a choice, whereas, the land comes before the personal rights.
It definitely grew and varied from one generation and school of thinking to the other. Whereas, that period where several schools entered with the rise of communism and socialism marks the most productive time. A period that followed a total devastation that is still lived today is the moment when the Women Union became part of the PLO. Or when the PLO institutionalized all the activities.
From that moment on, everything became political and factional. The women became daughters of the PLO. And not long after, the domination went to those who were the daughters of Fateh.
Reading the book held me with many similar emotions, of the whole identity issue that a Palestinian always holds within. The plight, the strive to an individual dignity in living free. Resilience and steadfastness. Feelings that became behaviors and later slogans with real political reflections, and now only words that fly through the air of every protest or public discourse.
What is sure in the journey of the Palestinian exodus is that men and women genuinely carried on their shoulders the liberation dream of Palestine. As there exodus continued from the Nakba to the Naksa. The plight became a fight for finding a place to resist from, so from Jordan, to Syria, to Lebanon until Tunisia. With each devastating closure to status in one city, the plight was taking another form. More power to the structure of the Fateh part of the PLO and Palestine was minimized gradually in the map and in the hearts until, in the mid-eighties, the cause became not just institutionalized but personalized. It was a moment the purpose transformed into a state of personalization, and it all became about one person.
Whether that person was one or a body that formed what shaped the current situation of Palestinians today is not really the most crucial part. What really stopped me is the fact that people devotion to the cause diverted. While in the 60s-70s those leaders, (females when they existed) dedicated their lives to the freedom of Palestine. The resistance took the form of an armed struggle. Women sacrificed their families in a society that is patriarchal and traditional in all its basic concepts, especially when it comes to women, and those women and men gave themselves to the plight of Palestine. How their discourse changed and their plight itself took a different focus, while it is still taking me by surprise, explains a lot about our failures as a nation.
It could be true, that after being washed out of countries, every few years to another. Having to fight your allies instead of your enemies. Or conspire against those who hosted you and vice versa instead of teaming up to liberate the land was an exhausting work after three decades of struggle and resistance. By that time there was a lot of money and power, but no land to settle. Maybe a bitterness and an aspiration anyone who didn’t taste displacement feel.
But yet, we are talking about more than a half displaced population here .. the decision to leave Beirut with hundreds of thousands of refugees behind what persisted in remaining a dark destiny of injustices and despair seems to be that of an eccentric choice, not different from that of signing a peace agreement for the sake of just coming back home .
What stirred me again, was having the two sides of the reality of the Palestinian cause come closer to me. While we were here dreaming for freedom, fighting for our own souls as well in the first intifada for an aspire dream . while the dream was for once touchable, even if it was just in our own imagination. The leadership in Algeria has already reduced the demands of a nation in an interest of a few thousand. And those among them who still held the plight for liberation and equality remained dispersed.
How a nation has been reduced to a person. How a movement of liberation became a move towards luxury where secured (almost) promises of not being displaced . and women movement became hero-fired by internal political factional loyalties, not women’s rights or lights . …. Such as everything in Palestine …
It became a Palestine of Fateh … a Fateh with no strategy or agenda except that concerns each concerned influential figure among them …