Honoring Palestinian Women's Resistance & Steadfastness

Statement for International Women’s Day March 8, 2017

On International Women’s Day, we, the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) USA Chapter, honor the intrinsic role of Palestinian women in the ongoing history of our national struggle and in struggles for justice and freedom everywhere. We celebrate the efforts, achievements, contributions, and sacrifices they have made to further the spirit of resilience of the Palestinian people in the face of ongoing oppression and as part of the long-term struggle for liberation. The role Palestinian women play in our society is one that not only symbolizes the perseverance and steadfastness of our struggle and people through the generations but is also one without which the liberation of Palestine cannot succeed. 

We, in the PYM, believe that the equity and freedom of women must be integrated into the larger movement as a whole and not just compartmentalized into women’s spaces within the struggle. We recognize Zionist Settler-colonialism as an inherently gendered project. Liberation to PYM extends beyond the liberation of the land that is occupied by the Zionist colonial project. Liberation also pertains to our people who have faced a specific colonial condition for the past 69 years and extends beyond the borders of the land. To build a collective Palestinian liberation movement, we see the equal and shared participation of all elements of society as needing to work together as one strong front, unified around a political program and to deeply center and integrate social liberation as part of our greater national liberation.

As a new generation, our broader liberation movement is experiencing catastrophic assaults, from both the Zionist entity, its forces, and allies transnationally, and by the Palestinian and Arab regimes who have worked to decimate our national liberation project. This political context has weakened our collective strength and inter-personal relations with one another. It has ushered in a plethora of new social, economic, and political conditions that works to kill the human spirit in Palestine and in our communities globally; and it has stifled any meaningful commemoration and acknowledgment of women in our society who have often sacrificed everything or tirelessly labored each day for the protection, safety, and wellness of others. Their labor and role is rarely recognized, especially by the Palestinian leadership. In his Presidential address at the FATAH 2016 conference, we recently witnessed Mahmoud Abbas make dismissive remarks toward reform demands made by Palestinian women. His mockery illustrates how misogyny is directly tied to political capitulation, and other forms of systemic oppression. 

Women have often been the implicit backbone of the struggle and have served the cause within their own uniqueness as daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, fighters, prisoners, and beyond. Their role in all aspects and forms of resistance will only strengthen the nature of our movement and move us closer to our goals. To achieve this, we must stand against all forms of misogyny and violence against women as part of our broader liberation struggle against Zionism. However, we also stand vigilantly against Zionist and Imperialist tokenization of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim women, and against disingenuous championship of “women’s rights” as justification for imperialist and humanitarian interventionism in our region, the occupation of Palestine, and dispossession of the Palestinian people.

An article, written by Emily Shire, was recently published by the New York Times. Its title asks, “Does Feminism Have Room for Zionists?” In the article, Shire says “More and more frequently, my identity as a Zionist places me in conflict with the feminist movement of 2017. I will remain a proud feminist, but I see no reason I should have to sacrifice my Zionism for the sake of my feminism.” Her article is a critique of the 2017 International Women’s Strike organizers for taking on anti-Zionist principles as a part of a more intersectional feminism. Shire utilizes her Western feminist and Zionist positionality to reproduce the logics of criminality impacting women of color by suggesting that someone such as Rasmea Odeh should have no space within the feminist movement and that her involvement makes it so that she and other Zionists feel excluded. We in the PYM stand firmly with an intersectional feminism that recognizes all systemic oppression as an inherently feminist issue. Palestine is a feminist issue. We refuse to allow the ongoing occupation of our homeland and dispossession of our people, as well as invasions of other Arab and Muslim majority countries, to be justified as promotion of democracy or women’s rights. We refuse to reproduce Orientalist and Islamophobic tropes which are central to the discourse of colonial feminists and which have long justified the oppression of our people. We stand with our sisters from across communities and struggles here in the US, whom we join in the broader women’s struggle against all forms of oppression impacting women of color, working-class women, and women in the Third world and their diasporas across the globe. 

We stand in struggle with Rasmea Odeh on this day and with Siham al-Araj, the mother of Palestinian youth activist, writer and struggle and now a martyr, Basil Al-Araj, who was executed extrajudicial style, by Israeli forces two days ago. We stand with all Palestinian mothers who steadfastly await for the release of their children from Zionist prison cells. We stand with all Palestinian women political prisoners who remain steadfastly resistant against the Zionist colonial regime, which unjustly imprisons our brothers and sisters to demoralize Palestinian resistance and exploits the imprisonment of our sisters to further fragment our society and marginalize women. Today, and every day, we celebrate Palestinian women with all the power and integrity that they represent in the struggle for a liberated Palestine and for true women’s liberation, as it is embedded in liberation for all our communities.