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Women and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Lauren Shin

Last week, the 47 rocket-fire launched by the Hamas destroyed all hopes for peace that have been built after Egypt had almost successfully mediated a ceasefire. Chance for any possible agreements was again destroyed after the Israeli government resumed their military attacks to respond to the Hamas attacks. Recent events have further irritated the tensions between the two countries, pushing on a conflict that has already continued for several decades*. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a complex struggle that seems to be too far away from any chance of reconciliation. Its impacts are significantly omni-present, to the extreme that citizens have actually grown used to the continuous violent attacks.

 The conflict was catalyzed by the 2006 parliament election, in which political parties, the Fatah and Hamas, were fighting over parliament seats. The Fatah was a Palestinian political party, while the Hamas was an Islamic resistance movement that rejected Israel’s presence. The Hamas shifted their views of Israel in the 1990’s, and ended up leading the peace process with Israel under the Olso Peace Accords*. The Olso Accords essentially settled border disputes and land distributions between Israel and Palestine, with each side recognizing the other’s governments and independence. However, the accords were violated shortly after, when Israel broke their side of the agreement. They continued to use military occupation and control over Gaza, oppressing Palestinians by taking away their land rights and putting citizens in Israeli prisons**. In response, the Palestinians rebelled: this began the Second Intifada in 2000.

Border disputes, control of Jerusalem, water rights, and violence have further exacerbated the issue. Each side has both used violent attempts to overtake the other: repeated terrorist attacks, such as suicide bombings and rocket fires, have not only destroyed homes, but have also harmed thousands of civilians.

Women in particular have carried much of the burden of the conflict****. Israeli check points, locations occupied by Israeli Defense Forces, have been placed to block out anyone of harm from crossing, in other words, any Palestinian. While the check points appear to just enhance the country’s security and intend to have any harm, the check points have significantly increased the amount of violence. Palestinian women who need medical treatment during labor cannot go past the check points. Defense Forces have refused to pass almost every pregnant woman that tries to pass through, claiming that even those who seek medical treatment pose a serious threat***.

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Figure 1: Map of Israeli Check Points in the West Bank

   “We conduct such restrictions at check points because we receive security warnings of planned attacks on our soldiers and civilians”, says director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs, Amira Aron***, defending his country’s position on the issue.

Many forces specifically accuse pregnant women as threats, because they can easily be potential suicide bombers who disguise their baby bump as a bomb***.

Rula Ashtiya explains her experience when Israeli soldiers halted her at a check point: They rejected her pleas to pass through and get to the Nablus hospital, where she could safely deliver her baby. After her failed attempts to pass the check point, she was forced to give birth on the road by the Beir Furik check point- her baby died a few minutes later****.

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Figure 2: A Palestinian women looks after her new born baby in an ambulance, after being stranded at a check point********.

“At the check point there were several soldiers; they ignored us…I crawled behind a concrete block by the check point to have some privacy and give birth there, in the dust, like an animal. I held my baby in my arms and she moved a little after a few minutes she died in my arms.” ****

Rula is only one of the over 68 women in 2006 who were forced to give birth at check points since they were first installed six years prior. Half of those women suffered miscarriages, and even sometimes death***.

Blockades not only have threatened women’s health, but also thwarted efforts of women to reach schools and work. Many students are forced to stay at home from school, as many parents fear that their children will be stranded at check points. Less and less people are actually reaching the emergency room, despite the serious harm many citizens are put under every day*****. A lot of women fear the thought of being stranded at a check point, and end up waiting last minute in the more advanced stages of labor to see a doctor. Despite the decreasing number of hospital visitors, hospitals continue to struggle to take care of so many patients due to lack of staff since many cannot reach work due to the check points. Hospitals have become so overwhelmed that they have resolved to place as many female patients into 1-2 person rooms, in order to allow doctors to better attend to all patients at once****. This, however, creates a potential health hazard. In addition to the check points, the countless rocket attacks have also factored into the health of these women. According to a study done in Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, women who were exposed to rocket attacks at 59% more chance of miscarriages compared to women away from rocket fire*****.

Heated by events like these, thousands of people constantly argue over the peace process, the increasing death toll, the rocket attacks, and of course, whose fault it is. However, it is important to not generalize either the views of the entire Palestinian population or Israeli population. While it is assumed that all Israeli citizens deny Palestinian’s rights to land, an activist group known as the Machsom Watch proves otherwise. The Machsom Watch, also known as the “Checkpoint Watch”, is a group of Israeli women who opposes Israel’s oppression of Palestinian citizens regarding land rights. To do so, these activists regulate check points in the West Bank and military courts in order to ensure that any Palestinian citizen who passes through has guaranteed protection from soldiers who might violate their human rights. Because of the organization’s persistent drive to monitor the check points, it has forced the Israel Defense Forces to make progress on improving the behavior of soldiers.******

It is argued that the extreme difficulty resolving the conflict stem from the over emphasis on military security as a way to maintain peace. As the past solutions have failed, women can bring a new approach to the table that does without defined militarized national borders. Right now, there is too much emphasis on the rights of land, but too much neglect on the security of the people. *******

“Women can draw attention to these needs and potentials by simply drawing attention to their daily lives…the daily lives of those suffering in the conflict would start to become the focus of attention and would highlight the urgency of addressing the many critical human right’s needs.” says Lucy Nusseibeh, a writer on the Palestine-Israel Journal*******.

Nusseibeh analyzes the reverse effects if focus turns from military security to human security:  violence will be continued to be used to settle disputes, as long as the peace agreement continues to be influenced by military security*******. However, once the focus shifts toward the needs of both Israeli and Palestinian citizens, those needs can be satisfied and significantly reduce the amount of fear and pain citizens experience every day in the midst of such violence.

However, the involvement of women is clearly not the only solution to the conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is highly complex, and demands the willingness of both Israeli and Palestine to compromise.

 

Lauren Shin is a rising senior at Weston High School, Massachusetts. After participating in AID’s Global Scholar program last year, she wanted to get involved with the organization once again. She is currently doing research on women’s issues from all around the world, and hopes to show how women are key stones in solving contemporary world affairs. Lauren also loves photography and design, believing that art is a great way to spread awareness about a particular issue. Furthermore, she participates on the Varsity Crew team and Asian Student Union, and has been a girl scout for over ten years.

 

“Thousands of Gaza civilians flee.” Barrie Examiner. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2014/07/12/israeli-commandos-clash-with-hamas-gunmen-in-gaza-raid>.

*What Is Fatah? – Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Solutions – Pros and Cons – ProCon.org.” ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.

** “A Synopsis of TheIsrael/Palestine Conflict.” A Synopsis of the Israel/Palestine Conflict. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.

***”OPT: Pregnant Palestinians Give Birth at Israeli Checkpoints.” IRINnews. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014

****”Israel: Conflict, Occupation and Patriarchy: Women Carry the Burden | Amnesty International.” Israel: Conflict, Occupation and Patriarchy: Women Carry the Burden | Amnesty International. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.

*****”Rocket Attacks on Israeli City Increase Miscarriage Likelihood, Study Finds.”ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.

******”Machsom Watch.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 July 2014. Web. 17 July 2014.

*******”Palestine-Israel Journal: Women and Power in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”Palestine-Israel Journal: Women and Power in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2014.

Images:

********”Al-Hourriah :: Human Rights, Pregnancy and Israeli Checkpoints.” Al-Hourriah :: Human Rights, Pregnancy and Israeli Checkpoints. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://alhourriah.org/english/article/7286/Human-Rights,-Pregnancy-and-Israeli-Checkpoints.html>.

 

Machsom Watch page: http://www.machsomwatch.org/en

 

 

 

 

 

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