Occupation troops detain a Palestinian woman during a demonstration against expansion of colonies. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Palestinian women are increasingly suffering under the Israeli occupation, and until their anguish ends with the end of the occupation, Israel should be held responsible for Palestinian misery as an occupying power, activists and lawyers have said.

In male-dominated societies, such as Palestine, women find themselves shouldering two burdens: the social one and one emanating from the occupation.

In many cases, women suddenly became the sole breadwinners of their family, or a single parent because their fathers or husbands were killed or arrested by Israel. In other cases, women find themselves responsible for a family whose land has been confiscated or house demolished.

“From 1967 until this day, women are suffering as a result of the arrest of their male relatives, deportation, house demolitions, checkpoints, and the separation wall,” said Halimah Abu Soulb, a Palestinian lawyer and activist.

“All these measures are affecting women’s rights to education, health services, and free movement,” she told Gulf News.

With the obstacles growing, the suffering is also increasing, she said.

“We didn’t have [as many] checkpoints before as we do now. We did not have a wall in the past, now we do. Today, they [Israelis] are confiscating more Palestinian land to open new roads,” Abu Soulb said.

Moreover, activists explained, Palestinian women in occupied East Jerusalem also suffer from the additional threat of having their identity cards confiscated, and also the impossibility of getting a clearance for their husbands to live in occupied Jerusalem, if they are from the West Bank.

Occupied East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, is among the most sensitive issues in the Israeli and Palestinian peace talks. Israel says it is part of its “united capital”, while Palestinians insist that it is their future capital.

Changing facts, altering demographics

Palestinians accuse Israel of changing facts on the ground in occupied East Jerusalem.

They are altering the demographics by confiscating Palestinians’ identity cards, thereby denying them the right to live in the city.

There has been more focus on the plight of Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza with the growing number of women’s organisations focusing on reporting and documenting testimonies of ordinary women living under the occupation, activists said.

A recent report on the agony experienced by Palestinian women as a result of Israeli measures was released to the media a few months before it was submitted to the United Nations committee that will undertake the universal periodic review of Israel early next year. Such a review is done once every four years.

The report, titled “Palestinian Women Under Prolonged Israeli Occupation: The Gendered Impact of Occupation Violence”, is a joint effort by three Palestinian organisations, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, an international NGO.

While Israel has made some progress in transforming legislation to improve human rights, “little headway has been made in incorporating this progress to Palestinians.

Palestinians women still face violence, threats, intimidation, restriction on movement, and discrimination from Israeli forces on a daily basis and Israel continues to impose policies which strictly violate international humanitarian and human rights law,” the report said.

Among the report’s top recommendation was “immediate measures [to be taken] by all member states to end Israel’s unlawful, prolonged military occupation and ending the suffering of the Palestinian population.

Legal obligations of Israel

Until then, Israel must respect its legal obligations as an occupying power under international human rights and humanitarian law.

It called on Israel to take immediate action to prevent human rights abuses and violations against women and girls in the Occupied Territories, and to protect them against such acts.”

Israel holds a responsibility towards the Palestinian people under its occupation, said activists.

“Israel claims that, after the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian [National] Authority, it is no longer responsible for shouldering any commitments vis-a-vis the [occupied] Palestinian territories,” said Amal Abou Srour, director of programmes at the West Bank-based Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), one of the four authors of the report.

However, the West Bank and Gaza are still under Israeli occupation, she said. According to international law, Israel, still, has commitments towards the Palestinian people and must uphold their human rights, Abu Srour stressed.

Currently, Israel is adopting a terrifying policy towards the Palestinians by deporting them from their homes or demolishing their properties through its nightly raids.

Most of homes targeted in night raids are those close to the colonies.

“When Israeli [occupation] troops raid a Palestinian house, they do that in a very violent way. Sometimes, by blasting the main door or bringing along sniffer dogs … one woman said she stopped sleeping at night and [would sit] next to the window every night, so if Israeli [occupation] troops come, she has enough time to wake up the children and they won’t be frightened,” said Abu Srour.

Night raids

“Another woman said she keeps her headscarf on and doesn’t change her day clothes because she doesn’t know if and when the Israeli [occupation] soldiers may raid the house. And if they do, they don’t give people time to change their sleeping clothes.”

The night raids, which aim to intimidate civilians as part of a systematic strategy to maintain authority, leave long-lasting psychological impact on women and their children, the report said.

It called for immediate action to stop these raids and to ensure full freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank and particularly in Gaza in order to assure adequate standards of living for the Palestinian people.