[The following English-language appeal, dated 1 February 1988, was issued by the women’s movement in the occupied territories]
As the Palestinian people in the Palestinian occupied territories wage their most intense and widespread popular resistance since the occupation began in 1967, we call on the international community and all people of conscience to lend us their support in our struggle for self-determination and for an independent state under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole and legitimate representative of our people everywhere.
Now [early February 1988] in its eighth week, the uprising has continued to escalate and become more widespread in the form of continuous commercial strikes in town[s], villages and refugee camps; organized demonstrations carried out by youths, women and professionals; the boycott of selected Israeli products; and a workers’ strike against day labour in Israel. The Israeli response to the uprising from the very beginning has been brutal as usual and in arrogant defiance of internationally accepted humanitarian principles and has included virtually every oppressive measure used against Palestinians throughout the course of the occupation.
Hundreds of people of all ages were wounded and maimed either by live ammunition used indiscriminately or from the effects of rubber bullets, tear and poisonous gas and severe beatings with batons at the hands of Israeli soldiers. The number of persons killed during the uprising from December 8, 1987 to the end of January l988, totals close to fifty men, women and children.
Another immediate response to the uprising was the expulsion orders issued against a number of Palestinians from the West bank and the Gaza Strip, and the actual expulsion of four of these men in mid-January. The outrage expressed by the world community at the expulsion of people from their homeland seems not to have deterred the Israeli government; the expulsion of another five Palestinians seems imminent, and is certain to give a further impetus to the uprising of our people.
A further aspect of the Israeli response has been the detention of close to two thousand young men and boys at hastily-assembled detention camps and at other detention centres in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, where all forms of torture are practised. World attention was focused on the manner in which Israeli military Justice was being meted out in summary trials, each lasting not more than a few minutes, and where charges against defendants are compiled in secret files to which neither lawyers nor defendants can have access. It was these flagrant violations of due process, and the principles of justice, which led all West Bank and Gaza lawyers to declare that they were unable to represent the detainees in court, since they were not able to provide the kind of defence they were professionally obligated to conduct. Hundreds of young people have already been “tried”, sentenced to long prison terms, and have had heavy fines imposed upon them.
Israel has also implemented, along with expulsions, another administrative measure based on the British Mandate’s Defence (Emergency) Regulations of 1945. A large number of individuals have been placed under administrative detention, and official Israeli information indicates that since early December 1987, 129 persons have been placed under administrative detention in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is needless to say that both expulsion and administrative detention are administrative and extra-Judicial measures and are contrary to any concept of human rights.
The latest Israeli tactic in confronting the ever-expanding uprising has been as ruthless and violent, although less exposed to the cameras of the international press. Ever since television screens the world over began transmitting daily reports of Israeli repression and violence, the outrage of the world community grew, making Israel realize that its policy of using live ammunition and indiscriminate killing was damaging its international, as well as domestic, standing. It was this realization that led the Israeli government to adopt another, less public, means of violence, namely the use of brute physical force against Palestinians. The results of this new tactic are evident all over the occupied territories: children, men and women with broken limbs, bruised bodies and black eyes. Hundreds of reports confirm that this policy is aimed primarily at innocent bystanders, and even persons sitting inside their homes. And as TV and press agencies are being barred from entering tension areas, we are witnessing tales of horror where young men are being secretly subjected to severe beatings and poisonous gases in closed rooms away from the public eye, after which some have been carried away and deposited in deserted and remote areas with no first aid or transportation; some mothers are still searching for their missing children.
The Palestinian response to these Israeli measures has been marked by unified work encompassing all sectors of Palestinian society. Nationalist institutions, labour unions and mass organizations have collaborated in setting up popular committees that have been working around the clock to organize medical and food relief to villages, towns and refugee camps suffering from sieges and curfews. Every means is being used to pressure the Israeli authorities to allow relief supplies and personnel into those areas. However, when pressure has not succeeded, people have been willing to take the risk of smuggling supplies into these areas. A centralized fund-raising campaign has also been organized to collect donations.
Our struggle is a liberation movement which will not stop until we achieve our political rights in self-determination and establishing our independent Palestinian state in our homeland under the leadership of the PLO where we can live in security, freedom and justice.
We appeal to you, our international supporters and friends, to take up the task of supporting us in fulfilling our political goals through intensive media campaigns, events and speaking tours. We also ask that you appeal to your respective governments ‒ as signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention and [other] treaties that guarantee the rights of people living under military occupation ‒ to take up their responsibilities and enforce these treaties. Such pressure is essential to force Israel to relinquish its stranglehold on the occupied territories.
We also urge our friends all over the world to join us in protesting and putting an end to the following practices and measures imposed against our people:
- The Iron Fist policy, and the emergency Regulations and the expulsion orders.
- The desecration of holy places, the provocations of the settlers and the army and the insistence of [Israeli cabinet minister] Ariel Sharon to live in the heart of Arab Jerusalem.
- The presence of Israeli troops in towns, villages and refugee camps, the military’s repressive measures, the use of live ammunition against our unarmed people, especially children, and the brutal policy of breaking bones.
- The appointment of village and refugee-camp councils by the occupation authorities, and the refusal to hold democratic elections for municipal and village councils in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
- The arbitrary detention and imprisonment of young men and children and the torture and inhumanitarian practices in jails.
- The arbitrarily imposed Value Added Tax on Palestinian merchants.
- Land confiscations and the building of settlements in the occupied territories.
- The raids against and closure of educational institutions, labour unions and grass-root organizations and the authorities’ interference in their internal affairs.
The Palestinian Women
in the Occupied Territories
[In the beginning of February 1988, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees in the Occupied Land issued a statement calling for a unified framework for all women’s groups in the occupied territories. The statement includes the following call.]
… We propose the forming of a Women’s Higher Steering Committee, which includes representatives from the four Palestinian women’s unions, with the aim of enhancing, organizing and developing the level of unified women’s activities, in order to establish a unified Palestinian women’s union. This will Include all women’s groups, institutes and societies. This form [of organization] will give support to the Palestinian women’s struggle and will provide better conditions for the progress of the women’s movement. It will also provide a better unified representation both inside and outside the occupied territories.
[On 17 February 1988, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees published the following appeal.]
From the women of Palestine, girls, mothers and grandmothers, we appeal to you,
Women of the world,
Supporters of human rights,
Brothers and sisters in struggle,
We appeal to you to inform you of the real suffering of our people; and to tell you about the role of the Palestinian women in our just struggle against the enemies of humanity. The pain-cries of our people for freedom have been ignored by the world for the past forty years. It is now time for justice to raise its voice.
Our people are resisting the fascist Zionist policy which aims at wiping out our existence from our land, and at erasing our culture and history. Since 7 December 1987, the Palestinian people have been carrying on the longest courageous uprising since 1967. Demonstrations, general strikes, protests and boycotts of Israeli products and withdrawal of labour have been significant features of this uprising. The Israelis’ response to the uprising is to use live ammunition and illegal chemical weapons, brutal beating, more expulsions, collective punishment, mass arrests, administrative detention and the banning of materials. In the period from the beginning of the uprising till the end of January 1988, sixty three Palestinians were killed (12 of whom were women), 560 were wounded (including 109 women), over 2,000 were detained, four were expelled and five are awaiting deportation. Sixty two women miscarried due to the effect of poison gas bombs.
During this courageous uprising, Palestinian women have played a leading role in the demonstrations, not fearing death but crying out: “Victory or martyrdom, but no to the occupation”. At the same time, our women have organized themselves in relief committees to help the people who suffer during the uprising. They have also put themselves to danger by trying to rescue youths who are being beaten up by Israeli soldiers. As all other Palestinians, Palestinian women have been subjected to beating, imprisonment and martyrdom.
We are now facing the reality of occupation not only in the person of soldiers of the army, but also through the armed settlers who every night raid unprotected homes in towns, villages and refugee camps, cause material damage, set houses and cars on fire, kidnap children and bury people alive.
Our ongoing struggle is aimed at ending all the injustice and oppression to which we have been subjected, and at achieving our human and political rights: the right of return, the right to self-determination and the establishment of our independent state on our land under the leadership of our sole legitimate representative, the PLO.
Friends, we appeal to you:
- Raise your voices over the plight of the Palestinian people.
- Educate your communities about our just struggle.
- Apply pressure on your governments to stop supporting Israel.
- Contact human rights organizations to stop Israel’s fascist policy.
- Become active in committees of solidarity with the Palestinians.
- Send groups to witness the situation and the brutal practices of the Israeli occupation.
- Send material and financial aid.
The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees
in the Occupied Land,