Before the uprooting
That Third World national liberation movements have borne within themselves important feminist elements is becoming recognised as our knowledge of early Third World feminism expands. Jayawardena’s valuable study of the interaction between nationalism and feminism in 11 Asian countries demonstrates both the complexity of this relationship, and the falsity of the notion that feminism is a recent Western import without indigenous roots.1 Third World women have thrown themselves into national struggles with an energy that derives ultimately from their social oppression, and in doing so have often expressed their own critiques and aspirations.
National movements have formed both a liberating and constraining framework for change in women’s lives, as stages of state and economy formation call them into new kinds of political action and labour. As Jayawardena notes, however, the constraints of family on women have proved less yielding. While family structures and ideologies have been affected by modernising programmes, the effects on women have been contradictory rather than liberating. Because of the family’s implication in the assertion of cultural authenticity, it has seldom been submitted to the level of critique raised against the world economic or local class systems.2
The aim of this paper is to examine the involvement of Palestinian women in national struggle, as a case that shows in particularly striking fashion the expression and repression of feminist consciousness in different historical phases of a protracted and difficult struggle. It is a kind of feminism that has seldom aspired to explicit or organised form, yet has contributed a continuous and distinctive ‘charge’ to the national movement.
Although the pre-1948 period affords many examples of this ‘latent feminism’, the main focus of this paper will be on the post-1967 Palestinian Resistance Movement (PRM). It is here that we can view most clearly the different kinds of contradiction that affect women: between the PRM’s mobilisation programmes and its dependence on families for recruits, support and sumud (steadfastness); between progressive and conservative currents within the PRM; and between the PRM’s generally progressive and secular stance, and its more conservative, more sectarian Arab environment. It is here too that questions arise about what kind of society Palestinians will build and what role and image women will have in it.
The harshness of the struggle deprives these questions of immediacy, yet they are no longer dismissed as heretical or irrelevant. Behind the current stage, characterised by the emergence of a corps of professional political women, stretches 70 years of collective and individual effort, a rich history that can be introduced here only briefly.
Looking back at the beginnings of their movement, Palestinian women emphasize its ‘organic unity’ with the broader national movement.3 While we cannot doubt that the national crisis was the major precipitating factor for the women’s movement, the ‘organic unity’ idea is somewhat distorting: first, it represses questions about the real relationship between the national and the women’s movement and second, it represses consideration of other generative factors.
Several signs indicate that reality was more complex. For example, the early emergence of women’s political groups, coeval with the main national movement, suggests that the national crisis acted directly on women rather than through the mediation of men’s organisations.4 The vigour and creativity of women’s first political actions have no counterpart in the national movement as a whole,5 and no contemporary model of Arab women being drawn into political action by male kin or by well-established liberation movements can account for it. It becomes intelligible, however, in the context of women’s agitation in neighbouring countries, particularly Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, countries with which urban Palestinians had contacts, and to a burgeoning feminist literature.6
The development of schooling for girls in urban areas since the turn of the century,7 played a role in producing women self-confident enough to organise, speak in public, and address the Mandate Authorities. The fact that peasant women were among the casualties of street demonstrations early in the Mandate directs our attention to 19th century peasant uprisings – against Ottoman taxes, against the first Zionist settlers – in which women certainly took part.
Very little is known about the relations between the national leadership and the leading pre-1948 national women’s grouping, the Arab Women’s Association (AWA).8 Later writers have pointed out that the AWA was directed by women of the upper class, most of whom were related to the leaders of national movement.9
This view is correct as far as the Jerusalem-based central Executive Committee was concerned and though there is no systematic study of the social origins of all AWA members, it is probable that most came from upper and middle urban strata since only such women had the education background and social freedom to organise. But some of the most active and persistent AWA organisers were not from ‘ayan families. Further, the view that they only acted within the limits of their class origins obscures the originality of some of their actions, such as hiding escaped prisoners, attending trials, writing for the nationalist press, and taking part in demonstrations. Some also defied convention by remaining unmarried or by marrying across religious boundaries. That the AWA failed to incorporate rural and poor urban women and that it remained entangled in cliques and rivalries cannot easily be disconnected from a social structure and culture that still today enter into political formations and may have contributed something both to the tenacity of resistance as well as to its sometimes ‘backward’ character.
More seriously, the view of the AWA as tied to the national leadership by family and class obscures the question of possible dissociation or even conflict. Did the AWA simply carry out actions handed down to it by the national leadership? Further research is needed on this point, but there are several contrary indications. The historian A.W. Kayyali hints that women, along with students and intellectuals, formed a ‘vanguard’ within the national movement, pressing the leadership to take more militant action; for example, they were prominent in calling for the General Strike in April 1936.10
Further, whereas the national movement increasingly divided into parties and factions, the AWA, according to surviving members, did not reflect these divisions. This remaining ‘above’ partisan politics cannot be reduced to the simple fact that women at that time did not join political parties, but may rather be attributable to a conscious decision to uphold national unity. AWA women may also have undertaken communicating and mediating functions between conflicting factions well established in Arab culture.11
While the AWA’s programme of action was clearly of an ‘auxiliary’ nature, it seems to have been adopted spontaneously from women’s own concepts of their political role rather than passed on to them by the leadership of the national movement.12 Another point to be noted is that the AWA was self-financing – indeed one of its tasks was to raise money for the national cause. Thus in several important respects, the AWA was more autonomous than the later General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW).
The expression of feminism in the earliest stage of the Palestinian women’s movement was proudly Arab nationalist. One can find no better example than Mogannam’s The Arab Woman and the Palestine Problem. Here feminism and Arab nationalism are perfectly harmonised through the evocation of an Arab Golden Age, when women played a prominent part in political, religious, and cultural activity. Writing for an English audience, Mogannam proclaims her faith in the restoration of this past under the aegis of the Arab kings and British justice – a political error that deeply divides the founding mothers of the AWA from women who grew up after 1948.
Invaluable as a source on pioneering social, educational and political work of women, Mogannam’s account stops short in 1932, and we must search elsewhere for answers to questions about the history of the AWA in the last years of the Mandate. Dissatisfaction with its leadership and methods is suggested by the fact that younger women began to seek other frameworks of action: syndicates, underground parties, military cells. We see here a dialectic between conventional and radical forms of women’s nationalism which is still at work today. Every escalation in national crisis forces the most nationalist women into less conventional, more militant, more ‘feminist’ forms of action.
One issue we know to have caused conflict within AWA ranks is that of clothing. Some members wanted to express their emancipation by wearing ‘modern’ clothing, others strongly opposed any lapse that could damage the AWA in the eyes of the masses.13 This emotive issue crystallizes a more profound divergence between conservative and progressive tendencies within the women’s movement. It is perhaps to this incipient conflict that we can attribute the strongly phrased anti-feminism expressed by AWA leaders.
This discourse employs the terms the ‘woman issue’ or ‘women’s rights’ explicitly to subordinate them to the national struggle. Sometimes these are treated almost as a heresy, a subversive ideology originating from ‘outside’; speaking of an aborted attempt to form a feminist group in Jerusalem in the 40s, an AWA leader presented it as British-inspired.14 Other examples: ‘Usually when there are women’s demands they come from women outside the struggle – if they were in the struggle they would have reached their demands’;15 ‘The women’s rights issue could have come from Egypt – Palestinian women always saw the national issue as a priority’;16 and, most succinctly, ‘Women’s education yes, women’s rights no’.17 Yet as the rest of this paper shows, the contradiction between mobilising women for national struggle and ignoring the socio-cultural constraints that bind them to limited kinds of action has become sharper with time.
Women and the post-1967 resistance movement
Soon after the uprooting, one of the historic leaders of the AWA, Sadij Nassar, opened a new branch in Damascus; this was closed down by the Syrian government in 1956. Another historic leader, Zuleikha Shihabi, was refused permission by the Jordanian government to attend a conference of the League of Arab Women’s Unions in 1953, unless she went as a Jordanian delegate. These two episodes illustrate the political environment out of which the post-1948 Palestinian national and women’s movements were reborn.
However crushing the effects of the erasure of Palestine from the political map, and the dispersion of some 65% of its people, national struggle continued through the years of ‘burial’ from 1948 to 1964, and though still hardly researched, women’s part in it has several interesting features. Briefly: i) women were foremost in relief work, individually as well as through old and new social associations;18 ii) some entered banned political parties (the various communist parties, the Arab Nationalist Movement, the PPS, the Ba’ath), and took part in anti-American, anti-Arab regime demonstrations;19 iii) a few women were closely involved in the setting up of the PLO;20 iv) a substantial number of younger women entered professional work (eg in public health, university teaching, literature, journalism), establishing claims to competence and creativity; v) the majority of women, mothers struggling to bring up families in difficult circumstances, transmitted Palestinianism to their children in ways as effective as they were spontaneous.
Women’s alienation in the ghourba21 was more complex than men’s, since they bore the humiliation of their menfolk and anxiety for their children’s futures as well as their own loss.22 Their kinship ties and the collective context of their domestic labour were disrupted; their mobility was restricted; some were forced into heavy manual work or the humiliation of domestic labour; and young girls suffered from witnessing the oppression of their parents.23
Thus when the Palestinian Resistance Movement emerged with its call for armed struggle and return, it was greeted with joy and enthusiasm by women of all social classes and generations. Support took many forms: joining the PRM, training in arms, knitting jerseys for the fedayeen, teaching camp children to paint, volunteering in Red Crescent hospitals, writing poems, singing songs… It was an explosion of specifically women’s nationalism, pent up by two decades of mourning and anger.
The rest of this paper examines the evolving slogans and structures through which the PRM has harnessed this wellspring of female energy, and the effects of its programmes on women’s role and on the family sphere. It will also consider the PRM as a framework for working on the ‘woman issue’ – defining it, linking it to national struggle, developing consciousness and programmes. But it must be noted that these questions cannot be treated in isolation from the total situation of the Resistance Movement.
The role of women in Third World liberation movements has often been seen to rest on the ideology of their leaderships (based on class background, level and place of education, political orientation). But the question of the mobilisation of Palestinian women cannot be viewed simply in terms of ideology, whether of the ‘collective leadership’ or of any sector of the PRM. Rather it must be viewed through an interacting system of constraints: those imposed by the Arab environment (laws, controls, socio-cultural atmosphere); those arising from the geographical and political dispersion of the Palestinian people, with its effects on the structure and internal relations of the PRM; and those imposed by a history marked by abrupt and radical changes – major reversals (1948, 1967, 1970, 1982), uprisings (1936, 1968/9, 1987/8), internal splits (1974, 1983) – all equally unpredictable and disruptive. Within such a context, the ‘woman issue’ could not but be eclipsed by the national crisis, its development interrupted, uneven and subject to local conditions.
Two types of limitation in this paper’s approach to women and the PRM must be noted at the outset. First, political: it should not be read as a comprehensive view of all parts of the PRM but as part of work in progress.24 Second, regional: in relation to women, the dispersion can be divided into two zones – a zone of confrontation (the Occupied Territories, Lebanon), where daily crisis precipitates broad sectors of women into the political arena; and a rearline zone (Jordan, Syria, the Gulf, etc), where repression and stability give rise to a more conservative social atmosphere, and a more ritualistic nationalism. It is with the zone of confrontation that this paper is concerned.
The ideological framework
At first view, what is striking about the PRM’s stands towards the ‘woman issue’ is their generality and non-development. From the PRM’s emergence until now, one basic slogan – that women make up half society, that they must have a role in the national struggle – has formed a pole, a lowest common denominator on which all groups and all women can agree. There are certainly some differences between the resistance groups: the Marxist groups in general and the PFLP in particular have given importance to women’s liberation, and have occasionally come out with ‘advanced positions’ or condemnations of existing practices. But such differences have never given rise to sharp or sustained debate within the PRM, nor to bids for women’s support.
In general, women do not join a particular group because of its stand on women – what counts for them as much as for men is its position on the issue of the hour. Nor does it seem that when women leave a group, they do so out of dissatisfaction with its position on or treatment of women.25 Thus although discussion of the ‘woman issue’ has been continuous within the PRM – it has its ritualistic celebrations, for example on International Woman’s Day, and in some milieus it has received more sustained, more serious treatment – yet even for leftist women it remains a minor theme, never debated with the passion aroused by national or party issues.
Careful examination of the period 1970 to 1982 in Lebanon would be valuable in raising concrete instances of the way structures for mobilising women contradicted, through their conflictual nature, any collective development of ideology by organised women.26 This was a period exceptionally rich in women’s initiatives, some of which have proved to be among the PRM’s most lasting legacies,27 but many others were short-lived, competitive, and reactive to crisis rather than following a plan of longterm development. This created an atmosphere of chaos and recrimination that played its part in aborting ideological development.
Yet in spite of all this, there were moments of a collective feminist consciousness among organised women. Perhaps the most striking instance is a study, undertaken soon after the expulsion from Jordan, into women militants’ experiences inside the revolution. Published by the GUPW in spite of internal opposition, this study expresses criticism of the PRM’s failure to link armed struggle to social change, or campaign to change attitudes to women.28 Echoes of these criticisms appeared from time to time in marginal PRM media, but they never became the basis for a collective campaign.
It is worth noting too that the GUPW had its own, slightly more feminist version of the universal PRM slogan, i.e., that women’s liberation will be reached through their participation in national struggle. However limited, this version opened the way for discussion of obstacles to women’s participation; and in fact such discussion continued throughout the PRM’s Lebanon period, and goes on today. To inaugurate the GUPW’s 3rd General Assembly in 1980, this slogan was given a twist in a more feminist direction towards a greater participation of women in struggle.
The implicit criticism did not escape Chairman Arafat who is reported to have objected that women were already doing more than could be expected. Though such signs of revolt may seem minimal to an outsider’s eye, they are interesting because, throughout this period, the GUPW was subordinated to a Fateh-dominated PLO in which Fateh women cadres were dominant. In spite of this, there were several instances of friction between the GUPW and the Fateh\PLO leadership, notably in 1974 over the issue of the ‘West Bank state’.29 Towards the end of the period, there was a collective GUPW campaign to have its Chairwoman, ‘Issam Abdul Hadi, taken into the PLO Executive Committee.
Though Fateh contained leftist as well as rightist currents, all those in leading positions, women as well as men, were conservative. The atmosphere inside Fateh on the ‘woman issue’ is conveyed by a junior cadre who described the reaction of male comrades to women who brought this up: ‘Have you come here to liberate Palestine or women?’30 Younger Fateh women, many of whom had been militants in Jordan, and who were generally more progressive on the ‘woman issue’, were too divided among themselves to bring pressure on their leadership.
The conservative trend within Fateh was strengthened by the growth of Muslim fundamentalism throughout the 70s, and by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Symptomatic of this connection is the publication in 1977 of a position paper by a leading Fateh intellectual, categorising the woman issue as a ‘secondary contradiction’, and calling on Palestinian women to face the Israeli enemy with their babies in their arms, as women had done throughout Muslim history.31 Although the article challenged the foundation of women’s organising, and aroused the anger of organised women, they did not respond. Involvement in practical tasks and in resistance group competition, the difficulty of reaching a collective position, change of ideological climate: all these factors weighed against their taking up the challenge.
Both major leftist groups, the PFLP and DFLP, have put forward more progressive positions on women, placing the goals of class and gender liberation on the same level of value as national liberation, yet, through a Marxist theory of stages, postponing dealing with the ‘woman issue’ until after national independence and the building of a socialist society. This view does not label the women issue as ‘secondary’ – on the contrary, it endorses women’s liberation – but it subordinates it through time.
Like Fateh, these groups point to national struggle as the only road for women’s emancipation, and emphasize that each woman must wage her own struggle with society without waiting for general campaigns of social change.32 The Marxist groups also underline the necessity for women to engage in productive labour. Women are thus harnessed to political, social and economic struggle without any commitment to gender democracy in a future state.
If both these parties have succeeded in recruiting a substantial corps of women members it is less because of advanced slogans than because of an atmosphere that values women as political workers, encourages their projects, and does not put obstacles in the way of work on the ‘woman issue’. It has been the basic principle of DFLP policy towards this issue that slogans should not be ‘ultra-leftist’ or too far ahead of mass thinking. Ideological development is important, but it must be subordinated to practical and political work among the masses, and to the requirements of each specific stage of struggle. In the current stage, ideological development around a certain number of issues is seen as fruitful and necessary:
Women’s issues should be discussed now because the mobilisation of women has revealed many social obstacles… and we have to combat those who say, Do not bring up anything specific about women’s issues until the national struggle is victorious… Organised women have the duty to build for a better future, one which will guarantee all human rights.[33. Interview with V.N. (DFLP), January 1988.]
Structures of mobilisation
Structures through which women are mobilised are also ideological statements; and those that emerged with the PRM concretized the idea of ‘organic unity’ between the national and the women’s movement. On the one hand, a plurality of groups continues to characterise Palestinian women’s organising;33 but on the other, there has been a definite trend towards inter-coordination and closer ties with PRM parties. Four significant forms will be focused on: the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW); the resistance groups; mass Women’s Organisations affiliated to resistance groups; and Women’s Work Committees in the Occupied Territories.
i) The GUPW: Part of the structure of the PLO, the GUPW is funded and supervised by the PLO’s office of Mass Unions. Like the other mass unions, the GUPW’s own structure is highly centralised, designed to achieve two types of unification: laterally, through branches spread across the diaspora; and vertically, from the national Executive Committee down through country and provincial levels to the local base committees. Such centralism has a certain symbolic unifying power, but it has proved cumbersome and ill-adapted to dealing with the problem of reaching the ‘ordinary’ women it is supposed to mobilise.
Though nominally elected by its General Assembly, the GUPW’s leading Executive Committee has up to now reflected the system predominant throughout the PLO, which guaranteed the representation on all committees of all groups in the PLO’s central Executive Committee, with Fateh predominant. The most active and influential women were all members or delegates of specific resistance groups, thus turning the GUPW into an arena of inter-group conflict; this in turn partially nullified the goal of unification as well as damaging the GUPW’s image at the mass level. Except in crises, PRM women cadres working in the camps competed with each other; GUPW projects were generally neglected in favour of resistance group projects.
Examination of the work programme of the GUPW reveals three broad categories of activity: i) those closely linked to informational and diplomatic struggle – attending conferences, receiving visiting delegations, issuing statements supporting national positions; ii) social concerns arising from traditional concepts of women’s maternal, nurturing role – relief, visiting the wounded, caring for orphans and martyrs’ families, running camp kindergartens; iii) developmental work among the women of the camps – adult literacy, vocational training, income-generating projects, health education. It was this third category that was most neglected. Programmes at the camp level were rudimentary, and frequently suspended for lack of personnel. Leading GUPW women rarely visited the camps, especially those distant from Beirut headquarters.
Several projects that were formally adopted and that could have been useful in creating a common circuit of consciousness between women – for example a regular publication, and a library and document collection – were never put into effect. During this period of the GUPW’s history, both structural and ideological obstacles impeded its development, while after 1982 it was further divided and weakened by the split within Fateh. It remains however a vehicle capable of playing a more dynamic role at a later stage.
ii) The Resistance groups: Second in point of time, the PRM has become the dominant framework of women’s mobilisation. By now, all three leading groups (Fateh, PFLP, DFLP)34 have a substantial number of long-term women cadres in leading positions. In the early 70s, joining a mixed political group was still a difficult step mainly confined to educated urban women; but after the Lebanese Civil War (1975\6), membership spread to the camps, marking a significant break both with the past and with other Arab women.
While it is nationalism that propels women to join PRM parties, this step also expresses an inexplicit feminism. Whereas an earlier generation of women had claimed a role in struggle, women who joined the PRM claim an equal role with men. This claim took its most extreme form right at the beginning of PRM action in Jordan, when some women insisted on taking military training, and volunteered for operations inside Israel.
Change in PRM strategy after 1970 deflected women away from military into other forms of action,35 yet every attack on the camps has brought women into defence. Fighting and martyrdom remained a persistent aspiration, exemplified by Dallal Mughrabi36 and this young struggle front cadre who defended Chatila camp in 1985:
I decided to stay with our comrades in the base because I believe women’s role in this arena is important. She shouldn’t just sweep and cook, she should fight side by side with her comrade fighters to defend the camp… If I had been martyred it would have achieved something big for the Palestinian cause. People would say, A girl was martyred! It would prove our role and encourage other girls.37
What role and function have the resistance groups assigned women members? To some extent women’s roles are gender-specific, but there has been no clear ‘zoning’ of women even after the formation of women’s bureaux and sections. Women are found fairly evenly distributed across all sections except the military, though most are concentrated in the social sector, in information, administration and finance (women are often found entrusted with money and stores), and certain kinds of political work.
Women form a major channel of communication between PRM headquarters and families in the camps. Absent from high level intergroup meetings and contacts with Lebanese parties, women cadres help build mass support for their group’s ‘line’. Their concentration in the social sector is based in their traditional nurturing role, but at the same time this is work with a political importance, since social projects and institutions in the camps are ways of attracting clienteles and political support. Women are also concentrated in clerical and service work (cooking, cleaning) although such jobs are often kept for widows and members’ dependents.
The formation of women’s bureaux by some of the groups has not led to segregation since they do not group all women members, but only those directed to work in the GUPW or mass women’s organisations. Up to now there seems to have been no move towards all women members of a resistance group meeting together or raising common issues.
In terms of status, women are less represented at leadership levels than men, but the central committees of PFLP, DFLP, and PSF all have women members. As for Fateh, while there is one woman on its Revolutionary Council, women cadres have on the whole less influence than certain women outside the party, whose power is based on seniority, control of institutions and personal connections.
Although organised women sometimes express a sense of common situation with women in other groups, their sense of organisational belonging is too strong to allow gender solidarity scope to develop. Many factors explain this loyalty; recency of membership, pride in being part of a ‘vanguard’, the chance given them to work, training, travel and ‘asabiyya (group solidarity). Many camp cadres have grown up inside their organisation, graduating from scout to student section to full membership. Longterm members, those who joined in the early 70s, by now have considerable experience and status, and are treated with respect by male comrades. If there are complaints, they are aimed at the PRM as a whole rather than the leaders or men of a woman’s own organisation. This example is unusual:
Men still treat a woman, however high she reaches, as a weaker member, not basic, secondary – even though she sometimes works more than a man, in mass work, in struggle work, she comes and goes. But after all this, they still look at her with a limited perception… In the Marxist groups, there is an advanced outlook on women, but there is a fluctuation in leaders and comrades in their dealings with them. The responsible may have correct principles, but it depends on his mood, and in the end it’s he who is the stronger.38
Another set of factors besides their dispersion between PRM organisations acts to reduce women’s collective weight in the PRM as a whole. These derive from the female life-cycle and obligations, which in turn are influenced by class. As will be discussed later, the PRM has had many effects on women’s life-cycle, particularly in drawing out the pre-marriage stage and filling it with activities. Yet marriage remains a universal expectation. Thus women’s organisational membership is stamped with a transitory quality, even though many cadres remain unmarried, or marry without dropping their work.
Depending on social background, pressures on women to give up active membership after marriage are strong: in the camps these take the form of large families, harsh conditions of domestic labour, often the necessity to take salaried employment (however, women in camps can depend on kin for childcare). Women from bourgeois strata, though likely to have smaller families and more time, may yield to the pressure of the ‘perfect housewife’ model. Thus while women form a substantial minority of the membership of the three main resistance groups (if one discounts their military ‘wings’), the majority do not stay long enough to form a permanent body capable of pressing women’s issues on the leadership. At the same time, senior women cadres, as a heroic ‘vanguard’ enjoying respect and responsibility, may lose touch with the problems of the mass of women. It is for this reason that the formation of mass women’s organisations is promising.
iii) Mass Women’s Organisations: This type of framework evolved during the 70s in Lebanon specifically among women who want to be active but without joining a political party. The first Democratic Women’s Organisation (DWO) was launched in 1978 by the DFLP after several years of mass work and careful preparation.39 Others now exist in several parts of the dispersion. DWOs are built from the base upwards, beginning with local committees set up in streets, camp quarters and work locations. These local committees elect leading committees representing a larger region, and elections continue until they reach an administrative body at the country level (Syria, Lebanon, etc). The administrative bodies decide their activities on the basis of the needs of the community, independently of the DFLP’s Central Committee and of each other.
By beginning at the base and encouraging working women and housewives to get involved, DWOs are structured to avoid the GUPW’s failure to activate its local committees, while its decentralisation and relative autonomy allow activities to be chosen by women members, in response to their sense of local needs and conditions.
DWO programmes include day-care centres for working women, typing and language courses, adult literacy and cultural events. In Jordan, Syria and the Occupied Territories, women’s magazines are published and distributed. DWOs also mobilise women to respond to local crises, for example agitating for the release of prisoners or missing persons, defending and rebuilding the camps.
What kind of woman would join a Democratic Women’s Organisation? ‘She should have a basically progressive attitude to the national struggle, support the PLO, and the Palestinian state. But she doesn’t have to be committed to the programme of the DFLP’.40 Such specifications suit ‘ordinary’ women, those who have strong nationalist feelings, but who do not want to become identified with a political party, or do fulltime political work. Thus they should open the way for capable women without high educational levels to rise to positions of responsibility: ‘There are several women in the leadership of the DWOs who were never members of the DFLP but who stood out because of their activities and patriotism’.41
Though linked to the DFLP through its women’s bureau (which started them up, and continues to form a part of their membership), DWOs appear more autonomous than the women’s ‘wings’ of many Middle Eastern parties. They offer women’s bureau cadres a field of activity relatively free of party and male control; and at the same time, they provide an appropriate vehicle for ‘ordinary’ women to acquire organising experience, and help to build a politicised woman ‘mass’ around the vanguard minority.
iv) The women’s movement in the Occupied Territories: The situation here differs radically from that in the neighbouring Arab countries. Since 1967, neither the GUPW or PRM have been able to work in the Occupied Territories except clandestinely. Here women have been to a large extent self-mobilised, responding in different ways to Israeli repression, the absence of a national authority, and the inadequacy of all public services. Among their responses has been the building of autonomous associations to carry out social, productive and cultural work.
In a valuable paper on the development of the women’s movement in the West Bank,42 Giacaman notes how women’s charitable associations filled the gap in public services under British and Jordanian rule, a function that continued after Israeli occupation in 1967. By 1976, there were more than 38 such associations in the West Bank alone, offering basic health care, nurseries, orphanages, relief and income-generating projects for needy families, and constituting practically the only institutional obstacle to the Israeli destruction of Palestinian social structure and culture.
Giacaman’s paper describes how, as the full extent of the Israeli occupation’s destructive intentions became clear, women began to search for new frameworks and methods. Founded before the Occupation, both In’ash al-‘Usra of Al-Bireh and the Arab Women’s Union of Bethlehem set up projects aimed at helping women to earn money rather than remain aid recipients, as in the past. But both these projects remained urban-based, directed by urban women, incorporating women of other classes as clients rather than full members.
What was needed, younger women felt, was ‘a mass organisation directed towards the radical solution of the women’s and the national problem’.43 From their discussions emerged the first Women’s Work Committee (WWC) in Ramallah in 1978. Others followed.44 One of the first actions of the first WWC was to carry out a study of women workers in Ramallah factories.45
The WWCs differ from the earlier charitable associations in structure and ideology. Without formal membership or offices, they are less susceptible to Israeli or Jordanian control. They are de-centralised, allowing maximum self-direction to local village, camp and work-place committees, so that their activities are chosen on a basis of local needs rather than decided by an urban-based governing committee. They have recruited members among all sectors of women with the aim of building a mass women’s movement, thus trying to go beyond the class limitations of the associations. While the older movement is guided by the ‘perspective of charity or steadfastness’ the WWCs aim at mobilising women in ‘both the women’s and the national struggle’.46
Those who launched the first WWC are described by Giacaman as ‘active, well-educated and young bourgeois women’, some of whom were ‘politically committed’, others ‘nationalistic and socially aware’.47 Already radical, their work among rural women had a ‘feminizing’ effect on them, as one of the most interesting passages in their paper relates:
The organizers were shocked by the realization that, with existing conditions of women’s lives, particularly in the villages and among the poor urban dwellers, it was impossible for them to effectively mobilise women in the national struggle. Illiteracy, overwork, poverty, economic dependence, the limited interests of women that result from all this and the general low social status were crucial stumbling blocks. It was precisely this realization of the Palestinian women’s condition that precipitated the awareness for the need of women to organise around their own problems, and for the need to adopt specific programmes aimed at the improvement of women’s lot. (my italics – R.S.).48
Such an explicit feminism could hardly have been expressed within the structures of the PRM. Emerging directly from involvement in the lives of poor women, without the mediation of party goals or interests, it is a statement that clearly articulates women’s issues to national struggle, and proposes autonomous action now. It points to a difference between the West Bank, where Israeli occupation has pushed the different sections of the women’s movement into closer cooperation, and the diaspora situation, where women’s consciousness has been stamped by PRM hegemony as well as by its internal divisions, both encouraged by diaspora conditions.
The Resistance Movement and the family sphere
I mentioned earlier the charges raised by a ‘feminist tendency’ within the GUPW that the resistance movement had not done enough to change social attitudes to women; and in the section on ideology, I suggested some reasons for stagnation in this sphere. This brings us to the PRM’s major dilemma in relation to the family: on the one hand, the need for radical social change to expand mass mobilisation; on the other, the equally strongly felt need to preserve the cultural patrimony, of which the family and women’s role in reproducing it are core elements.
But the dilemma extends beyond ideology. The importance of the family was reinforced by the Uprooting: as a matrix of identity, a source of emotional support, and a vehicle of material survival. Further, all sectors of the PRM depend on families for recruits and support, especially in camps which form the only equivalent of a ‘liberated zone’. These considerations have played a role in inhibiting any approach to family values that might cause negative reactions. In addition, there is a problem of the dependence of the rightwing of the PRM on Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab governments, while some of the leftist groups have been made cautious by fear of attack from the right, and of alienating the masses.49 Another consideration that may enter the picture is the difficulty of detaching the family issue from religion.50 The over-riding importance attached to Muslim-Christian unity since the beginning of the Palestinian national struggle tends to repress any issue likely to arouse sectarian reactions.
Yet pragmatic developments set in motion by PRM institution-building in Lebanon have created a very different situation on the ground. At this level, inter-group competition has had some positive effects, through expanding activities for women at a speed that a unified, centralised movement would have been unable to achieve. Mass mobilisation has opened up a range of non-domestic roles for women – militant, martyr, party cadre or supporter, worker, committee member – which did not exist before.51
Even though, up to 1982, only a minority of camp girls and women had been recruited into membership of PRM parties, resistance projects inside camps had transformed social space in a way that has emancipating effects for women. Whereas in the early 70s camps were divided into two clearly demarcated zones – homes and PRM offices – by 1982 the PRM’s programmes of family support (scout and youth sections, recreation clubs, clinics, workshops, training cycles) had penetrated the family sphere, creating an intermediate zone where party and family intermingle. In this zone, which is politically charged without being formally structured and which no one organisation controls, women move and act and take responsibility.
The difficulty faced by the PRM in mobilising binat (young unmarried women) has already been referred to. Ethnographic studies tell us that a central feature of the Palestinian peasant family system was the marriage of girls before they reached social maturity.52 This tradition was preserved with only slight modifications after the Uprooting. Right up to the civil war, camp mothers who willingly went out to work kept their unmarried daughters at home; it was attacks on the camps that loosened such constraints.53
The struggle of PRM women cadres to mobilise binat into routine activities outside crisis was thus an arduous one, demanding patience, tact, understanding of custom and self-control. Camp girls also played their part by waging struggles with their families and by guarding themselves from gossip and scandal. Through offering binat other activities besides party membership, through guaranteeing their protection in its milieus, and through the respect earned by its women cadres, the PRM radically changed the phasing of the female life-cycle, first, by drawing out the period between puberty and marriage;54 second, by filling this period with activities of varied kinds, all of which contribute to the formation of an independent personality and create a ‘space’ at a difficult phase in women’s lives, when an intense nationalism is often felt as they confront the constraints of their future as women. Even if this period of activism is terminated by marriage (an institution whose sanctity and implications for women the PRM has never challenged), yet its existence enhances womens’ position vis-à-vis family and future husband.
As men and women encounter each other in the intermediate zone between party and family, parentally-arranged marriage is eroded in favour of consensual marriages often brokered by resistance groups. The criteria on which spouses are chosen shift from family background and financial position towards compatibility and personal qualities (patriotism, courage, outlook, etc). Women are more likely to marry a party comrade and to put conditions concerning life after marriage (or refuse conditions put by men), and are thus more likely to continue study, work or political activities.
Such processes also modify relations between parental and filial households, with ties remaining warm and close, but losing their former authoritarianism. Young married women become freer to make decisions, for example about work or family size, through discussion with their husbands, instead of being submitted to pressure from their husband’s family to bear more children, or give up working.
However reticent the PRM has remained towards the family, it intervenes continuously and at many points, though in ways too diffuse to allow the term ‘family policy’. In an earlier period the PRM often put pressure on families to allow their daughters to marry feda’yeen, and in cases in which a bridegroom came from outside Lebanon, his organisation would stand in place of his family as negotiator and guarantor.
The more respected PRM cadres in camps are often sought as arbitrators in family problems and conflicts. Another way that the PRM affects the family sphere is through family allowances: the DFLP, for example, discourages polygamy by limiting allowances to one wife; Fateh on the other hand pays for up to four wives.55
In the DFLP, and perhaps in other parties, there has been informal party intervention to prevent conflict or divorce between spouses who are members. Pressure may be put on a male comrade who does not allow his wife to work, ill-treats her, or gives her so little help at home that she cannot carry out her party responsibilities. Though Peteet’s observation that the involvement of women in the PRM has not changed the domestic division of labour between men and women is true in general,56 this picture is beginning to change in the case of marriages between party members. Here we can detect the emergence of a new type of family, characterised by more egalitarian relations between husband and wife, and between parents and children.
Criticism of the PRM for failing to raise the question of change in family law have been raised from time to time,57 but such voices are few. Most consider that it is impossible to make laws without a state, and still too early to discuss this matter. It is worth noting, however, that the PFLP drafted a code of family regulations to be observed by its members.
Because of the slight differences between Muslim and Christian family practice referred to earlier, it would be difficult to draw up reforms that do not lean towards the western (Christian) nuclear family model (for example by banning polygamy, or making divorce rights more equal). Without research on family problems, there is no objective basis for reform campaigns; forums are needed where women feel free to raise such problems.
It is when we come to camp mothers and housewives that we find least evidence of change. In another paper,58 I have discussed this question in terms of the class and culture gap that separated the first women cadres from camp women, as well as the overriding concern of the former with formal organisation and with gaining recruits. Camp mothers had their own strong traditions of political struggle and showed their readiness to serve the revolution in their accustomed ways;59 but in the early 70s, most of them were illiterate, with large families. Though this never prevented them from demonstrating or defending the camps, it did make it difficult to involve them in routine activities.
Camp mothers were also opposed to divisions within the PRM which they knew from experience would lead to conflict and endangering their sons. The developmental projects that would have served the housewife sector were, as we saw before, the most neglected part of the GUPW and PRM programmes. Mothers benefitted from many of the family activities carried on by the PRM in camps; kindergartens and youth clubs lightened childrearing labour; mother and child clinics increased the chances of safe pregnancy and delivery. Housewives were helped as widows and recipients of social aid, and as martyrs’ mothers they received special status and respect; but rarely were they the direct targets of programmes as women.
This question of course cannot be isolated from broader political and cultural factors. On the one hand, the difficulty of the national struggle and the heavy human losses it has entailed bring out the importance of women’s fertility. Consciousness of child-bearing as a form of struggle is very widespread among camp women and has not required PRM campaigns to deepen it.60 It is their voluntary assumption of the ‘demographic struggle’ that makes the terms used by some PRM leaders such as the ‘fertile womb’ less fascist than they would otherwise be.61
On the other hand, the critical importance of sumud in the Palestinian struggle, necessitated by setbacks and loss, calls up culturally implanted images of women’s ideal nature, as exemplifiers of patience, self-denial and ‘giving’. Camp mothers have assumed these qualities, aiding the process through which their domestic role has been transformed into a form of political struggle, a women’s jihad. By giving sons to the resistance and by stoically bearing their loss, mothers locate themselves at the heart of the national struggle. It is to these traditional aspects of the social construction of womanhood that we can attribute the slightness of PRM programmes for women. As a West Bank woman once told me, ‘Women are the unknown soldiers of the national struggle’.
However, heroically living up to cultural expectations is only one part of camp women’s behaviour and it would be distorting to over-emphasize this at the expense of their capacity for self-assertion and claiming their rights. It is on this equally strong, though culturally unendorsed tradition, that we can place hope for the development of women’s issues within the PRM.
Conclusion: thinking about women’s issues
This paper has tried to present the historical, ideological and structural settings within which Palestinian women have thought about and acted on their situation. Such a review suggests that the protracted, difficult nature of the national struggle has contradictory effects for women, engaging large numbers of them in many forms of activism, but also suppressing the ‘woman issue’ and postponing its discussion to a still far-off stage.
The PRM has set up structures that mobilise women and help legitimise their activism; yet its reluctance to undertake campaigns of socio-cultural change has put the burden of this struggle on women themselves. Nationalist women have thus been forced to assume the role of agents of social change, through struggle with their families and activities outside the home; yet at the same time they continue to carry the obligations imposed by woman’s traditional image: sexual self-censorship, marriage, fertility, housewifely competence. Meanwhile the most active, most experienced women are dispersed in different PRM parties and are actively involved in building support for their policies on national issues.
Such conditions do not easily give rise to collective discussion of or action on women’s issues. Yet at the same time they do not completely negate them. The intractability of the national struggle also gives more time for women to gain organising skills. It brings large numbers of women into the political arena and creates a ‘field’ of action for PRM women cadres, one in which they meet at close quarters the socio-cultural obstacles that limit other women’s participation. The definition of women’s issues in this context becomes not so much permissible as necessary:
In each stage of our struggle we must do everything we can to allow the greatest number of women to participate in struggle. There are many issues and traditions that we have to face directly. We can’t just say, No, this is part of our tradition, we must stop at this point.62
The conditions for further work on women’s issues – defining, raising and setting up programmes directed towards them – now appear to exist in certain sectors of the resistance movement and in the Occupied Territories. We would not expect instant agreement on what women’s issues are, nor on which are priorities. In the West Bank it seems that women are ready to ‘organise around their own problems’, whereas within the PRM context, women’s issues are much more closely linked to national and community needs. DWOs focus on social issues:
…not women’s issues in the sense that a feminist would use the term, but important matters that affect women, such as lack of water, prisoners, the destruction of camps. Other issues that DWOs are said to be taking up are: the rights of working women, childcare centres, and campaigns against young age of girls at marriage. These are seen as justified because “they are not women’s slogans only but are in the service of our whole society”.63
An obvious danger of linking definitions of women’s issues so tightly to the national struggle is, to paraphrase Giacaman, that if Palestinian aspirations to nationhood are fulfilled, women may lose the incentive and justification for organisation. One should expect that after such a long and bitter struggle, there will be a reaction that will de-mobilise many women. However, there are good reasons why such a reaction should not last and should not lead to a by now familiar pattern of an official women’s union tied to state or ruling party, repression of human rights and a re-domestication of women.
Palestinian women have been organising for 70 years, and have fully shared with men in constructing a ‘public sphere’ through which Palestinian peoplehood is expressed today. It is not inconceivable that there should be attempts to dislodge them, but the wide reach of women’s mobilisation guarantees resistance: ‘It’s not a few elitist individuals experimenting, we have a broad base of women. When we have to deal with a new challenge, these women will be up to it’.64
- K. Jayawardena, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World (London: Zed Books Ltd., 1986). ↩
- ‘The women’s movement in many countries of Asia achieved political and legal equality with men at the juridical level, but failed to make any impression on women’s subordination within the patriarchal structure of family and society.’ Jayawardena, op cit, p 24. ↩
- See as examples two PLO booklets: The Struggle of Palestinian Women (Beirut: Palestine Research Centre, 1975); and The Women’s Role in the Palestine National Struggle (Beirut: Department of Information, nd). ↩
- Political women’s groups appeared in Jerusalem in 1919 and 1921; in Nablus in 1921; in Haifa in 1928. These local unions joined in the national Arab Women’s Association launched in 1929. See M. Mogannam, The Arab Woman and the Palestine Problem (London: Joseph, 1937) p 62; also L. Jammal, Contributions by Palestinian Women to the National Struggle for Liberation (Washington: Middle East Public Relations, 1985) pp 12-16. According to Mogannam, Jaffa women organised even earlier, before World War 1. ↩
- When Allenby visited Jerusalem in 1932, the AWA organised a dramatic protest demonstration, in which a Christian member spoke from the pulpit of the Mosque of Omar, and a Muslim member from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The AWA was also the first national institution to publicize the plight of the fellahin (Mogannam, p 97 seq; p 83). ↩
- See Jayawardena, op cit, chapters on Egypt, Turkey and Iran. She notes: ‘The proliferation of women’s journals and of women who wrote on various issues was striking: prior to 1914 there were 15 Arabic women’s magazines, many of which were edited by Syrian Christian women’ (p 52). Mogannam, op cit, has a section on women’s movements in Syria and Lebanon, pp 63-6. ↩
- Mogannam, op cit, pp 249-257. ↩
- Ibid, p 69, gives a detailed account of the Arab Women’s Congress held in Jerusalem in October 1929, which formed an Executive Committee, and branches in urban centres throughout Palestine. Named at this stage the Arab Women’s Association, it later on became a member of the League of Arab Women’s Unions, and changed its name to Palestine Arab Women’s Union. ↩
- Eg K. Abu Ali, Muqaddima hawl waqi’ al-mar’a al-Filastiniyya wa tajribatuha fi al-thawra (Beirut: GUPW, 1975); and R. Giacaman, Palestinian Women and Development in the Occupied West Bank (Birzeit University, mimeo, 26 pp, nd). ↩
- A.W. Kayyali, Palestine, A Modem History (London: Croom Helm, nd); see especially pp 171-3 and p 192. In a footnote on p 185, Kayyali cites a report by the British High Commissioner after a visit from a delegation of women, that ‘they displayed more courage and determination than their notable menfolk’. ↩
- See L. Sweet, ‘The women of ‘Ain ad-Dayr’, Anthropological Quarterly, vol 40, 1967. ↩
- The range of women’s actions is remarkable: demonstrations, meeting with Mandate officials, statements and memoranda, fund-raising, support for martyrs’ families, visiting prisoners, and setting up girls’ schools, clinics and orphanages. See Mogannam pp 55-63, and Jammal pp 12-20. For a comprehensive list of women’s organisations with dates and aims, see Y. Haddad, ‘Palestinian Women’ in K. Nakhleh and E. Zureik eds, The Sociology of the Palestinians, (London: Croom Helm, 1980) p 167. ↩
- Ruqeyya Huri, AWA leader, discusses this question in R. Sayigh, ‘Femmes palestiniennes: une histoire en quête d’historiens’ in Revue d’Etudes Palestiniennes no 23, printemps 1987. ↩
- Meeting with Zuleikha Shihabi, Jerusalem, May 1980. ↩
- Interview with Ruqeyya Huri, Beirut, January 1981. ↩
- Interview with Natiel Mogannam, Washington, August 1985. ↩
- Inverview with Wadi’a Khartabil, Beirut, March 1982. ↩
- See Jammal pp 21-24. Giacaman lists 38 women’s associations in the West Bank alone, several of which date from this period. For a portrait of an individual woman ‘helper’ see E. Said, After the Last Sky (London: Faber and Faber, 1986). ↩
- Abu Ali, op cit, cites the anti-Baghdad pact demonstration in Amman in which a Palestinian woman member of the Communist Party, Raja’ Abu Ammasheh, was killed. See also Leila Khaled’s autobiography, My People Shall Live (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973). ↩
- See R. Sayigh ‘Femmes palestiniennes…’ ↩
- Ghourba is not just exile, but gives the sense of being among strangers. ↩
- Women in camps queued for UNRWA rations and worked in manual and domestic labour to save their husbands from humiliation. ↩
- For descriptions from this period, see J. Peteet in R. Sayigh and J. Peteet ‘Between Two Fires: Palestinian Women in Lebanon’, R. Ridd and H. Callaway eds, Caught Up in Conflict (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1986) pp 111-2. ↩
- The main sources are: i) interviews with organised women in Lebanon before and after 1982; ii) on-going fieldwork in Chatila camp. I am particularly indebted to V.N., member of the DFLP since 1973, with whom I had two long interviews in January 1988. ↩
- Women’s membership in resistance groups shows some interesting differences from men’s. Women may drop out of political activity but usually remain in the network of their organisation. I know of no cases of switching from one to another. Men seldom leave the PRM to return to civilian life, but they often move from one organisation to another. ↩
- For a more detailed discussion of this question, see R. Sayigh, ‘Palestinian Women and Politics in Lebanon’, paper for the symposium on ‘Women and Arab Society, Old Boundaries, New Frontiers,’ Georgetown University, Washington DC, April 1986. (in publication). ↩
- Several Palestinian social institutions in Lebanon were launched and directed by women: In’ash al-Mukhayem (1968); the Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Association; Najdeh Assocation. Beit Atfal al-Sumud, orginally set up by the GUPW as a home for Tel al-Za’ter orphans, is now an autonomous institution with a range of social care activities. ↩
- Abu Ali, op cit. A summary is given in R. Sayigh in ‘Women in Struggle’, Third World Quarterly, vol 5 no 4, Oct 1983. ↩
- Early in 1974 the Fateh\PLO leadership adopted the goal of a state in any part of Palestine that could be liberated. The GUPW rebelled against this position, and as a result were ‘frozen’ for six months. ↩
- Interview with J .H. (Fateh), May 1982. ↩
- N. Shafiq, ‘Maudo’at hawl nidal al-mar’a‘, Shu’oon Filastiniyya no 62, 1977. ↩
- See ‘PFLP marks Womens Day’, PFLP Bulletin no 61, April 1982, for Habash’s position. Habash often addresses the ‘woman issue’ in his speeches, as well as in a booklet, Hawl taharrur al-mar’a, Beirut, nd. ↩
- Pluralism is expressed in the number of autonomous social associations; also in the existence in Israel of women’s political groups, such as the Democratic Women’s League, which do not come under the PLO umbrella. ↩
- Few other resistance groups have a corps of women members, except for the small Marxist Palestine Struggle Front. When other groups need a woman representative on a committee, they tend to recruit members’ wives. ↩
- There was no sudden decision to withdraw women from ‘military work’; light arms training continued in Lebanon, PFLP hijackings continued for a while, and some attempts were made to form a women’s battalion. But the PRM leadership gradually stopped giving support. ↩
- Dallal Mughrabi was a Sabra girl who managed to remain in a Fateh fighting unit after women’s participation was discouraged. She was killed leading a seaborne attack against Israel in March 1978. ↩
- Interview with ‘Samar’ (PSF), October 1986. ↩
- Interview with J.H. (PSF), March 1986. ↩
- In 1985, the PFLP launched a mass women’s organisation in Damascus. The following year a sister WO was founded in the USA. ↩
- Interview with V.N. (DFLP), January 1988. ↩
- ibid. ↩
- Giacaman, op cit. As its title indicates, Giacaman’s study is limited to the West Bank. For voices of women in Gaza and information on organising there, see P. Cossali and C. Robson, Stateless in Gaza (London: Zed Books, 1986). ↩
- Giacaman, op cit, p 15. ↩
- Other Women’s Work Committees have been formed, and all are now said to be associated with resistance groups. Information given here only covers the first WWC. ↩
- Lajnet al-amal al-nissa’i, Hawla awda’ al-mar’a al-filastiniyya fi al-manatiq almuhtalla: dirasa maydaniyya, Ramallah-al-Bireh, 1980. ↩
- Giacaman, op cit, p 19. ↩
- Ibid, p 16. ↩
- Ibid, p 21. ↩
- A resident of Chatila told me of an incident in the early ’70s when women in an office of a leftist group were observed ‘in a state of undress’. Immediately all camp families withdrew their daughers from PRM activities. V.N. reported another (or possibly another version of the same) incident, saying that a woman’s carelessness or showing off had given rise to a gossip campaign against the DFLP. ↩
- Differences between Muslim and Christian family practice tend to become accentuated in conditions of ‘modernisation’. In Palestine, there was a tradition of symbiosis. In some Christian families women were veiled out of respect for Muslim neighbours. See T. Canaan, ‘Unwritten Laws Affecting the Arab Woman of Palestine’, Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, vol 11, 1931. ↩
- See R. Sayigh and J. Peteet, op cit. This section owes much to Peteet’s fieldwork. See her Women and National Politics: The Palestinian Case, 1985, PhD dissertation, Wayne State University, Michigan; also ‘Women and National Politics in the Middle East’ in B. Berberoglu ed., The Middle East in Crisis: Class Struggles, the National Question, the State and the Revolution (forthcoming 1988 from Zed Books). ↩
- The best source is H. Granqvist, Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village (Helsinki: Societas Scientarium Fennica, vol 1, 1931, vol 2, 1935). ↩
- This quotation from a Tel al-Za’ter girl is illuminating: ‘During the battle for the camp I worked in the clinic and the bakery along with many other young women. Before that most girls weren’t allowed to work in the resistance clinics… But after the battle of Tel al-Za’ter, no mother would prevent her daughter from going out. On the contrary, she would tell her to go out and work to help her people’. In Sayigh and Peteet, op cit, p 113. ↩
- Other factors also contributed: educations subsidies, rising employment, demands for educated brides, etc. ↩
- Polygamy rates among Palestinians are low. But cases arose when PRM cadres came to Lebanon from other areas, sometimes leaving a wife behind, and taking a second wife in Lebanon. ↩
- See the interview with a Fateh cadre, Jihan Helou, in PFLP Bulletin no 61, April 1982, p 32. ↩
- See Peteet, op cit. ↩
- R. Sayigh, ‘Palestinian Women and Politics in Lebanon’. ↩
- For a good description of such a woman in Chatila, see Mahjoub Omar, ‘Les gens et le siège’, Revue d’Etudes Palestiniennes, no 7, printemps 1983, pp 98-9. ↩
- See I. Bendt and J. Downing, We Shall Return: Women of Palestine (London: Zed Press, 1980). There is a particularly good discussion between women about family size in the chapter ‘Having Only Two Children Ought to be Forbidden’. ↩
- Nevertheless this terminology has been fiercely criticised in al-Hadaf (PFLP): ‘Why do some of the leaders… continue to use the most backward feudal language, such as “the woman procreator”, or “the Palestinian womb” or the “fertile wombs”?’ Quoted by N. Abdo-Zubi, Family, Women and Social Change in the Middle East (Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 1987), p 46. ↩
- Interview with V.N. (DFLP), January 1988. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩