“Women have been a footnote in a male-defined system. And if women are the footnote, then Aboriginal women are the footnote to the footnote.”
This statement made by Mohawk author Patricia Monture holds very true to the situation of Palestinian women. The fact that Palestinian women are the footnote to the footnote is due to our male-oriented society and ongoing Nakba. The oppression of both the settler colonial project of Israel and heteropatriarchy perpetuates and exacerbates Palestinian women’s subordination, subjugation and inferiority.
However, Palestinian women, be it within the domestic sphere, at the workplace, within political arenas and inside Israeli colonial prisons are not passive or silent. Through their everyday practices of resistance, they push against their oppression and marginalization caused by the intersectionality of Israeli subjugation and heteropatriarchal oppression.
On March 8th, we voice the systematically invisibilised and often unrecognized roles of Palestinian women’s experiences of resistance to Israel’s apartheid regime. We also emphasize that there will not be a free Palestine unless Palestinian women are free from their double oppression and marginalization.
We share the voices of the women in the Bedouin community of Humsa, Northern Jordan Valley, and their strength and struggle as an inspiration to all of us.
Women of Humsa: Warriors against Israeli ethnic cleansing
Since November, 2020, the Israel occupation forces have been repetitively storming the village of Humsa and demolishing its Palestinian residents’ property. Since the start of last February, the Israeli violence against the community intensified. This has resulted in reducing it to the ground five times in a month. Tens of the residents of Humsa, including women and children have ended up homeless.
Commenting on Israeli brutality, 50-year-old Om Soliman (Mother of Soliman) said:
The Israeli occupation claims that our ancestral land is a closed military area. This is a complete lie. This land is a place for us and our livestock to live in and forge the future of our children.
We want to live a safe and a peaceful life without violence and demolition. Our children get terrified when the Israeli soldiers raid our community. They keep asking: “Are the Israeli soldiers are coming to demolish our houses?”
Our furniture and property are in the rain since they have demolished our residential tents. I and the other thirteen members of my family have to sleep in a small tent.
The Israeli occupation forces Om Soliman, her children and grandchildren to live in dire conditions. Nevertheless, she is determined to stay on their land. She stated: “The Israeli occupation wants us to leave the area and take over our land. Yet, we are not leaving. I will continue to instill in my grandchildren the courage, sense of sumud [Arabic: steadfastness] and determination to protect Humsa and maintain our existence even after I pass away.”
Like Om Soliman, Om Bilal, a mother of ten children has an iron will to continue the struggle against Israeli ethnic cleansing by remaining steadfast in Humsa.
Although the Israeli occupation destroyed her family’s property five times, Om Bilal has done everything she could to keep up a normal life despite the abnormal situation.
Om Bilal needs to bring food on the table for her ten children every day. Hence, even on top of the rubble of their house, Om Bilal continues to make and sell dairy products. She narrated: “The fact that the Israeli occupation keeps demolishing our property does not mean to give up on life. I will never stop helping my husband in securing an income that allows us to live here.
27-year-old Intisar, a mother of three children narrated what she, her husband and children encountered on November 3rd when the Israeli bulldozers razed their property to the ground. She said:
“The Israeli occupation forces prevented us from taking our stuff before they started the demolition. My kids were crying as they lost their toys under the rubble of the tent that is our house.”
Although Intisar saw her home turned to rubble in a blink of an eye, she was still strong with her head high. To ease the plight of her children, she kept searching for their toys beneath the rubble until she found them. Taking care of her children even in the darkest of moments is important for Intisar because as, she thinks, her children are the future of Humsa.
The everyday practices of Om Soliman, Om Bilal, Intisar and other women of Humsa accumulate to heroic stories of sumud [steadfastness] and resistance. It is through these practices that these women, the custodians of Palestinian existence there, obstructs Israeli settlement schemes.