Goodwin, Jan 1994 Price of Honour,
Little, Brown and Company, Boston ISBN 0-316-32028-5
NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transforming the world. You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is, without question, essential reading material.
Tujan Faisal The Apostate of Jordanian Feminist Politics
Islamic orthodoxy received the king's imprimatur in Jordan in 1957, when the monarch, whose popularity in the country was at an all-time low, was fearful of the spread of Nasser's socialist pan-Arabism from Egypt. In the crackdown after a member of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate Nasser, many of the fundamentalists fled Egypt and found asylum in Jordan. King Hussein was following the ancient Muslim maxim "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" when he supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan at the same time as he banned all political parties in the country. To keep up an appearance of evenhandedness, the Muslim Brotherhood was registered as a charity.
An award-winning journalist and the author of Caught in the Crossfire, Jan Goodwin lived for more than four years in the Islamic world. She now resides in New York City.
In 1989, at the time of the first national elections in a generation, the country was still under martial law and the ban on political parties stood, which meant most candidates had to run as independents. Only the Muslim Brotherhood was able to present candidates for election because of its legal status as a charity and not a political party. Consequently, of the eighty seats in parliament, twenty went to the Muslim Brotherhood and an additional fourteen went to independent Islamists, giving the fundamentalists 40 percent of the parliamentary seats and making them the largest block in government.
Those same elections were the first in Jordan for which women were permitted to stand as candidates, and twelve women ran, although none succeeded. But for one of the candidates, Tujan Faisal, the campaign waged against her still continues, and robbed her of her career, her marriage, her comfortable lifestyle, and her security. Until she ran for office, Faisal, a mother of three, was Jordan's Barbara Walters.
"Kill the apostate! Kill the apostate!" The words still haunt her. The blood the fundamentalists were calling for was her own. 'That phrase was shouted for hours each day outside the courthouse, and the chanting followed her to her home and was also repeated over her phone. Even her husband's medical office and his patients were plagued by the same thing on their phones.
In accusing her of apostasy, the Islamists asked the court to declare Faisal incompetent, dissolve her marriage, confiscate all her property, strip her of' all legal rights, ban any of' her works, and grant immunity to anyone who shed her blood. Her crime? In response to a two-month campaign waged in the nation's media by fundamentalists that claimed women should not be permitted to run for political office because they are not mentally competent to do so, she wrote a newspaper article castigating the crusade. Dally in the nation's press, the Islamists claimed that "women are deficient and lacking in religious education and understanding, i-ash, and guided by their emotions." Said Faisal, then Jordan's top female television commentator, who had her own show and was also a newspaper columnist, "The newspaper articles stated that women are minors all their lives, and need male guardians to run their affairs and keep them on the straight path. Another said, 'Women are so deficient they are only capable of cleaning, cooking, and serving members of the family. 'They possess a physical makeup suitable only for menial tasks. In return for these services, a woman's remuneration will be that she is fed, given shelter, and clothed.' A third read, 'It is permissible to beat a woman if' she disobeys her husband's instructions. Beating does not hurt a woman's dignity. "This is impossible, because woman is born without dignity."' Having ignored the smear campaign against all women for as long as she could, Faisal decided the fundamentalists had gone too far. ... They were portraying women in a very cheap way," she told me. "It was ridiculous. 'They claimed women go crazy when they have their period, and they also said that tile fact that women love their children is a sign of their weakness. I was angry that the Islamists considered the entire female population not qualified for political office." Faisal struck back with an article entitled "They Insult Us ... and We Elect Them!" In it she wrote that the critics of women's rights had misititerpreted the Koran. "They were claiming, 'A woman's deficiency lies in the fact that she becomes pregnant, gives birth, and menstruates."This clearly means that they feel motherhood (revered by Islam) is the cause of her deficiency. Should we, therefore, deduce f'roin this that the barren woman is more complete than one who is fertile? Or whether women who do not menstruate are more complete than those who do?" Despite Faisal's own prominence, when her article was published in the Al-Ray Arabic newspaper on September 21, 1989, there was no response to it for twenty-three days. "No one saw any apostasy in what I had written until I registered my political candidacy on October fourteenth," said Faisal. The elections were to be held on November 8, and Jordanian political campaigns, Iike many of those in Europe, are brief. But once she declared her candidacy, things moved fast. 'That same day, she was declared apostate by two conservative clerics, one of whom was a Mufti (a religious leader and interpreter of Islamic law) in Jordan's army, who claimed the case was filed "in the name of the people and in defense of Islam."
The charges against Faisal were also quietly backed by some leading Jordanians as a means of keeping the country "intact, conservative, and not so liberal as Western societies." The case, the first of its kind against a woman in Jordan, was seen as a test of strength for fundamentalists in Jordan as they opposed secularizing trends in the country.
"The two mullahs went from one Shariah court to another for two days, to find a judge who was sympathetic to their case," recalled Faisal. "The court close to my home rejected it, thejudge said it was nonsense. But they didn't give up, and eventually in south Amman they found a judge who shared their views and who registered the case. I was notified at noon on the seventeenth of October that the court hearing would be the next day at nine a.m. Legally, I was entitled to forty-eight hours' notice, but the judge ignored that.
"We decided it was best if my lawyer went alone. But at the court, the judge refused to permit him to represent me, and he was told I would be tried in absentia. My lawyer was not allowed to speak, he could only take notes, and no one would provide him with a copy of the hearing, to which I was entitled."
The courtroom was jammed with Islamists, and the area in front of the building was even more crammed. Those outside began to chant what became their battle cry: "Kill the apostate." During the lengthy hearing the judge permitted only evidence against Tujan Faisal to be heard. Throughout the presentation, the hearing was frequently interrupted by shouts of Allahu Akbar, "God is Great," from the fundamentalists inside the courtroom.
"That first hearing was intentionally used to give the Islamists a major platform," says Faisal. The continuance of the case was postponed for ten days. "The second time, the family decided my father, my brother, and my sister should go and that I should stay at home. It was no longer felt safe for me to attend my own court hearing. My family and friends feared for my life."
Sitting in the living room of her apartment in Amman, Faisal, forty-three, recalled how her life spun out of control in a matter of days. - The walls of her third-floor walk-up apartment need repainting, but Faisal can no longer afford the expense. There is a large crack in the plaster of one wall that runs almost from floor to ceiling, but there is also no money to fix it. "And when furniture wears as it does with small children, I won't be able to replace that," says Faisal. Her two daughters and a son are aged four, ten, and twelve. "Before this happened, we led a very comfortable life. My salary was very good, and my husband's medical practice was large and successful. I had worked in television since 1971, and had my own show from i983 Faisal had been targeted by Islamic conservatives before the election. The first occasion was in 1984, when she organized a seminar on child abuse with the Amman's Women's Club. The data they collected showed a high incidence of child abuse, many cases of which were sexual in nature. "The irony in Jordan is that no one except the child's father or male guardian can register a case of incest with the courts," said Faisal. After the seminar, Faisal was attacked in the mosques. Mullahs accused her of trying to "break down the solidarity and moral structure of the Islamic family." Recalled Faisal, "'They said child abuse was a disease that existed only in the West. 'They claimed it did not exist in Jordan, and I should not have brought foreign ideas here." Then four years later, she did a program on battered wives. Faisal asked why, given that Jordan's criminal law no longer included stoning or hand amputation for theft, it was still permissible to beat wives. "When a woman goes to the police to complain, she is told she must have disobeyed her husband. I was amazed by the flood of mail we received from women after the show. Even my close friends had been victims and I didn't know. "But religious sheikhs accused me of attacking Islamic law and said I had tried to abolish it. They went to see the Chief justice of the Shariah Court, who in turn approached the Director General of Television. "They wanted to ban me from appearing on television. I was banned for a week, but then the minister of information became angry over what had happened to me, and restored my show." Early in 1989 she had planned to do a program on polygamy. "It was not very common in Jordan before," said Faisal. "But today polygamy is spreading more and more because the fundamentalists are promoting it. No wife feels secure these days, and women were coming to me with their fears." Faisal approached the Shari'ah Court to ask if they could send a representative to present the Islamic point of view in the program. "All I wanted was for them to explain why Islam permitted polygamy. I told them that my show presented both sides and left viewers to make up their own minds."
The polygamy program never developed beyond the planning stage. "The director-general and minister of information were both threatened," said Faisal. "They were told by the fundamentalists that they must have political reasons for wanting to air such a program. It was claimed that such a show was intended to be an attack on Iraq [then Jordan's closest ally], because Saddam Hussein now had two wives, and the Iraqi government was also encouraging men to marry again as so many women had been widowed in the war. I was told the minister did not want to risk his political career. The program was stopped.
"At the time of the election, the fundamentalists raised the polygamy program issue again, and claimed I had called for women to marry four men. They said it was un-Islamic, and it was the reason I should be killed." "Apostasy is the easiest accusation in Islam. I argued in my article that a political candidate should bejudged on merit, on intellect. The fundamentalists said for that, too, I deserved to be killed because I worshiped the human mind instead of God. Then for good measure, they claimed I had also sinned because I wanted a degenerate society."
Finding herself attacked in such a manner was obviously very frightening, but Faisal was also deeply offended. A devout Muslim, she is very well versed in Islam. She knew that the charges against her were in reality simply slander, but she also was aware that a mostly illiterate mob could be whipped into a hysterical fervor by manipulative clerics using the mosques to their own ends. And if she had any doubt of that, she received proof after the first court hearing.
The chanting mob left the courthouse and massed outside Faisal's home. "We closed the metal shutters, afraid someone would throw a rock or even shoot through the window. Our phone began to ring day and night with obscene and threatening calls. But I was determined not to give in to these extremists. I was scheduled to address political supporters at the university, and I kept that appointment. When I showed up, there were huge crowds, and we had to park blocks away. Then we realized all the seats in the front of the hall had been taken by veiled women, all Islamists, who had intentionally arrived hours earlier. 'They tried to embarrass me by asking many religious questions but I know the Koran very well, so that is hard to do. Then when they realized that wasn't working' they began chanting, 'Kill the apostate.' Men in the audience started screaming and shouting Islamic slogans and someone pulled the mike from my hand. Then the lights were turned out and we heard breaking glass. My supporters grabbed me and dragged me out the back exit. By then they were afraid someone would physically harm me. The police were contacted and I accepted police protection. "My husband didn't trust the police. He said they had been infiltrated by the fundamentalists. He was convinced I would be assassinated. He refused to sleep at night, and sat up armed with a large knife in case anyone broke in. We were nervous every time we heard a car slow down outside the house. My eldest daughter, Dina, began to have nightmares that bearded men and veiled women would kill me. I was particularly concerned that someone might try to harm the children. I told their schools that the children were not to be permitted to leave with anyone except our family. I couldn't eat or sleep, I started losing weight rapidly, my clothes were hanging off me. We felt besieged, there was nowhere we could escape these people." The second court hearing was a replay of the first. The same chanting mobs, although the crowds were larger, the same call for Faisal's death, and the same refusal from thejudge to permit anyone to talk on the defendant's behalf. This time also, the Jordanian media gave the hearing major coverage. As before, the judge listened for hours to evidence only from the Islamists, and then adjourned the case until two days after the election. "My sister returned from the second hearing shocked and scared. She said it was like the Middle Ages; it was a witch-hunt. What was equally scary was how well organized the hate campaign was. "Then a day before the election, and after these public performances, the judge announced that he was turning down the case. He said it was not because I was not guilty but because his court did not have thejurisdiction to try a case of apostasy. But he would have known that from the beginning. The case was referred to the Appeals Court because if I were found guilty, they would be the court that would have to dissolve my marriage." (Jordan's legal system is a complex and often contradictory mix of Ottoman, British, and Islamic law.)
The Appeals Court heard the case in camera, and demonstrations were limited to outside the courthouse. "When the clerics' lawyer began with Islamic slogans again, he was told that no more evidence was allowed." The three Appeal Courtjudges found Faisal not guilty. The fundamentalists, however, refused to give up. Claiming the authorities had pressured the court and certainly the king had been embarrassed by the case and had warned against "those who exploit religion for political designs" the Islamists asked parliament for a retrial at another court. "The case was accepted, and again dismissed in early iggo," said Faisal.
"This campaign against me, however, has never ended. Ever since then, they attack me from every corner." Despite her journalist contacts and sources, Faisal has not been able to learn which Islamist organization was behind the campaign against her. "Throughout the entire hearings, they never declared themselves. They simply said they represented the people. To this day, I do not know who masterminded it or funded it."'Fhe Muslim Brotherhood publicly opposed the case against Faisal at the time. Jordanians I spoke to saw their stance as a tactical move. "-They didn't want to lose female votes in the ig8g elections."
For Faisal, the issue of who organized the crusade against her has been superseded by the damage it has done. "I was found innocent," she said, "but many of the punishments asked for by the fundamentalists at the beginning of this case have been carried out by these extremists.
" I can no longer get a job in television. I was told, 'I can't put you on the screen, I have to appease these people.' No one will publish my articles for the same reason. I have a Master's degree in English, so I applied for teaching jobs at the university, at community colleges, at schools. No one will hire me. The director of one college admitted they had been warned by the fundamentalists not to hire me, but he said he would ignore it if' the other board members agreed. 'they refused. They were scared.
"It was the same when I received invitations to speak in the private sector. They would receive bookings, and then they would have to cancel me. Each time I was told that they received threats that my lecture would be violently disrupted.
"The extremists used the same intimidation tactics against my husband. He was fired from the medical college because of the threats from the extremists. So many of his patients were threatened that he was forced to sell his clinic.
Hymen Restoration in Marriage
As the Islamist pendulum swings wildly back and forth in Jordanian society, some things remain the same. A Jordanian woman marrying for the first time, no matter what her age, must be a virgin. And if she isn't, it is a simple matter to become one again. Hymenorrhaphy, or hymen restoration, is a medical procedure offered in countries throughout the Islamic world. It takes just a few minutes, in Amman costs $300, and is done on an outpatient basis and without anesthesia. "It is quite common in Jordan," said Dr. Efteem Azar, one of the country's leading obstetrician/gynecologists. "It is a very simple procedure and quickly done. Anesthesia isn't necessary because if you work with a very fine needle it is less painful than an injection of painkiller would be. Hymenorrhaphy must be done three to seven days before the wedding, because the tissue is simply pulled together and the procedure doesn't last."
Another service gynecologists in Muslim countries are called on to supply is post-wedding night verification that the bride was a virgin before the event. "It is not uncommon for a gynecologist to find in his office a blushing young bi-ide surrounded by a whole horde of'male relatives demanding that she be examined," says Dr. Azar. She did not bleed during sexual intercourse on her wedding night, and the men all want to know why.
"You always have to favor the girl, because if you don't, she'll be killed by her family. Sometimes, if the girl has the opportunity, she'll beg you to cover for her. They are very frightened, they know they wi 'll be killed. So you tell the male relatives the bride had an elastic hymen, which many women do anyway, and in such cases she wouldn't bleed.
"Honor killings are still carried out in Jordan. A family will arrange for an underage brother or male relative to do it. Then when there is an investigation, nothing happens. The case is dropped."
Ahmedi Begum The Grandmother who was Raped and Tortured
"It happened at such a happy time," says Ahmedi Begum. "I was so proud. I had just beconie a grandmother for the first time, a boy, praise be to God. My daughter was still in this bed recovering froni the delivery," she says, patting the simple wooden bed covered with a quilt s lie embroidered herself that we are both sitting on. Ahmedi, now a sixty-year-old widow, was waiting for her nephew, Tufail, to return with a bag of cement for some repairs he planned to do in the courtyard. 'That she cares about her little home in Bukarmandi, a middle-class area of Lahore, is evident. Her tiny living room-cum-master bedroom is spotless, the turquoise paint on the walls bright, and there is lace trimming the shelves that house her collection of dishes and glassware. Her nephew returned 'ust as she was opening the gate to visitors. 'I'wo women in their twenties, both completely veiled, wanted to rent the upstairs section of' the house that Ahmedi had been trying to lease because she needed the income. "I didn't know them, but they seemed honest and I was about to show them the rooms when there was a commotion outsi 'de and several policemen burst into the courtyard. In the shouting and confusion they arrested the two women and my nephew. He was just standing there holding the cement. When her son-in-law came home from work later that afternoon, Ahmedi and he visited the police station to find out what had happeiied. The arrest didn't make sense since 'I'ufail and the women were strangers to one another. Even now, five years later, Ahmedi Begum finds it hard to talk about what happened next. "The police put me into a separate room and told me they were arresting me, too. I was shocked. 'I'm a respectable woman who has lived a respectable life. You have made a mistake,' I told them. 'You must let me go.' But they ignored what I said. 'They even took away my earrings and bracelets, my wedding gold. When the officer-in-charge came, I told him the same thing:
'I'm a grandmother, a widow, a respectable woman, why are you keeping me here?' He said they would free me in a little while." As Ahmedi talks, her work-worn hands turn over and over in her lap. "As I was sitting there waiting, one of the police opened the door and said, 'If you want these other women, here they are,' and they pushed them into the room. 'They were naked, bleeding.... They raped them again in front of'me. I covered my eyes," says Ahmedi, unconsciously doing the same thing again. "I couldn't watch." Her anguished response angered the officers. Ahmedi was forced to her knees, her ai-ms pulled to her sides. "Why are you covering your eyes? Watch it, watch it!" she was told. Then, while they still held her, a police officer thrust his penis into her mouth. "-I-hey were laughing and shouting 'suck, suck,"' says Ahmedi, as the tears slide down her face. "I, who have never known any man's body except my husband's. Such shame, such shame. I was a grandmother, a woman of honor. But they weren't finished with me." just like the other two captives, the five-foot-tall widow was stripped and, like them, she was held down while one officer after another repeatedly raped her. "It went on for hours, and the same with the other girls. I cried, I prayed, I asked God why. I don't know how many policemen came through that room that night. It could have been fifty. I will never forget their laughter, their shouting." Ahmedi thought it was over when they dragged her outside. "It was morning and I believed they would let me go," she recalls. "But they threw me on the ground, and holding me facedown, they began to beat my whole body with a wide leather strap. I thought they would kill me. Suddenly the beating stopped.... Then I screamed and screamed. I felt as though my insides were on fire. I have never known such pain." A police officer had forced a lathi, an oversize truncheon, covered in fiery chili paste, into Ahmedi's rectum. It was done with such violence that her rectum was ruptured, and the chill paste burned like acid on the lacerated tissue. Mercifully, Ahmedi passed out. When she regained consciousness several hours later she was in Kot Lokhpat Women's Prison. "I couldn't walk, I couldn't speak, my mouth was too swollen. My clothes were covered in blood." Ahmedi lay almost motionless for days in her cell until a government minister made a VIP tour of the jail. During his visit, prisoners were required to sit on the ground with their criminal files in front of them. "He saw the blood on me and spoke to me, but because of my mouth I couldn't reply," says Ahmedi. "He ordered a doctor to see me." He also ordered the police commissioner of Lahore to investigate the matter.
The medical report detailed the savage assault and documented that Ahmedi had been subject to "severe sexual torture." The other two women in the case had been charged with "roaming about," which can be viewed as prostitution in Pakistan. At the same time, Ahmedi learned that she was in prison charged with zina.
Zina, sex outside of wedlock, encompasses adultery, fornication, and rape, and its maximum punishment in Pakistan is stoning to death for those who are married. For unmarried transgressors, the punishment is up to one hundred lashes, and ten years' imprisonment.
Under the law as it stands in Pakistan, women who have been raped can be charged with adultery or fornication. The proof required for zina is that there be four Muslim adult males of "good repute" present who can attest to the act of sexual penetration. No male witnesses of good repute, of course, are likely to stand and watch a rape in progress without trying to stop it. And because of this requirement it becomes impossible to punish the rapists. Instead, the victim is prosecuted. Her legal complaint of rape is considered a confession of illicit sexual intercourse.
This is exactly what happened to sixteen-year-old Safia Bibi in 1983. Virtually blind, Safia was employed as a domestic in the home of a local landowner. She was raped first by her employer's son, and then by her employer. As a result, she became pregnant and subsequently gave birth to an illegitimate child. Safia's father registered a case of rape for his daughter. The judge, however, acquitted both the son and the father because there were not four male witnesses to attest to the assaults. Safia's pregnancy, though, was deemed in court evidence of fornication. In sentencing her to three years' rigorous imprisonment, a public flogging, and a fine of Rs. 1,000, the judge stated he was giving the handicapped teenager a "light sentence" because of her young age and near blindness.
In Ahmedi's case, she spent three months in Kot Lokhpat jail. She was released on bail after Asma jahangir, a human rights activist and lawyer, took up her case. The Lahore grandmother was finally acquitted three years later. But in that time, her son-in-law abandoned and then divorced her daughter because he felt shamed by the gossip.
Ahmedi is still under treatment for a chronically ulcerated rectum.
She also suffers from constant back pain from the beating, as well as high blood pressure and frequent nightmares. She believes she was arrested because shortly before the incident she had refused to rent out rooms to a police officer from the station where she was assaulted. Compounding her health problems were the visits she received from the police several times after she was acquitted. "They offered us thousands of rupees to drop the case against them, but they never gave back my dowry jewelry. I told them my honor is more important than their blood money. 'I'he last time they came, a police official said to me, '- These men cannot be punished. It is bad for the country, and will bring a bad name for the police, if they are."' The officers involved in the attack were charged but never tried. 'They were transferred outside the city to different parts of the provitice, as was the trial. The witnesses could not afford the frequent travel to the new location in Rawalpindi, seven hours' drive away. Such ploys are commonly used in Pakistan in cases against the police. 'Tragically, Ahmedi's case is not an isolated one. Seventy-two percent of all women in Pakistan in police custody are physically and sexually abused, according to lawyer Asma jahangir, who is also cofounder of Women's Action Forum, a national women's rights organization. Equally shocking is the fact that 75 percent of all women in jail in Pakistan are there under charges of zina. "Many can serve months, even years, waiting for their trials to be heard," adds Hina Jilani, Jahangir's sister, and a fellow human rights activist and lawyer. But it isn't 'ust law enforcers who see rape as a fringe benefit of the'tr positions. Iii a country where a woman's chastity, purity, and honor must be preserved at all costs, even to death, women are sub'ect to sexual assault almost dally, as Pakistan's newspapers attest. And it is ati easy crime to commit because punishment for men is so rare. Rape is a weapon commonly used for revenge. In August 1991, twenty-six men raped Allah Wasai, a woman who was eight months pregnant, to settle a score with her father-in-law. After the attack, she was paraded naked through her Community. In November of that same year, two young women were subject to nearly identical barbaric assaults. In each case the young woman was gang-raped by eight men, and then had her nose amputated. "To cut off someone's nose is a figure of speech in Pakistan that means to humiliate someone. The attacks in both cases were reprisals aimed at the women's brothers. Iii neither incident did the police conduct an investigation. "'These kinds of'attacks against women are meant to humiliate and demean their menfolk," says a spokeswoman of War Against Rape, an organization based in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, who was too nervous to give her name in case she became a victim of revenge herself'.
"It seems to be done with the same kind of motivation that makes kids who are angry with you go out and damage your property. No thought is ever given to the woman involved." Rape is also employed as a weapon by political opponents. In April 1992, twenty female polling agents, including a former woman politician, were raped during a local election in Sindh Province in an organized effort to disrupt voting. One newspaper editorial commented at the time: "It appears that the Sindh government has once again reaffirmed its faith in using rape as an effective tool of political manipulation." Political use of assault on women made international news not so long ago when Veena Hayat, a longtime close friend of then opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, was gang-raped by five armed men who broke into her home. The attack on such a prominent woman, which led to demonstrations and a hunger strike by Pakistan's women activists, was allegedly carried out at the behest of the president's son-in-law. During the twelve-hour ordeal, the victim was repeatedly questioned about the activities and visitors of Benazir Bhutto. Once again, no one was arrested. Other common reasons for rape are family feuds and revenge against a family that has defaulted on a debt. Majida Abdullah was eleven years old when she was abducted by her father's eniplovers. A bonded laborer in a brick kiln an occupation likened to slavery in Pakistan her father owed money he was unable to pay. Majida was held for two months, repeatedly raped by her captors, one of whom was a government "anticorruption" official. She was also threatened with being sold into prostitution slavery. When her family tried to bring a case of rape against the landowners, Majida was charged with zina and jailed. Four years later, and now out on bail, her case is still pending. Yet again, her attackers went free. After the attack, Majida tried to commit suicide. "Pakistan is not a place for woinen. My life is over. Because these men were rich and I am poor, they considered nie the same as the bricks in their factory I was their property," she said. In Pakistan, rape is also utilized as a show of raw power,
Marriage to Minors in Iran
Khomeini lowered the marriage age for females from eighteen to thirteen, but permitted girls as young as nine, even seven in some cases, to be married if a physician signs a certificate agreeing to their sexual maturity. "In his book Tahrir Al' Vassilih, Khomeini writes about the legal requirement for having sex with children," explained a woman lawyer who is concerned that child brides are dying since this ruling was instituted. "In villages where child marriage is most common, doctors often don't even see the girl," she told me. "They just take the family's word that she is physically mature enough to marry. Consequently, we have had very young girls badly injured and when they have had what amounts to forced intercourse. Infection sets in and they have died." "Only with girls under seven did the Ayatollah say that sex was forbidden." The lawyer was reluctant to give her name as women only recently have been allowed to practice law again. Women lawyers and judges were banned at the beginning of the Revolution, and Iran still has only male judges, most of whom are mullahs. Other changes that were made by the regime concerning marriage included husbands being able to divorce their wives legally without their consent or without informing them beforehand, whereas divorce for women was made almost impossible to obtain. "Women were not given the right to instigate divorce because they are prone to emotional and irrational decision making," said the head of Iran's Supreme Court, Ayatollah Ali Moghtadai in 1992. The law requiring a husband to have his wife's consent before taking a second wife was reversed. Child custody was given to the husband after the child was over the age of two, and if the husband died, the child went to his or her paternal grandfather. To this day, the mother is not considered a suitable guardian in Iran. Similarly, in a divorce case, any property goes to the husband's father should the husband die. Under Khomeini, adultery was strictly outlawed, and punishable by flogging or death by stoning. And men were legally permitted to kill their wives if they were unfaithful, which led to cases of women being killed when spouses were suspicious only. Couples today are still stopped on the street or in a car and asked to produce documents proving that they are closely related, such as husband and wife, father and daughter, or brother and sister. Unrelated men and women are forbidden to be together. Women have been banned from attending soccer games because the players wear shorts. Even Tehran's ski slopes are segregated, despite the fact that women skiers are required to wear Islamic dress over their thick ski clothes. Young unmarried women found at parties are given automatic virginity tests. If found not to be virgo-intacta, they are given a choice of one hundred lashes or forcibly marrying the man they are with at the party.
Death of a Princess
Perhaps the most publicized execution in recent years was that of Princess Misha'il bint Fahd bin Mohammad, who was the subject of the Western television docudrama Death of a Princess. Saudis close to the royal family with whom I discussed her 1977 execution claimed she would not have died if her elderly grandfather, Prince Mohammad ibn Abdul Aziz, had not insisted on it when he learned she had committed adultery. Other senior family members tried to talk him out of'it. But the rigid conservative and brother of the king refused, and did not even invoke Shariah law.
For him, the princess's adultery had shamed the family's tribe, and f'or that he demanded her execution to uphold tribal honor. "Prince Mohammad was an old man, and easily shocked," one woman told ine. "Everyone in the family tried to change his mind, but he felt Misha'il had committed the worst sin.
Even the Prophet tried hard to avoid having a woman stoned when she came to him and admitted committing adultery. Twice he turned his head to one side, so he couldn't hear her confession. It was only when she told him the third time, when she insisted on her punishment, that he ordered her to be stoned."
The princess had been married to a much older relative, who reportedly showed little interest in her. She turned for affection to a man much closer to her age, but the relationship did not go undetected. And when Misha'il tried to flee the country in the company of her lover, they were arrested at the airport. Because of the princess's royal birth, she was shot to death; her companion was beheaded. As in other conservative Muslim countries, judicial stonings occur rarely. -Tribal honor killings f'or adultery, such as that of Princess Misha'll, take place more frequently.
The Saudis tried to keep the execution a secret because Misha'il was royalty, but it was captured on videotape by a foreign visitor. The subsequent British television movie based on the incident was aired widely in Europe and the United States. Saudi Arabia's royal family was so enraged that they appealed to Downing Street.
Next Year in Jerusalem
Hamas considers the unveiled as collaborators
of a kind.
It is our religious duty to execute collaborators.
HAMAS GRAFFITI, GAZA
AS BORDER CROSSINGS GO, the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and Israel is unprepossessing. The rickety wood slatted bridge with its institutional-green metal supports is barely the length of the aged bus ferrying travellers - The River Jordan it spans is about seven feet wide and looks to be knee-deep. What is memorable about traveling from Jordan to Israel, however, is not the scenery, but how the crossing is conducted. Segregation begins at the border Arabs to the left, all other nationalities to the right. The journey from Amman to Jerusalem is only forty-two miles on good roads. But it can take seven hours or more, with most of that time spent sweltering in the heat through what may be the toughest security examinations in the world. For holders of Palestinian travel documents, that same trip may take as long as a week, or even two, depending on the time of the year. When I crossed, in late August, Jordanian newspapers were reporting that twenty thousand Palestinians were camping out for that length of time at the bridge waiting to enter Israel. Many of them were returning from the Haj pilgrimage. The backup occurred as Israeli border authorities arbitrarily changed the nuniber of Palestinians they would permit to enter on a given day. "It may be three thousand, fifteen hundred, orjust eight hundred," I was told. "They are equally arbitrary about the times the border is open. It's supposed to be eight a.m.. to two p.m., but they frequently close it at eleven a.m. or twelve p.m."
Inside the large warehouse-type sheds used for immigration and security, Americans of Arab origin are culled again from the lines containing mostly Western tourists. Once a Palestinian, always a Palestinian, no matter the passport he or she carries, has long been the philosophy of the day. Shunted to one side, they are curtly told to wait. "You have to understand, we must be very careful," a young female guard told me. "Israel has many security problems. If we make a mistake here, many people Israelis, tourists may be killed."
Outside the immigration shed, Star of David flags fly from rooftops. Arab communal taxis take passengers the short distance from the Allenby Bridge to Jerusalem via Jericho. Reportedly the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world, Jericho is impoverished and scruffy, as are most Arab towns in the Occupied Territories. A few miles on, one passes the pristine settlement of Ma'ale Adummim. One of the largest jewish settlements in the West Bank, it was expensively built and is expensively maintained. Ma'ale Adummim demonstrates clearly that the term "settlement" is a misnomer; this is not a small community but a complete new town. Such settlements cover entire hilltop ridges throughout the Occupied Territories and use most of these regions' resources. The River Jordan is little more than a trickle today because most of its water is now piped to Tel Aviv and Jewish settlements in the West Bank. When Arab wells in the region run dry, Israeli law forbids the sinking of new ones. The Arabs' Jewish neighbors in the new settlements enjoy the luxury of swimming pools, and regularly water their lawns. Today, only 4 percent of Arab-owned irrigated farms receive irrigation water. Minutes later, Jerusalem comes into view. The high-rise buildings of the modern metropolis disappear into a distant heat haze. In the foreground is the crenellated wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. This ancient city, which can be traversed on foot in twenty minutes, is the center of three of the world's most important religions. Here is the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorrow), which leads from Gethsemane, where Christ was arrested, to Calvary, where he was crucified. A short walk away is the large Dome of the Rock mosque, whose golden cupola dominates Jerusalem's skyline. The blue-mosaic mosque is one of the more beautiful in the Islamic world, and it is built over the rock from which the Prophet Mohammad is said to have ascended to heaven; hence its name. The third-holiest shrine in the Muslim world after Mecca and Medina, the mosque stands on the platform where the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, once stood. Immediately below it is the Walling Wall, believed to be a retaining wall for the temple. The Temple Mount above, a quadrangle between the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, is the most sacred site for Jews.
The proximity of such sacred sites has been perilous for both the Muslim and Jewish religions. One of the more violent occasions was the Temple Mount massacre on October 8, 1990, when it was rumored that Messianic Jews planned to lay a cornerstone for the Third Jewish Temple. The fundamentalist Jewish sect, known as "The Faithful of the Temple Mount," has long spoken of its plans to do so, and maps sold throughout Jerusalem show a Jewish temple in place of the mosque. A Muslim crowd, armed with stones, gathered between the two mosques to halt such an act. Fearing attacks on Jews praying at the Wall below, Israeli border guards sprayed the Muslims with automatic gunfire, even shooting at ambulances and wounding medical personnel. When it was all over, 21 Palestinians were dead, and 145 were injured. The initial comment of the Israeli authorities was as follows: "Fortunately, no one [meaning no Israeli] was killed." The government later refused to accept a U.N. investigating commission into the incident.
"The tragic event at Temple Mount galvanized the Palestinian resistance movement, breathing new life into the Intifada and especially into its Islamic vanguard, the fundamentalist movement, Hamas," says Dr. Scott Appleby of the U.S. Fundamentalist Project. "The October eighth confrontation unleashed what Hamas has termed 'The War of Knives' a new round of knifings and reprisals in the Occupied 'Territories and in Israel proper."
The Islamic Resistance Movement, known by its Arabic acronym, Hamas, was born at the same time as the Intifada, in December 1987. But its founder, religious sheikh Ahmed Yassin, with longtime connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, had formed its forerunner fourteen years before to strengthen Islamist values in Gaza. Ironically, that earlier movement was supported by Israel, who viewed it as welcome opposition to the PLO. Today, fundamentalist Hamas is a major organization in the Occupied Territories, and a challenger to PLO leadership.
When the Middle East peace talks began, Hamas increased its level of violence against Israelis in an effort to derail any chance of a settlement, to which they are violently opposed. As their attacks on Israelis escalated at the end of 1992, Jewish authorities arrested1,400 Hamas members and deported 415 of them to Lebanon. The peace negotiations immediately floundered. The strategies of both the PLO and Hamas have been hauntingly similar to those employed by Jewish factions during the struggle against the British for the creation of a State of Israel in 1948. Radical extremists in the Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, bombed and assassinated their way to an independent state, while the moderate Jewish Agency and its military branch, Haganah, took the path of political negotiation, according to Israeli historian Yehoshua Porat in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor newspaper. "The Haganah was more moderate in its use of force, while the Irgun was more extreme, and much readier to use violence," he explained. The PLO, like the Haganah, is prepared to accept a two-state solution. Hamas, on the other hand, demands the abolition of Israel, just as Irgun insisted on the whole of Israel. Even the mass deportations are similar. In an effort to break up Irgun leadership, the British deported four hundred Irgun members to East Africa without trials.
Palestinian women today live under a double burden: the Israeli Occupation and cultural patriarchy, which has increased with the growing Islamic fundamentalism. "As Arab women we have two battles, one against the Israeli Occupation, and the other against the fundamentalists," says Fawdah Labadi, whose two brothers have been deported for life, one of whom had married only a month earlier. His new bride was not permitted to go with him. Labadi is an unpaid spokeswoman for the Women's Studies Center, a research and resource organization in the West Bank. Commenting on the role of Palestinian women in a future state, she laughed wryly, "It's on our agenda that women should participate, but eighty-five percent of our men don't want women to rise. They want to be able to dominate them, and overcoming this attitude will not be easy." A former schoolteacher, Labadi was fired from her position by the Israelis because they claimed that the Women Teachers' Union, of which she was a member, was a political movement. "All we were trying to do was improve our working conditions. Our salaries were half what the Israelis were getting. Instead, I ended up being forbidden to work or travel. I've been appealing to the High Court since 1988, but until now they have not scheduled a hearing or produced any proof against me. With my brothers deported, I became a major breadwinner for the family. Now that I am not able to work, it is very difficult financially for us to survive, and we are trying to grow our food. I have received a scholarship from England to do my Master's, but I have not been able to get permission from the Israelis to go. "The hatred and the violence ... there has been so much abuse on both sides. Jews and Muslims lived together before, and I would like to think they can again. The problem is, Will Jews and Muslims forgive each other for these years? I fear not. The fundamentalists on both sides, Muslim and Jew, are really the ones keeping the fighting going." Palestinian women have long participated in their nationalist movement, and many removed their hijabs for the first time in demonstrations against the creation of Israel in 1948. Despite this, in the first year of the Intifada, Hamas zealots, many mere teenage boys, forced women in Gaza, where the extremists then had more control, to wear the Islamic head covering again. Having achieved that goal, Hamas then insisted that women wear the full-length Islamic coat or abaya, and more recently women have been bullied into wearing face veils and gloves. In Gaza today it is rare to find a woman who does not dress like her counterpart in Saudi Arabia. In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, an estimated 50 percent of women are now vel 'led, and that number is steadily growing even in towns like Ramallah, where not so long ago Arab women could and did wear shorts. In june 1992, an international festival of women's films and books, the first of its kind and one that was expected to be an annual event, had to be closed down after its organizers received threats. "The extremists claimed the films were inappropriate," said Suha Hindlyeh Mani, the head of the Palestinian Women's Studies Center, who organized it. "They said if Palestinian women want to learn about divorce, marriage, et cetera, they must not do it from foreigners. Ironically, the films had been shown in Gaza without any problems, although they did generate a lot of debate among members of the audience. But the school in Ramallah where we planned to show them in the West Bank received threats, so we were forced to close the festival." Palestinian society was long considered secular, but this has been changing. "Palestinians are again embracing Islam. In another generation, Islam will govern here," said one Islamist. Certainly, pressure from Islamist organizations like Hamas is reshaping Palestinian society. And as always, they are doing so with substantial funding from the Gulf states. Charities and institutions run by such groups arc proliferating, and they now operate the best schools, clinics, and hospitals for Palestinians. The increasing budget of Hamas was particularly important at a time when the PLO was forced to cut back on funding to needy Palestinians. There were also indications that Arafat's power in the Occupied Territories was waning, and this was exacerbated by his recent fragile health. And as his position within the organization was perceived to be weakening, so, too, did the role of the PLO in the lives of Palestinians. A younger generation is finding the religious extremists' virulent anti-Israel rhetoric and militancy far more appealing than peace negotiations. For many years, Palestinians were considered among the most educated of Muslim women. With the advent of the Intifada, women and girls were active participants in the uprising. According to a U.N. study on the status of Palestinian females in 1990, 10 percent of the fatalities and 23 percent of the injured in the first three years of the Intifada were women. Women are frequently arrested, and, like men, frequently tortured, often without being charged with any crime. The incarceration rate of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories has been the highest in the world in the first two years of the Intifada, one in six of all Palestinian males between the ages of fourteen and fifty-five were jailed under Israeli emergency laws. For Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East jerusalem, having a prison record is a common denominator, like having brown eyes or black hair. lt is almost impossible to find a family who has not had at least one member incarcerated in an Israeli prison or military detention center. Being female has not been grounds for special treatment from the Israeli security forces. Intisar El-Qaq, a social work student from Silwan, East Jerusalem, was in the early stages of pregnancy with her first child when she was arrested at the age of nineteen. Despite her condition, she was kept in solitary confinement, her hands and feet were shackled, and she was denied exercise, a suitable diet, and sufficient medical supervision. 'Throughout her labor, her legs were cuffed to the hospital bed. Khitam Moluch, a thirty-five-year-old mother of five from Beit Anan in the West Bank, was arrested for embroidery. Together with the relief agency World Vision, she had organized a Palestinian folklore bazaar to raise money to buy educational materials and food for a village kindergarten. Hours after the bazaar opened, police stormed it. Moluch was arrested, and bazaar items such as wall hangings, scarves, and so on, were confiscated. Why? The offending embroidery had been done with red, green, black, and white threads, the colors of the banned Palestinian flag. She, too, served time in jail And the same day that Ferry Boullata had a liver biopsy, and was still bleeding from the operation and unable to walk unassisted, the twenty-three-year-old was arrested. In that condition, she was interrogated and then confined to what is known in Israeli detention as the "coffin." The container, made of'concrete with a steel door, measures 6 feet by 2 feet by 2.6 feet. "It is like a tomb," said -i'erry, who was then a research assistant f'or the Palestinian Human Rights Information Center. "It is completely dark; there are three or four small airholes near the top that are too high to see out. The coffin is very hot and reeks of human excrement. Prisoners have to eat, sleep, and shit standing in the coffin." Terry had originally been arrested two years previously, after representing the Palestinian Students' Union at a conference in Greece. On her return, she was accused of meeting Arab organizations in Greece and engaging in political activity. On subsequent arrests, she was accused of being a leader of the Intifada. "But they accuse nearly everyone they imprison of that," said Terry. On that first occasion, she was placed in solitary confinement in an underground cell 9 feet long and 4 feet wide. "Every twenty-four hours is like twenty-four years," she recalled. "You are told only your tongue will save you, nobody knows where you are, and you will die alone unless you talk. In the summer, it is so hot and humid, and insects crawl on you. In the winter, your breath freezes. You lose track of the days; all you know is that the Shin Bet [General Security Services] come and take you time after time for interrogation. I was threatened with rape. I was also hooded and chained to a bar in the same position for hours." The hood, made of a felt-like material and usually dampened, tightens over the heads as it dries and makes the wearer feel as though he or she is being suffocated. Prisoners describe the hood as smelling of perspiration and vomit, which further nauseates the wearer. "There is no shame in saying that the first time you are jailed, you are frightened to death. And every time they come to arrest you after that, you are very scared," said Terry. During her first prison experience, 'Terry began to experience joint pain, and then edema of her limbs. Eventually she collapsed and was finally hospitalized.
"My arms and legs blew up, they were enormous. My hands were double their normal size. As they cuffed me to the hospital bed, I screamed with pain. The cuffs were cutting into my flesh. One policeman realized I couldn't walk, so I couldn't escape, and he took the cuffs off'. When his colleague returned, he chained me again." The prison doctor told 'Terry she needed more complicated tests than they could do, and since he could do nothing further for her, she was returned to her cell. Almost immediately, the Shin Bet came to interrogate her again. "By this time, I was in such agony, I was sobbing. I told them, 'Don't do any more, just let me die in peace."' Shortly after, she was can released until her health improved, and was immediately hospitalized for two months. Terry was eventually diagnosed as having developed chronic active hepatitis and Crohn's disease, a painful autoimmune condition in which the body attacks its own digestive system and can cause internal hemorrhaging. She also had developed arthritis, which frequently accompanies Crohn's disease in women. The stress she experienced from her prison conditions is believed to have helped trigger her autoimmune problem. Because of her poor health, she required regular blood monitoring tests and the liver biopsy that she had just undergone when she was arrested again. "When they put me in the coffin, I thought it was all over. I couldn't breathe, I was gasping for air. I kept banging on the door. Eventually, one of the guards opened the door. 'Aren't you dead yet?' he asked me. He could see I was having trouble breathing." 'Ferry collapsed and lost consciousness. The following day, she was again hospitalized. Shortly after, through human rights activists, French President Mitterrand learned of her case. "Yitzhak Rabin was visiting France at the nine, and his trip coincided with the first TV news footage showing Israeli soldiers deliberately breaking the arms of' boys in the Intifada. He was not well received. Perhaps because of this and Mitterrand's personal intervention, Rabin gave orders from Paris for me to be released." Terry was flown to France and later Chicago for medical treatment. She was eventually given a fourteen-month sentence that was suspended for three years. As with most such court hearings, no proof against her was offered. According to the Al-Haq Human Rights Organization, which is affiliated with the International Commission of jurists in Geneva, under emergency laws in the Occupied Territories, administrative detention and deportation can be solely for unspecified "security reasons." "The Israeli military commander just has to have reason to believe a person is a threat. They do not have to disclose evidence. In fact, evidence is considered classified information. It is that simple," said Dr. Said Zeedani, director of Al-Haq. "- The most you can do is get a lawyer and challenge the charge in the High Court, but even then, evidence against you is not disclosed."
Today, Terry, twenty-six, is married and the mother of a healthy daughter, but even her wedding was delayed for two weeks when her husband was arrested at a road block "on suspicion" as he was driving to the ceremony. "I was following in the vehicle behind his, dressed in my wedding clothes. They held him eight days. I was very nervous. When we finally got married, he was under town arrest. And then for what would have been our honeymoon, there was a twenty-two-hour daily curfew. We had been married eighty days when my husband was arrested again, and he was detained without charges for ten months. So far, he has been arrested ten times.
"Of course I feel bitter, although I try to retain a sense of humor you have to try. But I would so like to have a normal, ordinary life to make a lunch date with a friend and know they won't be arrested before we meet, to plan a picnic and not have it cancelled because your community is placed under collective town arrest or because of a curfew. My husband said to me once, 'You know, 'Terry, all I really want is to walk with you and the baby freely in Jerusalem. Not have to apply for a permit to go there and probably have it refused.'
"I hope my daughter gets the chance to live in a dignified, respectful way," says Terry, who was born one year before the Occupation began. "I may not live to see the dream of freedom come true. I can only hope in her lifetime it does. But I do know that freedom is never freely given. You have to fight for it."
Women's groups are also frequently targeted, and members are detained on suspicion of political activities against the state of Israel. Zahira Kamel, the forty-seven-year-old head of the Palestinian Federation of Women's Action Committees and an adviser to the Palestine peace delegation, has been arrested and jailed three times, but never charged. From June 1980 until March 1987, she was also placed under town arrest, the longest such arrest for any Palestinian. Town arrest meant being confined to her small village near Ramallah in the West Bank for seven years, and from sunset to sunrise for that period being confined to her home. Additionally, she had to report to the police twice dally, and was subject to frequent unscheduled visits from the police to her home. What were the charges against her. "The order stated simply, 'for security reasons.' No further explanations, no proof, et cetera offered," she said. Kamel's Women's Federation was originally established to help change the role of women in Palestinian society. It offers social and legal advice to its members, and because so many men are imprisoned, teaches women skills to help them support their families when the customary breadwinner is absent. Since the Intifada, Kamel has observed many changes in the lives of Palestinian women. "Illiteracy has increased due to so many schools being closed by the Israeli authorities for long periods of time, and families frequently choose to keep girl students home because of the violence. [In one year, high schools were permitted to be open for only twenty days, elementary schools for thirty-five. And Bir Zelt University only recently reopened after a four-and-a-half-year closure.] The marriage age has decreased in an effort to keep girls from participating in demonstrations. Marriages are now arranged for girls at sixteen rather than at the previously more common twenty. Polygamy has increased, encouraged by the Islamists. And there has been a dramatic increase in domestic violence." A Palestinian study showed that in two or three of every ten marriages Arab women are now subject to domestic abuse: "Houses are small here, often only one room. When there are a lot of curfews, men are locked at home with their families, and tensions rise. During curfew, it is forbidden even to use one's backyard or balcony. Violators are shot, as was one woman in Nablus who was sitting on her balcony breast-feeding her baby. She was killed, the infant survived. When violence is used against a people, when they are treated inhumanly and humiliated, they themselves become more violent." 'This also applies to the Israeli forces themselves. In a twenty-six year occupation, both sides were exposed to ever-increasing hatred and brutality. In the Gaza refugee camps, throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers was a daily event, and a ritual the Israeli troops, often the same age as the Palestinian youths, came to dread. Increasingly, too, rocks were replaced by knifings, petrol bombs, and gunfire. Armed Palestinian groups such as the Red Eagles and Black Panthers, and known collectively as the "Red Intifada," triggered special undercover Israeli commando units whose 'ob it was to combat them. "Stones and bullets and sudden death in the Gaza are so common that foreign newspapers have long stopped bothering to record them, except on days when the casualty counts are so high they cannot be ignored," reported the New York Times in early 1993-
Many Palestinian scholars feel that the brutalizing of Arab men by Israeli forces has contributed to the increasing popularity of Hamas, particularly the fundamentalists' campaign against women. "Part of what we are seeing now regarding women and Hamas is a psychological backlash," says Dr. Suha Sabbagh, the Palestinian executive director of the Institute for Arab Women's Studies in Washington, D.C. "The Palestinian male, a father, the authority figure in the house, has lost all his authority. At work in Israel, in the streets, Palestinian men have been continuously pushed around, humiliated, treated very badly by the security forces, and have been unable to resist. Much of this belittling has taken place in front of their children and their womenfolk. The Israelis have used public humiliation as a systematic policy of cutting down the image of Palestinian men as the hero figure in the family. For Arab men, that is the same as losing their masculinity.
"At the same time, there have been tremendous gender shifts in relations between Palestinian men and women. Arab women risking their lives by participating in the Intifada were less likely to bow to former Muslim traditions." As forty-three-year-old Rehab Essawi, a woman professor on the West Bank, whose entire adult life has been dominated by her loved ones being in prison, told me, "I had a country and its name was changed. We have political parties, but they are banned, so we cannot say if or to which one we belong. I cannot stand in front of you and say who I am. Women started organizing in small groups for sewing and knitting, then they became politicized and participated in the Intifada. Women were also the ones who answered the knocks at the door in the middle of the night, to protect their men from arrest. After all this, women had to be given their rights.
"Do you think one of my brothers can say to me today, 'Get out of bed and prepare food for me'? Before they did force me, slap me, and say, 'This is the right of men."'
"Honor, too, began to shift from the value placed on a woman's virginity to how much she had done to liberate her land," said Dr. Sabbagh. Women who were sexually assaulted during interrogation and torture sessions in prison were less frequently ostracized by their communities afterward. The Israeli army, however, may be the only one's in the world routinely to sexually expose themselves and begin to masturbate as a means to disperse Arab women demonstrators or groups of women. "Men were also away from home a lot, either in prison or in the Gulf trying to earn a living, and children began taking orders from their mothers," explains Dr. Sabbagh. "When men returned home, they felt left out, and that they were no longer respected by their wives or children. "Another factor was that the Intifada raised hope. It brought about greater recognition of the Palestinian plight by the world outside. Palestinians believed the uprising would be a solution to a lifetime of oppression. When there appeared to be no change, something had to give. Instead, men began returning to religion as a solution. Hamas told them that it was correct for them to bring their women home. Men were told to remove their women from the political arena, bring them back into the home, and once that happened, the old order of women obeying men would be reestablished." Dr. Sabbagh feels that women, too, are partially responsible for their recent regression under the fundamentalists. "Women's involvement in the Intifada initially was very spontaneous. As the uprising became more organized, the Unified Palestinian Leadership did not provide the kind of programs necessary to keep the women's activities going. It was a secondary issue to them. In the focus on national liberation, the needs of women were ignored. Consequently, many women felt they were no longer a part of the uprising and returned home." The Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) was also very slow in speaking out against the fundamentalist violent campaign to force women to veil, even though youths attacked girls at a Gaza school for not being covered, and women in both Gaza and the West Bank have had nitric acid, stones, and rotten eggs thrown at them for failing to do so. Graffiti, too, began appearing, ordering women to veil or accusing them of being collaborators if they did not do so.
It was two years before UNLU finally stated that "nobody has the right to accost women and girls in the street on the basis of dress or the absence of hijab," and by then it was too late. "Once you put on the veil, you accept everything it symbolizes, your life changes completely, and it is very hard to take it off again," one woman told me. "There are times when I think I would rather stay as we are [without peace] than have an Arab and not a Jew come to arrest me at midnight," said another Palestinian woman, who, not surprisingly, did not want her name attached to that statement. 'Ferry Boullata fears that Palestinian women may be treated the same way as women in Algeria's fight for independence. "They struggled with the men, suffered the same way as men, and then, when it was over, women lost all their hard-won freedoms and were pushed back into the home. Whenever the moderate Palestinian factions become weak, Hamas becomes stronger. I've been told to cover, but I don't intend to. I'm a liberal woman. And I didn't go through what I've been through to be forced into an existence of emptiness, which Hamas seems to feel women should lead." As in all Muslim countries, there are strong women like Terry and Professor Essawi who resist pressure from religious extremists, and in most cases they are able to do so because the men in their lives share their opinions. It is much more difficult for Muslim women to make a stand for independence if their brothers, husbands, fathers, or other male relatives do not support such a move. Time and again, women give in to male pressure even an uncle's or cousin's opinion may carry sway on such issues because a woman is told that she, and hence the family, will be less respected, or that she may be physically harmed unless she complies. Even in America, an Islamic extremist stabbed his sixteen-year-old daughter to death because she wanted to live a Western existence like her classmates. Palestinian-born Tina Isa, a St. Louis, Missouri, honor student died in 1989, four years after her family moved to the United States from a village near Jerusalem. Her father was outraged that she wanted to date a local boy and had taken a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant. When she returned home after her first day at work, her father claimed she had shamed the family's honor and for that she should die. Two years after Zein Isa was convicted for his daughter's murder, he was indicted for being a member of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization, a breakaway group of the early PLO, and for plotting to kill American Jews and blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. In Terry Boullata's case, she married a man who is not conservative, and who shares her progressive views. Rehab Essawi is an articulate, outspoken, and take-charge woman, who is well known in Palestinian circles, but she also receives a certain amount of reflected respect because of the man to whom she was engaged, who is now dead.
Rehab is an education professor at Bethlehem and Hebron universities. An attractive, energetic woman with a quick laugh, she is, in her forties, still unmarried, which is unusual in her society. At nineteen, she was engaged to Omar Kassem; the two had grown up together in a small village on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. It was an engagement that would last twenty-one years, the length of time Omar served in an Israeli prison. - The sentence ended only with his death. lt was, of course, also a sentence of a kind for Rehab.
When the Israeli occupying forces took over the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Omar Kassem was a twenty-seven-year-old English language teacher. A member of the Arab Nationalist Movement, he became a senior official in the early PLO. Months after the occupation, Kassem was part of a group of Palestinians who illegally went to Jordan in an effort to strengthen the Resistance against the Israelis. As the group were attempting to infiltrate their way back into Israel, they were detected. During the ensuing border skirmish, Kassem was arrested. He received three life sentences, and was the highest-ranking PLO official to be jailled. "It was an extremely harsh sentence," says Rehab. "Today, he would probably receive only about six years. But none of us believed that the Occupation would last as long as it has. We thought it would be over much sooner, and our lives would return to normal. We lived in hope. Omar and I were so sure that we would be married one day."
Instead, the next two decades were marked for Rehab by her twice-monthly visits to her fiance. Those precious thirty minutes each time gave them both strength. "We talked to each other through wire mesh, and put our hands up to press fingers through the wire. For years, that was the only intimacy we had.
"Political prisoners are separated from their visitors by the wire. For criminal prisoners, the wire windows were lifted so they could kiss or touch their visitors. One time, the prison guards forgot to close the window, and Omar and I were able to hug each other. The first time my fiance hugged a woman was when he hugged me that day. It was such an emotional moment, he began to tremble.
"'Throughout all those years, I lived for his letters. He wrote beautiful letters to me, and expressed such love in them. Prisoners are limited in the amount of mail they can send, and to get around this, soine of mine from Omar came to me with the names of other prisoners signed at the bottom. Whenever I became lonely, I would take out his letters and read them, and as I did I could see him and hear his voice. I still do this when the loneliness for him gets bad."
The only visits to Omar that Rehab missed were when she herself was jailed three times in the seventies. "I was accused of getting in touch with an illegal organization. I had gone to visit my brother in Iraq." Rehab is very matter-of-fact about her own prison experiences. "During my interrogation, I was beaten, spat at, told I would be raped. 'They placed me in a cell where I could hear men screaming with pain, although I believe it was a psychological-torture tape they played. 'f he worse time was when they made me stand facing a wall with one leg lifted. If you move even slightly, they kick or beat you. "One way or another, my life has revolved around prisons since 1967. But that is true of every Palestinian family. After Omar was imprisoned, my brother was jailed for ten years. And since then, two of'my brothers-in-law have been, one for fifteen years, and the other for three-and-a-half." (Rehab's mother died of a heart attack triggered by tear gas that was being fired at demonstrators but that also filled the small room in which she was sitting. In confined spaces, tear gas is particularly dangerous.)
In the summer of 1989, Omar contracted hepatitis, a common problem in Israeli prisons. "He became so yellow, his lungs failed. By then, he had lost so much weight, he had wasted away. But they still chained him to the bed. He couldn't stand, let alone walk, or escape. He had painful bedsores because being chained meant being kept in the same position.
"The second and last time I was able to hug him in all the years I knew him was just a few hours before he died. As I held him in my arms, he closed his eyes, then opened one, and a single tear rolled down his face. By that afternoon, he was dead."
Omar Kassem received a hero's funeral, the largest Palestinian funeral in Jerusalem. "The PLO held a commemoration ceremony for him. 'They talked about his being a teacher, a Palestinian, who had won the respect of everyone who knew him. But they didn't talk about him as a human being, the man I knew and loved." Now, all that Rehab has left of Omar are a twenty-one-year collection of yellowing letters, a few photographs, and the memory of two brief hugs.
A year to the month that Omar died, Rehab's sister gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Lara. Since Rehab's brother-in-law was . 'led four months after his marriage, Rehab has been a surrogate jai
parent to the little girl. "He's been in jail two years so far, and he sti 'll hasn't been tried. When will this child see her father?" Lara, a high-spirited toddler, launched herself into her aunt's lap from the opposite side of the room, and Rehab cuddled her and said softly, "You know, Lara fills my life. She's the child Omar and I were never able to have."
Driving between Jerusalem and Gaza, I noticed how green the Israeli countryside was, much more so than it had been twenty-two years ago, when I had last come this way. Now there was acre after acre of well-tended cultivated land where little had grown before. The journey confirms how small this country is; as many Israelis are quick to point out, if the West Bank is given up, from Tel Aviv to the ,Jordanian border is a scant fifteen miles. The distance from Jerusalem to Gaza is approximately sixty miles; in all other respects, the two places could not be more remote from each other. Jerusalem is a cosmopolitan city overflowing with tourists year-round, who congregate in the evening around Zion Square, Israel's Montmartre, with its winding streets, sidewalk cafes and bars, and musicians and street performers. Gaza is a fly-blown strip of sand measuring twenty-eight by five miles; its refugee camps have some of the highest population densities in the world. Better known as Misery-by-the-Sea to its Arab residents, Gaza was four years into a night-time curfew at the time of my visit. Violators of the curfew could be arrested, shot, or killed, at the discretion of the soldiers manning the frequent checkpoints. Gaza's nightlife those days was limited to Israeli patrols in armored vehicles and jeeps covered in protective screens to guard against the local ammunition of choice rocks. And in Gaza there is little shortage of rocks, much of it building rubble from homes that have been dynamited. Large-scale demolition of houses was an extra judicial punishment in the Occupied Territories that was introduced by Rabin in 1985, when he was minister of defence, as part of Israel's "Iron Fist" policy. Typically, a family was informed that their home would be blown up and were given thirty to sixty minutes' notice to remove their belongings, and sometimes less. There were no charges, no trials, and no appeal. The explosions were occasionally so powerful that neighboring homes were also damaged. Unemployment in Gaza was running at 60 percent even among university graduates when I was there, and the majority of its eight hundred thousand inhabitants live well below the poverty level. Six months later, in March 1993, both Gaza and the West Bank were completely sealed off "Indefinitely" because of escalating violence against Jews. Fifteen Israelis had been stabbed to death or shot in the month prior to the order. During that same period, twenty-six Palestinians died in street clashes with Israeli troops. The closure of the Occupied Territories meant that the 10,000 Palestinians, 30 percent of the Arab workforce in both the West Bank and Gaza, who cross over daily into Israel for below-minimum wages, were unable to work. Indigenous employment in the Occupied Territories for Palestinians is limited because for years Arab businesses that might compete with Israeli monopolies have been banned. Driving through Gaza was a challenge: many side roads were completely blocked by high barricades of oil barrels constructed by the security forces to minimize crowd mobility; donkey carts and the occasional camel were more frequent than cars, and children ran alongside barefoot. The refugee camps are breeze-block hovels with corrugated metal roofs and windows with shutters but no glass. Flimsy home additions, some two stories high, are constructed from any available scrap materials. Most roads are unpaved, and large piles of rotting garbage mark many intersections. Basic services pi water, electricity, and garbage disposal are erratic. My first stop was at the Palestinian Women's Union, founded in the early sixties by Yussa Barbara, a cultivated and formidable seventy-year-old and the former principal of the only girls' school in Gaza. The Union's original objectives were "to raise the social, cultural, health, and economic standards of women, and to help women achieve equality with men in public life." Today, concerns of gender equality have given way to issues of simple survival. The union supplies often the only support the women crowding the building and its yard receive. All have had husbands killed during the occupation, or forcibly deported, or they are serving long prison sentences. Virtually all the waiting women were also completely veiled, with floor-length coats, gloves, and face coverings. To spend time at the center is to listen to a litany of adversity. "The world thinks that Islam is full of fanatic Muslims," says Yussa Barbara. "I will tell you frankly, the veil is their last hope, the hope that religion will save them. They know that nothing else will. They realize that U.N. resolutions are only implemented against Arabs and Muslim states: Libya, Iraq, and the Palestinians. When you lose everything, there is only religion left to turn to." And certainly, the women waiting to receive their allowances of 100 Israeli Shekels ($44) per month, mostly from European sponsors, have lost much. Iman Sardiah is twenty-four years old and the mother of three. Her husband, accused of killing a collaborator, "a spy for Israel," is serving a life sentence. "They took him in the night," she told me. "The next time I saw him, he was blind in one eye from the torture. They demolished our house and they did it one year before my husband even had a trial. I was eight months pregnant at the time. 'They didn't even give us time to take anything -There were three families living in the house. We just had a f'ew rooms, but they dynamited the whole building. We lost everything, and the other families were punished, too. The Red Crescent gave us a tent to live in."
"The Gaza Strip has been a laboratory to test all rules violating human rights conventions," says Barbara. "We are living in a jungle and jungle law prevails. The U.S., with its support of Israel, has demolished our Arab State. We have lost seventy-five percent of our land to Jews, we've lost our properties, our young men. The world doesn't know this. And it is we who are called terrorists. Russian immigrants and Ethiopians have had the right to come here; what history do they have with this region? And we who belong here have had no rights, none at all." Palestinians and jews alike were surprised when Israel accepted three hundred Bosnian Muslims in March 1993. Both sides saw the gesture as little more than a public relations step to remove the focus from the 415 deported Palestinians. Shallablyah Schewda, aged forty-seven, the mother of eleven, told of her fifteen-year-old daughter's being badly beaten on her way home from school as she passed a clash between Palestinian youths and soldiers. The girl became hysterical and couldn't stop crying, and the child's father sent their son out to get tranquilizers for her. It was after curfew, the boy was arrested, and soldiers went to his home. Schewda's sixty-year-old husband was clubbed with guns in the subsequent assault, and he collapsed vomiting blood. He died a few hours later in the hospital. "Several days later, three Israeli officers came and apologized to me. They said it shouldn't have happened. My husband was killed because none of the soldiers who beat him that night could speak Arabic and we couldn't explain my daughter needed medicine."
Each woman waiting to see Barbarl brought with her a history of horror. Near the house where the Union is located, graffiti six feet high reads "Hamas Is the Base of Israel." There is also the ubiquitous "Islam Is the Solution." "Thank Allah for Hamas," said one of the women. "The roads are sealed by the Jews, Hamas opens them. just like Hamas will free our country. They are doing something for Palestine. Everyone else has forgotten us. "
In Beach Camp later, which was built in 1952 and is home to forty-eight thousand Palestinians, many of whom were born there, a group of women invited me into one of the houses. The original two small rooms, each about nine feet square, once opened onto a tiny courtyard and outside kitchen area. Today, a corrugated metal roof over that area has given the family a living room, but sections of the roof are still open to the elements, flies, and the powerful stench of trash rotting outside on the street. A brightly colored woven plastic rug partially covered the floor of the living room; other floors were bare cement. The only furniture were a few thin mattresses and pillows made from flour sacks and then embroidered. Lines slung across the room served in lieu of closets and also to dry towels.
Once again, the women defined themselves by their own or their families' prison records. Where an Arab woman might previously have been introduced as the mother of Khalil or Khalid, instead I was told, "This is Widad Dahman. She was in jail. Three of her four boys are in jail; they were all tortured, of course." Widad interrupted, "All, yes, Khalil, who is twenty-two, has been arrested eight times," and then, as if talking of her son's football scores, she said with total recall, "The first time they took him it was for three months, then for four months, the next time was six, then they took him for five months, then six months, after that fifteen months, and then for two months. Now they have him again. The last time they shot him in the leg and head. He's never been charged or been to court.
"They haven't taken my fourteen-year-old boy yet, but they will. He's been beaten by soldiers already. Sometimes I think they should put us all in jail. It would save them and us a lot of time."
Widad, now forty, was born in Beach Camp, where her father died when troops shot randomly into crowds. "Peace talks? Don't talk to me of peace talks. The Palestinian flag should fly on all the land from the River Jordan to the sea. It should all be Palestine. Anything less I reject."
It was Habiba Alyian's introduction, however, that disturbed me most. "My daughter is shaheed, martyred, and I am glad she gave her life for the just cause of Palestine." Wafa, the youngest of Habiba's twelve children, was seventeen when she was shot. "It was her last day at school, and the last day of her final exam. As she left the school, there were some boys throwing stones at soldiers. The girls joined in. Then more soldiers came and the boys began to run away, but the girls couldn't run as fast. Wafa was shot in the head with a real bullet, not a rubber one." The teenager underwent five hours of brain surgery, and three more operations in the next eighteen days. "She couldn't see anything, she couldn't speak, she couldn't move, they were feeding her by tube." Eventually, Wafa was flown to a special brain-injury unit in Cairo, Egypt. After eighteen months, and regaining some vision and ability to speak, the young woman died from a massive kidney infection caused by the shunt draining fluids from her brain injury. "Wafa was very successful in school. She was a flower in our lives," said her mother. Habiba paused in her story to show me a dog-eared photograph of Wafa in a wheelchair taken shortly before she died. "I have always ordered all my children to throw stones at the soldiers," said Habiba, now fifty-five. "Why? Because of the Intifada. Four of Wafa's brothers were in jail for the same thing when she was shot. Thanks be to God, Wafa loved her land enough to die for it. Thanks be to God, my daughter is martyred for Palestine." For Habiba Alyian, the martyrdom of a child in what she considers a Holy War is an honor. Since she herself was a child, she has been aware of the Koranic verse "Those who are slain in the cause of Allah are not counted among the dead. They are living in the presence of their Lord and are well provided for."
Later, at the home of one of the two leaders of Hamas in Gaza, physician Mamoud Zarhar echoed similar sentiments on Islamic martyrdom. "Islam is the only system in the world that can cope with deaths of its people to further its cause, and that is a strength. Americans do not want to die for their faith or their country." He was talking of Hamas's goals. "We cannot establish a separate state without its being Islamic. We attempted in the past and we failed. We tried Moscow, we tried being secular, and the end result was the shameful defeat of the Arabs in 1967. Then we came back to the West with Camp David. But we are not Western. Palestine can be restored only by Muslim power; it is the only way to restore the dignity of Arabs." Dr. Zarhar, a surgeon, is on the faculty of Gaza's fundamentalist run Islamic University. Until 1982, he was a physician at the Government Hospital, and chairman of the Arab Medical Association, but he was dismissed by the Israelis because of his political activities. After three years of running a private clinic, he was invited to teach at the university. He looked tired as he greeted me at his sparsely furnished home, and he limped from an old knee injury as he crossed his large reception room every time the phone rang, which it did constantly during our conversation.
"So many meetings, so many phone calls. We have asked the Israelis to let us go to Jordan to meet with the PLO on the peace talks. But they have refused our request. Windows are opened for some, but not for us." As he sat down again, I noticed the large prayer callouses on his forehead and the tops of both feet, formed by decades of daily kneeling to touch his head to the ground in worship.
"Hamas is a misunderstood organization. It is not an organization of religious sheikhs, but an organization of intellectuals. It is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which can be found everywhere in the world. Even American Muslims are members. People are afraid of Hamas but that is because of the propaganda of Palestinian spies working for the Israelis. We don't want to push Israel into the sea, although the Jews say we do. Look at history: when Jews were expelled from Spain, we opened North Africa to them. We recognize Jews, they don't recognize us, and that is the problem.
"The peace process will produce a big zero. Israel will never give up all the land it took in 1967. And Palestinians are very weak. How can we alone withstand all the pressures? Other Arab countries in the region represent Western interests. But the U.S. is fully ignorant of the behavior of the Arab leaders they support, and the U.N. is totally neutralized. But we are not a separate entity in the Muslim world; we are linked to the current Islamist wave. If Israel will not give up our land, it must be taken by force with the assistance of other Arab countries. Our problem is the leadership of other Muslim countries. I 'hose who have never helped us must be eliminated. Every secular leader, except Sudan, will be overthrown by the Islamists. This will be quicker than trying to negotiate a Palestinian state with Israel. By the end of this century, the Muslim Brotherhood will have launched a big wave against such authorities."
As our conversation wound down, Dr. Zarhar asked whether I was married. When I told him no, he wanted to know why not. "You were created for children, your uterus was created to produce children. Your breasts were created to lactate and feed children. You have a brain, yes. But you are also a woman, and to have children is your purpose." I did not respond, having learned early on in my travels that such dialogue tends to be circular. "In my sermons in the mosques on Fridays, I am teaching about your Western phenomena. You are legally permitted one marriage, but your world allows many adulterous relationships at the same time. This is against humanity. For family unity, we Muslims have multiple wives. We do not need adulterous lovers, we have no problems with AIDS. I am preaching that it is good for family unity to have multiple wives if it is necessary for the husband." At the time when I met him, the physician had one wife, and six children. Three months after our meeting, Dr. Zarhar was one of the 415 Hamas members who were deported to an exposed, windblown strip of no-man's-land between Lebanon and Israel. The Lebanese refused them entry, and Israelis fired at them if they moved too close to the Israeli border. It was their expulsion that caused the peace negotiations to falter. As Dr. Zarhar's group dominated international headlines for weeks, I wondered how his wife and young children were faring as they became just another Gaza statistic, children without fathers, a wife without a husband. What price for them family unity?
Returning to Jerusalem, I faced the inevitable mammoth traffic jams that build up some miles from the city and that can take an hour or two to clear. In an effort to avoid the worst of the traffic, the taxi driver cut through back streets. Suddenly we were in the middle of one of several newly developed Jewish Orthodox suburbs. Women were dressed in long skirts and long sleeves, and they covered their hair with snoods rather than wigs. The men in their long black coats, black hats, and peyot sidelocks looked little different from their forebears in Polish and Russian villages nearly 250 years ago. Since contraception is forbidden for Orthodox Jews, it was not unusual to see couples with eight or more children. In the Mea Shearim Orthodox district of Jerusalem, signs are widely posted in English and Hebrew cautioning women who enter the area that they must be dressed modestly. Jewish Orthodoxy has grown substantially in Israel in the last fifteen years, and, as with similar religious movements around the world, it has spawned its own militant fundamentalist groups. Since Orthodox Jews are the only Israelis excused from military service on the grounds that war needs "both physical and spiritual strength," and they supply the latter, the acts of terrorism of these factions is ironic. Included among the Jewish militant organizations are the pro-Zionist Gush Emunim, which began the settler movement in the Occupied Territories; the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta, which has been involved in stoning moving cars and buses that violate the Sabbath; and the Koch, members of Rabbi Meir Kahane's party, who, along with Gush, have demanded the forced evacuation of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, areas they call by their ancient names of Samaria and Judea.
In the early eighties, Gush Emunim stepped up a campaign designed to increase the tension between Israelis and Palestinians. "These terrorist acts included the 1980 planting of bombs in the cars of two Arab mayors, the 1983 killings of three Palestinian students in an Islamic institute in Hebron, and, most significantly, a 1984 PlOt to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem," said Dr. Scott Appleby. Gush Emunim radicals working with high-ranking Israeli army officers planned "to plant twenty-eight precision bombs to destroy the Muslims' third-most sacred shrine without damaging the surrounding area. Had it been successful, the bombing would have undoubtedly led to a profound crisis and an Arab-Israeli confrontation of unpredictable magnitude." Fortunately, the plot was uncovered shortly before it could be carried out. The Jewish fundamentalist underground also began killing individual Palestinians (the preferred modus operandi is drive-by assassination) in an effort to force them to leave the Occupied Territories.
Gush's most successful campaign, however, has been that of building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. The settlement program began in the seventies and gained impetus in the eighties with the support of right-wing Housing Minister Ariel Sharon and government funding even though it contravenes the 1949 Geneva Convention. The campaign was designed to isolate and surround Palestinian population centers and make it difficult after such extensive Jewish development for those regions to revert back to Palestinian control. When the Labor party took office in the summer of 1992, Prime Minister Rabin promised to suspend the construction of new settlements, but not those in Jerusalem or the eleven thousand units already begun. The suspension was made under pressure from the United States, which threatened to withhold $10 billion in loans. Western diplomats, however, say that it is not a construction freeze, just a partial slowdown.
Today, three-quarters of the settlers, who include many American Orthodox Jews, are not Gush members, according to Appleby, yet, Gush Emunim continues to administer much of the settlements' infrastructure. One of the leaders of the Gush settler movement is Daniela Weiss, a mother of five, who is proud of her fanaticism, and believes that "Samaria" and "Judea" can only be Jewish land. Sounding very much like her Hamas counterpart, she says, "I am very far from tolerant. Extremism in the defense of God's commandments is no vice."
It is the first thing one sees on entering and the last image one leaves with. The painting dominates the small room. It depicts a teenage boy on his back in a garden, his glassy-eyed stare indicating he is dead more surely than the blood seeping into his shirt from a chest wound. "It happened two days before Yusef's eighteenth birthday," said the boy's mother, coming into the room behind me. "His father had given him a watch for his birthday, the first watch he'd ever had. It was a golden color, not real gold we couldn't afford that but my son was as proud of it as if it had been." Yusef, in his final year at high school, had been working part-time for a neighbor as a plumber on a building site in Bethlehem. Returning home at the end of the day, he took the public bus to his village, Silwan, which sits immediately below the southern wall of the Old City of,jerusalem. On the bus with him were a group of teenage boys, Jewish settlers. "We learned later that they claimed the sun reflecting off his watch was shining in their eyes. When Yusef got off the bus, they did, too. As he took a shortcut through a public garden, they attacked him. Yusef was stabbed through the heart and left to die." His body was discovered thirty minutes later, at four p.m., by a journalist taking the same shortcut. "When Yusef did not return on time, I began to worry. He never stayed out. Where is there for Arabs to go in the Occupied Territories?" asked his mother, Widad Yabani. "I had been thinking that afternoon about making him a yellow cake for his birthday; it was his favorite. But mother's intuition told me something was wrong. I asked the police and the local hospitals if there had been a bomb on a bus or any accidents. They said no. At seven P.m., I was so worried, I took a taxi to his job site. I called him but no one answered. On the way back, a message came over the taxi radio that the police wanted me. 'They said my boy was in Jaffa Hospital. 'They had taken him there to do an autopsy."
The Jewish youths who killed Widad's son were arrested. "We found out later they spent two months in jail. If it had been Arab boys killing a Jew, they would have been in prison for life." B'Tselem, an Israeli-run organization that monitors human rights in the Occupled 'Territories, has long documented the unequal treatment of Jews and Arabs. "Whenever an Arab is tried for murdering a Jew, in all instances the convicted parties receive life sentences and their homes are demolished," states one of their reports. "In the reverse situation, when Arabs are killed, the files are often closed without any charges being brought. And when Jews are convicted, their sentences may be just months long."
The next time Widad had any dealings with Jewish settlers was in August 1 99 i, when many families in her village, including her own, received letters informing them their homes now belonged to Israel, and they had twenty days to vacate the properties. The letters arrived one month after they were dated, ten days after the deadline. Silwan, the village in which Widad lives, was part of Jordan until 1967. To the militant jewish settlers, however, the Palestinian village, five minutes' walk from the Wailing Wall, is on the site of the City of David, and for this reason they want to force Arabs out.
"They came at midnight on October fourteenth, two months after we received the letters. - They broke windows of houses and jumped inside and threw out furniture and clothing. There was a lot shouting, and we saw men with beards, skullcaps, and Uzi machine guns. We thought it was the police looking for Intifada activists. Then we realized they were Israeli settlers.
"The police came and there were long conversations in Hebrew, which we could not understand. Our landlady, Fatima Karim, who lived above us, refused to come out, and the police said they would shoot her if she didn't. She was finally carried out forcibly. Then the police sealed the house behind her. 'This meant that since that night no one has been permitted to enter her home. The family's entire possessions have been locked inside. The fridge had meat in it and vegetables, and everything had to be left.
"The settlers said Fatima didn't own the house even though it was left to her by her grandfather, and her family had lived in it for generations. She had all the papers; she even had proof that we pay her rent. The authorities told her that because her father lives in Amman, the house now belongs to the government." (Widad's family continues to live in its part of the house and continues to pay rent to Fatima.) Israel has long contended that any properties in the Occupied Territories with absentee owners can be claimed by the government.
Over the next few weeks, armed midnight raids by Jewish settlers continued. In one of the forays, Jewish settlers forcibly took over the house next to Widad's. "My neighbor was hurt in a fight and had to be taken to the hospital. Now my new neighbors are a young Jewish Orthodox couple. He is about twenty, she is about eighteen. We never speak, yet we live so close that we share an adjoining wall. We can hear them as they move."
The small house next door is identical to Widad's except that it has an Israeli flag flying from the water tank on the roof, and the building is surrounded by high barbed-wire fences. Outside the house around the clock are posted two Israeli guards armed with Uzi machine guns, pistols, and knives, and linked by walkie-talkies to the Israeli security forces patrolling the area in armored jeeps. The plainclothes guards claimed they were private security, not military.
"Settlers killed my son. I don't want to live with them, and we can't afford to move," says Widad. "And I don't understand why they want to live with us if they have to live behind barbed wire to do so. Their security has made a prison for them."
During the weeks of settler raids on Silwan, Widad was surprised and touched when Jewish students from the Peace Now organization showed up in the village to aid the Palestinians. The Israeli organization has long advocated giving up land in exchange for peace between Arabs and Jews. "We were afraid to sleep at night in case the settlers came back. We didn't know these students, but they slept on our floor to protect us. We were very grateful.
"In 1967, when the Jews first came here, it was not so bad. We worked with Jews, we had Jewish friends, then things gradually began to get worse, until in the end each side became afraid of the other."
"When there is violence against Arabs by jews, we should make their people suffer equally." Mariam Shakskier seemed just another harried mother when I met her in her apartment at the top of five very steep flights of stairs in Nablus in the West Bank. Her six-year-old son, Ysar, and several of his friends were squabbling loudly over a TV computer game. Her four-year-old daughter, Sumood, who has Down's syndrome, was feeling irritable and demanding attention. Mariam herself, slightly built and whose face showed the premature lines of a heavy smoker, was trying to make her voice heard above the din. She repeated her comment, "When there is violence against Arabs by Jews, we should face it and make their people suffer equally. 'That is what I was thinking at the time when I did it. Nothing more."
Mariam was describing the day she placed a bomb in the crowded cafeteria of the Hebrew University. The explosion sent terror through the lunchtime crowd, and shock waves through the Israeli public. The final casualty count was twenty-eight people wounded, but no fatalities.
As we sat in her neat living room, with its black-and-white sofa set, framed family photographs, and a vase of artificial flowers on the coffee table, our conventional surroundings made the conversation seem all the more surreal. As Mariam served bologna sandwiches and coffee, only the occasional twitching of a nerve in her cheek suggested that we were talking about anything other than last night's television program.
"Palestinians were being forced out of the West Bank. My people, our children, were suffering. I wanted to help them. Women should share in the revolution. I was searching for a way to help end the occupation. I kept thinking, What can I do?" lt wasn't long before Mariam made contact with a group that gave her the answer to her question.
"It was a pipe bomb, home-made, and my job was to take it into the university and place it on a chair in the cafeteria just before lunchtime. The university was targeted because there were a lot of Israeli soldiers there. We thought a bomb explosion there would make people think about why it had happened, and then they would understand our cause. lt wasn't my choice to put the bomb in the cafeteria. I was told to put it there. I did, and half an hour later, it detonated.
"I knew it had worked when I heard the news on the radio of the explosion. I was pleased since I had succeeded in doing something for Palestine. I had no guilt or regret. I just continued with my normal life."
Mariam, who was eighteen at the time, says she does not remember whether she was scared or not as she carried the bomb into the university. "No, I did not think about the people who were hurt or their families. No, I have never seen injuries caused by that kind of bomb. All I thought of was how my people had suffered. Later, when the Israelis tortured me, I wished I had exploded the whole university, not just the cafeteria."
Seven days after the bombing, Israeli soldiers surrounded the house where Mariam lived with her parents, four sisters, and five brothers. "They began to ask each of my sisters her name. When they came to me, they just said, 'You, come with us.' They took me to the Russian Compound." The Compound, a large stone building near Jerusalem's Old City, was, in the last century, a resting place for pilgrims. Today, the forbidding building is known for its torture, not its hospitality. "The Russian Compound is a slaughterhouse," said Mariam. "They asked me where I was on the day of the bombing. I told them I was in school. They called me a liar. There were three men. One of them hit me in the stomach and twisted my arms as if he was going to pull them from my body. Then the three of them began to beat me, all the time they kept calling me a liar. They said they would hang me and cut me into pieces. When I didn't speak, they said, 'You will see what will happen to you.'
"At three A.M., they came for me again. They told me to take off my clothes and I refused. They forcibly stripped me. Then they tied my legs to a chair, and a man began to hit me on the head, hands, and legs with a club. It hurt so much, such pain. 'They stopped and then told me I was going to be raped, and they would watch." Mariam passed out, she doesn't know whether from fear or her injuries. "There was water beside me when I came to, and they brought a paper for me to write my confession." Mariam, still naked, continued to resist until they brought into the room a man whom she knew. "His head injuries were very bad, and they had screwed two of his fingers together; they were mangled. They beat his injured hand with the club in front of me. He screamed. And they kept asking him crazy questions, like, 'What color is a car?' He would scream, 'Yellow,' and they would say, 'No, red,' and smash the club on his fingers again. They wanted him to confess that he was involved in the university bombing with me. But he didn't know about it. "Finally, they said they wouldn't waste any more time on either of us. 'They would take us as we were, naked, and hang both of us. It was at this point that I confessed to planting the bomb, but I said I worked alone. 'They weren't satisfied, and the beatings and the torture continued for forty-five continuous days. 'Then one day they brought me a Hebrew newspaper with a picture of my father. 'They said they had sealed our house, closed his restaurant, and taken away everything our family owned. 'Now your family is dirt poor,' they told me. I couldn't speak, my face was too swollen from the beatings." Mariam also learned that one of her sisters, Najwah, was arrested as Mariam's accomplice and sentenced to three-and-a-half years' imprisonment. "My sister had no idea about the bombing, I never discussed it with anyone." Mariam received two life sentences.
While in prison she learned English and Hebrew, and matriculated from high school. On a number of occasions, the informal prison classes were stopped. The woman teaching foreign languages was accused of political agitation because she had the prison students recite in English "I am a Palestinian." "In those days, we couldn't even admit out loud that our country was Palestine." During her incarceration, Mariam learned that her brother, Samir, had been killed in the fighting.
After serving ten years in Jail, Mariam was freed in a prisoner exchange. An Israeli pilot was exchanged for seventy-five Arab prisoners, including ten women, one of whom was Mariam. "Nobody knew we were being released, and I didn't know where my family was now living. I returned to our old neighborhood and someone contacted my father. My mother didn't recognize me. I had been one hundred and thirty pounds when they arrested me. I was eighty-three pounds when I was released. "But after my release, I felt as though I was in a bigger prison. All the restrictions on Arabs had taken place while I was locked up. For example, I haven't left Nablus since I was eighteen." 'Today, Mariam is forty-two.
"By the time I was released, the PLO was changing from its armed militancy to discussing the possibility of a Jewish and an Arab state side by side. It was the first stage of realism inside the PLO." The PLO's new moderation matched Mariam's. "Ten years in jail changes you completely," she said. "I don't regret what I did. But today perhaps I would choose a different way to resist. No matter the problem, I now believe that bombing is a bad idea. Before we used to say all Palestine should be for the Palestinians; we didn't want to share our home with someone else. Eventually, you learn to compromise.
"I will always remember, however, the faces of the Palestinian women and children being driven from their homes. The fear in their eyes. That was what obliged me to do what I did. Palestinians felt defenceless. I never gave a thought to the Israelis, except how to get ri 'd of them. Your enemy had a state, and you did not. Certainly, the Israelis were not thinking of my pain when they tortured me.
"But I remember Arafat's speech to the U.N., when he said, 'I have a rifle and an olive branch. Don't let the olive branch fall from my hand. I want peace."' Recently, Mariam has put the Hebrew she learned in jail to good use. "I have been participating in dialogue meetings between Jewish and Arab women. We live so close to one another, but neither side really knows the other. It is necessary to sit and talk together, to understand what the other side wants and fears. We try to explain that we have rights, too, that we must also have a state. That what statehood means to them, it also means to us. "We tell them we are just struggling to free ourselves. We don't want to suffer more, to lose more children. I want to know I can send my son out to play near the house, something he has never been able to do because I fear he will be shot. In prison once, we had a remembrance party for all the women whose sons had died during the Palestinian Resistance. The list of dead boys was so long. So much pain, so many tears.... "But one thing I have noticed in these meetings is that Israelis, despite being strong, always see themselves as victims because of the Nazis. We know the Jews suffered in the Holocaust, but we didn't participate in their suffering. Today, the Palestinians are the victims, and the Israelis need to recognize that. Even now the Jewish women ask us, 'Do you really want peace?' We tell them we don't want to use violence only to receive more violence from Israel. The occupation affects the occupied and the occupier. It is a disease affecting civililians and soldiers. For this reason, both sides must have peace."
"Enough of blood and tears. Enough!" The rhetoric was emotional, the media hyberbolic, as the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO was signed in September 1993. Long in coming, the much-trumpeted agreement caught both Jews and Palestinians off guard. But despite the dancing in the streets on both sides of the Green Line, less optimistic voices some would say more realistic ones were much less sanguine. "It is too early to declare that we are facing one of the great moments of history," cautioned Chaim Herzog, former president of Israel. "These developments could lead to peace, economic prosperity, and even confederation. They could lead to tragedy." Palestinian-American Edward Said, a Middle East expert at Columbia University, echoed the feelings of many Palestinians when he admitted to being "very disturbed" by the agreement. "It's very flawed. It leaves too many things unclear, too many things to [be decided in the] future. It is still a dominant and a subordinate relatiotiship. It's disastrous in many ways. Ordinary Palestinians were left wondering if what they had been offered was a hollow victory. The sectors ceded to Palestinian authority under the agreement, such as health and education, are little different from what they already possessed before the Intifada began six years before, except for control of taxation. Rehab Essawi pointed out, "Thirteen years ago the Israelis offered to return to us considerably more land than we will get now. At that time also they said they would withdraw jewish settlers from the Occupied Territories. Now Palestinians are to be given partial rule of less than seventeen percent of our land, the settlers are to stay, and still more settlements are being built. lt is also common knowledge that the Israelis would have paid money to get rid of Gaza. They've wanted to get it off their hands for a very long time." Other Palestinians are concerned that they may have exchanged one form of oppression, the Israelis', for another, Yasser Arafat's. "The Chairman talks democracy but has always run the PLO as a dictatorship. An Arab prison will be just as miserable as a Jewish one, Arafat's iron fist just as painful as Rabin's," said one Gaza resident. Similarly, there is fear that much of the foreign aid pledged for Gaza and Jericho will not reach its destined beneficiaries. Fiscal accountability will be new for the PLO; in the past, Arafat has maintained tight and secret control of the organization's coffers. Meanwhile the blood and tears continue, wives are still becoming widows, children orphans. Shortly after the signing of the historic document, one of Arafat's lieutenants in Gaza was assassinated, and that incident was followed by suicide bombings in Gaza and the West Bank, and violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, all of which illustrated just how fragile such an accord is. Three weeks after Rabin and Arafat's symbolic handshake on the White House lawn, the PLO leader was firing off to the Jewish prime minister an angry letter denouncing the Israeli military's rocket assault on homes in Gaza City. The killing of two Hamas commanders and the arrest of other members of the organization were violations of the spirit of the peace agreement, Arafat insisted. As if nothing had changed, Rabin responded that such armed attacks would continue if necessary. And while Israel continues to insist that Jews and Arabs have a common enemy in the form of Islamic fundamentalism, the two sides still remain far apart on key issues such as the sovereignty of Jerusalem, water rights, and border control. Ultimately, however, the survival of the peace agreement is likely to depend on the Palestinian economy. Twenty-six years of enforced poverty and despair has bred extremism. The choice is simple, say experts: Singapore or Somalia stability with the former model, chaos and violence with the latter.
The Knife and the Female (CK)
A final twist to this sharp tale is the issue of knife attacks and stabbings of Israelis by young Palestinian women who are not martyrs but do become heroines.
Suad al-Jubeh (23) kissed by here parents on her home coming from a
nine year prison sentence for stabbing a Jewish settler.
She was released in Feb 1997 along with 30 others under peace deals with the PLO.