August 17, 2012 | 2:29 pm
Posted by Ariel Blumenthal
“Part of the Palestinian identity is to kill women, to beat women…”
Oy vey! Racism! Islamophobia! No. These are the words of Yusuf Jabareen, an Israeli Arab speaking about his own Palestinian culture in a televised discussion: “There are things that we have adopted from Arab culture for centuries that harm the individual and the woman”.
The discussion at the Palestinian TV studio was part of an outcry following a surge in the killing of Palestinian women by their male relatives over family honor, a phenomenon known in Muslim societies as “Honor killings”.
An op-ed on Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian Authority daily on August 7th reported that “The frequency with which crimes against women are committed is rising constantly”. Another op-ed on the same paper a day earlier noted the cultural background of honor killing and stated “...We must first admit that without a cultural revolution that will cleanse our perceptions, our books, and our heritage from sanctifying murder performed in the name of Allah and honor ... we will not be able to take a single step towards lessening this crime…”
The voices of protest, loud and proud, called for social and cultural changes (“I shall criticize out loud the social culture that still seeks justification for the murder of women” said the Al-Ayaam op-ed), as well as for actual legislative and judicial steps. Khawla Al-Azraq, an activist, was quoted on Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on August 3rd saying: “The law reinforces violence against women, legalizes the murder of women, and protects the murderers.” Salwa Banura, an attorney, quoted on the same article, said: “...A man who murders his daughter, wife or sister stays in prison only three months, and is then released”.
Look again at the Palestinian discourse outlined above, as monitored and translated by Palestinian Media Watch. Other than the somewhat more poetic style, it resembles American discourse about, say, greed in American culture, or in Israel about orthodox religious influence: Pluralistic, emotionally heated, and ambitious enough to push cultural and religious buttons. You got to admit that it’s impressive to see Arab female lawyers and activists lash out at the conservatives for behavior that is so clearly associated with Islam. THIS I can call Arab spring!
Palestinian society shows - and not for the first time, that it’s more progressive and mature than most Muslim societies around the world. Even more significantly, the direction this debate is pointing to: Towards women’s rights, liberalization and exclusion of religious factors from the judicial culture, is counter to the direction so many Muslim societies are heading in - that of radicalization, religiosity and submission to indoctrination. One may argue that the Arab Spring (the old school one) shows the opposite. I would argue that religion, specifically the religion of Islam and even more specifically the brand of Islam promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood - largely the soul winner in these spring games so far - is contradictory to the values I listed above, therefore cannot bring any good in that area.
A story on Israeli financial daily The Marker yesterday (sorry - Hebrew only) reports about the http://www.themarker.com/markerweek/1.1803374. A good friend of mine in Israel works regularly with one of the companies featured in the story, and cannot stop talking about them. She describes the stylish, young, English speaking Palestinian engineers that come to meetings in Tel Aviv, shades, iPhones and all, “It’s like working with people from abroad” she says. If they keep on rolling like that, that’s precisely what it’s going to be.
The language of hope these young Palestinians speak is unintelligible to the “Pro-Palestinian” lot of “Peace activists” around the world. While the guys in Ramallah are hard at work designing an application for Cisco, the “Peace activists” congregate at an airport or onboard a ship on their way to the next stunt that would benefit only Hamas - the biggest threat to Ramallah’s high-tech culture. We’ve come a full circle. Time to remove “Peace” from in front of “Activists”.
Progress and evolution are impossible without cultural and social criticism. Politically correct idolization of foreign cultures that reduces any criticism (unless it’s self-criticism) to racism, is a block to progress, placing political-correctness, once again, in direct contradiction with progressive and liberal ideas.
A last thought: How was Romney’s statement about the Palestinian GDP so wrong? Wasn’t it a cultural criticism with constructive potential? How broad a definition of “racism” would need to be resorted to in order for it to qualify as racist?
I wonder what the guys from Ramallah thought about what he said.
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