Tag Archives: Rights

NGOs Fail Palestinian Women at the UN

By Paula Kweskin

In April 2010, a 32-year-old woman was shot to death in a town in the northern Gaza Strip.  Several men, including her father, were arrested for the crime.  A year prior, a girl from a Palestinian village south of Qalqilya was smothered to death by her brother.  In 2005, a father murdered two of his daughters and badly injured a third for an alleged sexual affair.  In December 2008, two Palestinian girls were killed when militants’ rockets directed at Israel fell short of their targets.  Two years later, a teenage girl was injured in central Israel when Hamas militants fired rockets on her kibbutz.

Unfortunately, at the UN review of Israel’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in January, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) squandered the opportunity to give voice to these Palestinian and Israeli victims. Instead, they pursued a politicized, anti-Israel agenda, which excludes victims that do not fit an ideological paradigm.

In advance of the review, the Israeli government and various NGOs submitted statements for consideration regarding the women’s rights record in Israel.  NGOs and civil society actors could have highlighted discrepancies in the workplace, human trafficking, gender violence, and other obstacles facing women within Israel. (Israel asserts they are not responsible for the application of the Convention to the Palestinian Authority or Gaza, but some NGO submissions focused on these populations as well.) Notable submissions failed to mention these issues; others avoided an honest discourse on gender discrimination entirely.

One such joint NGO submission, co-authored by Palestinian NGOs Badil, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, blames injustices suffered by Palestinian women on  Israeli “apartheid” and “occupation.”  These NGOs attribute violence against Palestinian women solely to settlers and Israeli security forces. In their distorted perspective, Israel’s security policies, not the local authorities charged with providing key services, are responsible for the lack of adequate healthcare for women in the Palestinian Authority.

Similarly, the NGOs claim, without evidence, that “cultural discrimination can also mean that girls are more likely to be withdrawn from school as a result of these [i.e. settler violence] incidents, with parents particularly fearful for the safety of their daughters.” More probable factors for students’ withdrawal, such as early marriage and societal obstacles to education, are ignored.

In a supplemental submission, Badil argues that “Israel’s repeated military incursions

characterized by the indiscriminate and excessive use of force” causes unemployment and poverty in the Palestinian Authority. The $3 billion in annual foreign aid to the PA, that could be used to improve the situation of women, is absent from Badil’s discussion.

Domestic violence was not discussed in the NGO submissions either. A 2005 survey revealed that over 60 percent of Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian Authority were psychologically abused by their husbands, 23 percent had been beaten, and 11 percent experienced some form of sexual violence.

So-called “honor” killings in the Palestinian Authority have increased in recent years and are treated with impunity.  According to a 1999 UNICEF report, two-thirds of all murders in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza are “honor” killings.  These crimes go unpunished and laws grant impunity to those who kill based on “family honor.” In interviews and press releases on their websites, the NGO authors have decried “honor” killings and the lack of legal protection for Palestinian women; yet they are silent when given a forum to address these problems before a UN committee.

By ignoring these realities, which do not conform to the narrative of Israeli violence and Palestinian victimization, these NGOs demonstrate that the advancement of Palestinian and Israeli women’s rights is not their aim. Rather, they hijack an international platform and the rhetoric of human rights to demonize Israel, using Palestinian women as pawns to advance a singular political agenda.  These groups have abandoned the women they purport to advocate for, and as such, have once again called into question the sincerity of their pursuit of universal human rights.

Paula Kweskin is a legal researcher at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution.






The Ah-Hah Moment

By Steven Philp

Matt Goldman was not like the other six-year-old boys in his Cub Scout Den. First, he was Jewish. Second, he was gay.  He recalls one Cub Scout meeting at the local Baptist church in his hometown of Virginia Beach. Sitting in a circle with fifteen or so boys, they shared what they wanted to be when they grew up. When it was his turn, Matt was honest: “My husband is going to be a policeman, and I’ll be living in a three-bedroom house, with flowers and a beagle – and I’ll make the best ice cream in the world.” This upset the other boys and resulted in his banishment to the front steps of the church for the duration of the meeting. When his mom found out what happened – like all good Jewish mothers – she spent several terse hours on the phone with the Scout Master and his superiors demanding to know why she found her son sitting alone in front of the church. After she hung up, Matt remembers her giving him a hug and telling him that “we didn’t need those people.”

Matt’s story is one of several hundred submitted to Born This Way!, a photo and essay project for members of the LGBT community to share snapshots from their childhood – focusing on those ah-hah moments when they discovered that they were a little different from their peers. The site was launched last year by Los Angeles-native Paul V. in response to the series of LGBT teen suicides that plagued our communities; it is his hope that the “struggling [gay] kids of today can see themselves in the faces and stories of the gay kids of yesterday, to live to create their own memories.” The response has been overwhelming; Paul has been forced to close submissions for periods of time so that he can sort through his inbox.

Many members of the Jewish community can empathize with the sense of otherness carried in the stories on Born This Way!. Like Matt, we have had our own ah-hah moments through which we realize that we are not like all of our peers, whether it’s Christmas tree envy or matzo sandwiches during Passover. As children we looked to adults in our schools and synagogues – our parents, rabbis, and teachers – for the reassurance that we weren’t alone. Unfortunately, many questioning youth lack positive LGBT role models in their communities. Although there is an increased visibility of LGBT characters in television programs and movies, they are inaccessible in their fiction; they are left wanting for someone in our own lives, someone tangible, who is also stands out from the pack.

Paul emphasizes that this project is not about stereotypes. He points out that “some of the [pictures] here feature gay boys with feminine traits, and some gay girls with masculine traits. And even more gay kids with none of those traits.” He continues, stating that within the LGBT community people express myriad combinations of masculine and feminine traits. What is important is that every story is unique, and as a result we can find pieces of ourselves in each of them. You may not be Matt Goldman, but perhaps you understand what it is like to be gay and Jewish. And maybe you too dream of a handsome husband in the civil service, a white picket fence, and petunias – and the best ice cream in the world.