chapter  10
15 Pages

The women’s movement, feminism and the national struggle in Palestine: unresolved contradictions: Kathy Glavanis-Grantham

On 13 July 1992, a press conference organised by all four Palestinian women’s committees was held in East Jerusalem under the tide ‘No To Intellectual Oppression’. The four speakers on the panel were, in typical Palestinian style, chosen with care to give representation to the spectrum of political and social forces that constitute the bulwark of the wider nationalist and women’s movements: a leading activist from one of the women’s committees, a wellknown and nationally respected figure in a number of Nablus-based women’s charitable societies, a university lecturer of English literature who has written on issues of feminism and national liberation, and most important of all, Faisal alHussaini, the only man, the leader of the Advisory Group to one of the first Palestinian peace delegation and the acknowledged figurehead of Fateh, the largest political organisation in the Occupied Territories. The immediate reason for the calling of the press conference was the receiving of a number of threatening letters from ‘fundamentalist Islamic groups during the Women’s Film Festival in Jerusalem in June’ 1992,1 an event organised by the Women’s Studies Centre, the only women’s organisation to my knowledge with an acknowledged commitment to a feminist agenda.2 The speakers and audience affirmed that this was not an isolated incident, but was representative of a continuing assault on Palestinian women and their freedom of expression, which has primarily focused on the imposition of a dress code, where short sleeves, tights, and uncovered heads are equated with immoral behaviour. Analyses and suggested solutions varied, depending on gender and politics, ranging from al-Hussaini’s focus on the lack of popular committees and a call for their reintroduction, to the lack of democracy within Palestinian society and institutions in general, and the specific call for a more active participation of women in these bodies.3