The role of women in war is always harrowing: they are simultaneously seen as ‘victims’ as demonstrated in the ‘women and children’ mantra when assessing human costs – a phrase which implicitly robs men of their victimhood by virtue of being men – and women have historically been used in war as weapons, with rape and sexually abuse prevalent. This latest chapter in the Palestine/Israel War is no exception. The month-long Gaza conflict has slaughtered 1400+ human lives, 80% of civilians and when UN buildings were bombed, women and their children were the first victims. In tandem with this, there has been a worrying growth of misogyny coming out of Israel towards both Palestinian women and the ‘slut-shaming’ of Israeli women who speak up. On the other hand there many women involved in the Israeli War effort, either by directly fighting – remember that both men and women have compulsory military service in Israel – or by moral support through stripping, protesting etc.
Here is a selection of articles that should go some way to shed light on women’s role (or lack thereof) in the conflict.
Misogyny in Israel:
There has been a worryingly growing acceptance of misogyny in mainstream political and cultural thought which is directed towards Palestinian women and Israeli women who dare to criticise the Gaza slaughter. A stance which is doubly ironic when one considers the claim that Israel is the ‘only democracy in the Middle East.’ On the other hand, a social media campaign has started which encourages women to strip for the IDF.
[I feel impelled to add a Trigger Warning to this last post; it describes harrowing account of sexual torture in the Israeli prison].
Life Within Gaza:
There were a plethora of articles to choose from for this section, however, fundamentally, the heart of the matter is the same: women are directly caught in hostilities both as mothers with their children and innocent civilians. A lot of the sources I read were extremely harrowing.
Note: most discourse coming out of Gaza from women seems to be focused upon women in care-giving position, usually mothers.
On the Gendered Nature of War:
Thus, the image that comes out of this is demonstrate yet again that women and their bodies are frequently used as nothing more than another weapon of war that can be discarded at will. Moreover, Palestinian women, when they are seen as humans, are categorised as victims, innocent and harmless. Both dichotomies are unfair and inaccurate. Women and children have been suffering greatly in this latest War and it is our role, as observers, to empathise and mourn them not as women caught in crossfire but as humans who have lost their lives in the gradual demise of Palestine.
Like: Zena Agha