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Women and the Politics of Military Confrontation

Women and the Politics of Military Confrontation: Palestinian and Israeli Gendered Narratives of Dislocation

Nahla Abdo
Ronit Lentin
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 338
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  • Book Info
    Women and the Politics of Military Confrontation
    Book Description:

    As the crisis in Israel does not show any signs of abating, this remarkable collection, edited by an Israeli and a Palestinian scholar and with contributions by Palestinian and Israeli women, offers a vivid and harrowing picture of the conflict and of its impact on daily life, especially as it affects women's experiences that differ significantly from those of men.

    The (auto)biographical narratives in this volume focus on some of the most disturbing effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a sense of dislocation that goes well beyond the geographical meaning of the word; it involves social, cultural, national and gender dislocation, including alienation from one's own home, family, community, and society. The accounts become even more poignant if seen against the backdrop of the roots of the conflict, the real or imaginary construct of a state to save and shelter particularly European Jews from the horrors of Nazism in parallel to the other side of the coin: Israel as a settler-colonial state responsible for the displacement of the Palestinian nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-173-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. viii-xii)
  5. Writing Dislocation, Writing the Self: Bringing (Back) the Political into Gendered Israeli-Palestinian Dialoguing
    (pp. 1-34)
    Nahla Abdo and Ronit Lentin

    Writing dialogically as a process of sharing not only our thoughts, but also our power, in a situation in which the power differential (between Israelis and Palestinians) is an obvious truism, has been our ongoing work as we toil to put this book together. In the panel titled ‘Diversity in Editing’ at which we were invited to speak during the Israeli Association of Feminist Studies and Gender Research conference dedicated to the crucial feminist issue of ‘difference’ held in Beit Berl College on 16 February 2000, we presented our thoughts about the concept of ‘Shonout/difference’ and the meanings of the...


    • 1. Exile in Lebanon

      • A Narrative of Dispossession
        (pp. 39-55)
        Samia Costandi

        As a Palestinian dispossessed woman, I came from the desolate streets of Beirut to Montreal seeking a higher education. Beirut had begun to be resurrected during the late eighties, and did not fully come out of the turmoil of its civil war until the early nineties. I had been trained in philosophy in my undergraduate years. After my divorce, I went back to my former university and procured an additional diploma in teaching English as a second language; concurrently, I taught ESL there for five years between 1983 and 1988 in a special programme to underprivileged students competing for scholarships....

      • Remembering Mothers, Forming Daughters: Palestinian Women’s Narratives in Refugee Camps in Lebanon
        (pp. 56-71)
        Rosemary Sayigh

        A fruitful theoretical starting point for those concerned with national independence struggles, state formation, and the part played in them by women and gender is Yuval-Davis and Anthias. (Yuval-Davis and Anthias, 1989) The different forms taken by women’s centrality in state-and nation-formation as defined by these writers clearly points to the likelihood of contradiction between active/participatory and passive/symbolic forms. (Yuval-Davis and Anthias, 1989: 7) Chatterjee’s study of anti-colonial nationalisms is another important theoretical reference. (Chatterjee, 1993) This writer sets the participatory/symbolic contradiction within a larger one between the ‘programmatic’ and the ‘thematic’ in anti-colonial nationalisms, the former action-orientated and modernising,...

      • Yaffawiyya (I am from Jaffa)
        (pp. 72-86)
        Souad Dajani

        I always feel rather uncomfortable at the prospect of public disclosure, and at any rate it is hard to separate my personal narrative from the political biography of my people. I am also a bit uneasy with the selfishness involved in the act of writing – of having the luxury to do so while my nation is under siege. So I would like to resort to the form of a letter to tell my story. I address this note, ‘Dear friend from Yaffo’, to some generic ‘other’ who has replaced me in my homeland and to whom I have always wanted...

    • 2. Home as Exile

      • Gendered Politics of Location: Generational Intersections
        (pp. 89-99)
        Isis Nusair

        I went back to my hometown Nazareth in late December 1997 to conduct a comparative analysis of the socio political experiences of three generations of Palestinian women, citizens of Israel, from 1948 to1998 for my dissertation. It was my first long stay at home since I started my graduate studies in the United States in 1993. The first inter-generational group I interviewed in Nazareth in mid-January 1998 was my family. I interviewed consecutively my mother, aunt, grandmother, and cousin.

        I spent the morning of 17 January 1998 talking to my grandmother in Arabic about her life experiences, how she defines...

      • Nightmare
        (pp. 100-110)
        Nabila Espanioly

        ‘Death to the Arabs … death to the Arabs!’ a voice shouted outside my window. Although I had been in a deep sleep after a very long day, instinct made me run to the window to see the dozens of cars, civilian cars, passing in the street below and shouting this slogan. My entire body began to shake, even more so when two minutes later I saw the police passing by.

        Another night of nightmares, which had become routine since 28 September 2000. But this night, the nightmare was so real that it felt as if they were coming to...

      • Beyond the Boundaries
        (pp. 111-118)
        Badea Warwar

        My step-grandmother was regarded by those who knew her as one of the most powerful women in town. I came to know her when she was in her nineties and even then, her uniqueness and power were obvious to me. Despite her deteriorating state of health, her strength and youth were all I could see. She was very different from my maternal grandmother, who was always too worried about doing the ‘right thing’ in life and mostly teaching us, the girls in the family, how to behave ‘in the right way’. Since none of my maternal grandmother’s ideas were publicly...

      • Dislocating Self, Relocating ‘Other’: A Palestinian Experience
        (pp. 119-156)
        Nahla Abdo

        For many, if not most Palestinians, the term ‘dislocation’ acquires a very special meaning, as it appears to be synonymous with the very identity they have acquired or have been forced to adopt. Dislocation has historically been perhaps the single most important marker in the socio-economic and political culture and identity of Palestinians. Whether Palestinians are positioned as ‘self’ or as ‘other’, this reality is often unchanged. Speaking from the vantage point of being Palestinians, they see themselves as being the rightful inhabitants, the indigenous people of Palestine who were dislocated from their own homes by the ‘other’, who therefore,...

    • 3. Life under Occupation

      • Diary of the Dispossessed: Women’s Misery and Suffering under Israeli Occupation
        (pp. 159-163)
        Mona El Farra

        At the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada I invited my mother, a seventy-nine-year-old widow and retired head teacher, to stay at my place so I can look after her during this state of national emergency. Her house is near settlement areas in Khan Younis, south of Gaza city, and the situation is very unsafe, with daily violent confrontations between protesters and the Israeli army. Everywhere in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Palestinian stone throwers face an army shielded from any serious threat to its safety by armoured vehicles, tanks, and highly protected barracks.

        Since my mother came to my...

      • Between Dispossession and Undying Hope: The Refugees’ Eternal Agony
        (pp. 164-175)
        Hala Mannaa

        The following is a brief account of the lives, dreams, struggles, and hopes of four refugee women. The women vary in age, social status, and in education. They also carry with them different experiences of diaspora and exile. Although each case is unique, all women share some common baggage that seems to characterise life in exile for most refugee women; this is the articulation of gender oppression and national oppression, or the accumulation of social and cultural contradictions and their exposure during political strife. The first three stories emphasise the national/political concern of women’s identity, while the fourth story exposes...

      • Growing from Within: The Decolonisation of the Mind
        (pp. 176-194)
        Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian

        Being Palestinian means to me being intimately connected to intense personal and emotional upheavals regarding place, location, identity, and desire. It means living – mostly in silence – the personal/political struggle of an oppressed people, working diligently to mend the broken voice inside and between us that carries within its cracks the agony and sufferings of my people. It reflects a discourse of imposed and unheard anguish expressed in the unheard voice of Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the globe. The voice of Palestinians is growing louder, however, and makes claim to our location, place, rights, and desires. We may be unable to...


    • 4. Exile as Home

      • Transformed by Joy
        (pp. 199-206)
        Alice Shalvi

        As I write this, I am preparing myself, mentally and emotionally, for a return to my birthplace, where I have not been for sixty-five years. I already know that none of the three houses in which we lived during the first six years of my life is still standing. As the city where the Krupp munitions factory was located, Essen’s wartime role ensured its massive devastation by Allied bombing. And although I have vivid memories of childhood expeditions to the Stadtwald, the municipally owned forest-park on the city’s outskirts, and of shopping with my mother in the Marktplatz, where we...

      • In Tow: A Mother’s and Daughter’s Gendered Departures and Returns
        (pp. 207-233)
        Rela Mazali

        I never met Eiga Shapiro. I’m positive Fagale Sevin never met her either. ‘I’m taking the liberty of expressing my condolences’, Eiga Shapiro wrote Fagale Sevin, whose first name – pronounced faygeleh – meant ‘little bird’ in Yiddish, though in fact her friends and family mostly called her Fagie – pronounced faygee. Eiga Shapiro wouldn’t have known that, of course. ‘Though I don’t know you personally’, she wrote, ‘I’m taking the liberty of expressing my condolences’.

        Eiga Shapiro was working at the Foreign Ministry of the new state, just recently declared, when she wrote to Fagie Sevin on 2 July 1948. She was...

      • Feminist Peace Activism during the al-Aqsa Intifada
        (pp. 234-248)
        Gila Svirsky

        My journey into the radical left began in the non-Zionist right. ‘Non-Zionist right’ may seem like an oxymoron at first blush, but that’s because most people who know me today can’t picture me coming from the ultra-Orthodox schools of the diaspora, where Zionism was ignored in favour ofYiddishkeit(Jewishness). I am, in fact, a product of this very conservative schooling, which emphasised religious observance in the rigid Lithuanian tradition and was devoid of Zionism, not to mention devoid of relevance to my life, as I understood it. My early forms of defiance focused on religious observance.

        But while my...

    • 5. Exile as an Oppositional Locus

      • The Contaminated Paradise
        (pp. 251-261)
        Nira Yuval-Davis

        ‘Daddy, look there, there standsan Arab!’ My small hand tightened convulsively onto my father’s big one. There the man stood, wearing a white gallabiyya, his head covered with a kafiyyeh.

        An Arab. And the 1948 war just recently finished, a period of sirens, and fear, and sleeping at night in the shelter which functioned during the day also as my nursery school. I ‘knew’ that the seven armies of the Arabs had invaded our Land of Israel and wanted to throw us all to the sea, but our small but brave army had defeated them all and now we...

      • A Reluctant Eulogy: Fragments from the Memories of an Arab-Jew
        (pp. 262-276)
        Ella Habiba Shohat

        Was it inevitable that I, an Arab-Jew, should end up writing in English about my lived linguistic schism between Hebrew and Arabic? As an Iraqi-Jew who grew up in the Israel of the 1960s, I did not enter the three languages in which I have conducted most of my life with the ease with which privileged children slide into cosmopolitanism. Only a decade had passed since my parents’ hasty exodus from Iraq. The word ‘Baghdad’ did not evoke fantastic tales of Ali Baba, Aladdin, or Scheherazade. Although we could not jump on the next train to Baghdad, it seemed that...

    • 6. Existential States of Exile

      • Exile, Memory, Subjectivity: A Yoredet Reflects on National Identity and Gender
        (pp. 279-294)
        Esther Fuchs

        When I define myself as Israeli, what precisely do I refer to? The national label encompasses a sense of place, of language, of community, of cultural memory. Having left the country, have I not forfeited my claim to this definition altogether? This essay is a meditation on my multiple exiles as aYoredet– an ex-Israeli – a woman, a daughter of Holocaust survivors.¹ (Fuchs, 1989: 295– 300). As I refrain from fixing the fluid boundaries of place, language, memory I also reject the possibility that one single accident of birth should dominate all other themes of my personal identity. I would...

      • ‘If I Forget Thee …’: Terms of Diasporicity
        (pp. 295-320)
        Ronit Lentin

        In January 2001, during the fourth month of the al-Aqsa Intifada, I participated in a conference titled ‘Gender, Place and Memory in the Modern Jewish Experience’ at Bar Ilan University. One of the participants argued that since too few Israeli places were named after women, an intervention was needed so as to honour more women by calling places after them. I questioned this discussion, which did not mention the complex geopolitics of place names, many of which were hebraicised after their destruction as Palestinian villages. My comment, like my paper for that conference, met with violent opposition. I was told...

  8. Index
    (pp. 321-324)