One of the main determinants of the role of Palestinian women is the structure of the family which may be a nuclear unit, a transitional unit, or extended family. The significant influences to the rights of women in Palestine are the patriarchal tradition and the teachings of the Quran.
The young men can also be the victims of the patriarchy, which is designed primarily to serve the “alpha dog” male. But the primary victims are women. Palestinian women live not only under the oppression of the Israeli occupation, but also the repression of a male-dominated society which insists that an entire family’s reputation hangs on the fragile thread of their hymens and safeguarding this “honour” requires imposing draconian restrictions on women.
This higher level of desperation can make the line between the political and the personal vaguer in the case of women than men.
However, there had been a gradual change in the attitudes of parents regarding the education of their Palestinian daughters.
Leila Khaled, the first woman ever to hijack an aircraft, who has become the icon of Palestinian armed resistance, said it is equally unconvincing that, some women believe that their gender can make them more radical than men. “Women give life When they are involved, they are more faithful to the revolution because they defend the lives of their children too.”
Nadia Dabbagh, a child and adolescent psychologist who has researched the psychological effects of the conflict on youth, said. “Living under occupation has direct impacts on the ability of people to live normal lives.”
Dabbagh said “In my research, I found men could feel powerless and frustrated – unable to do what they felt they needed to do as men.”
Dabbagh’s informative and taboo-breaking study “Suicide in Palestine,” she found that some troubled women sought a more “honourable” path to taking their own lives.
“Rather than bring shame or dishonour to their entire family and even their community by running away or committing suicide, these women sought escape through an act that would by and large be viewed as patriotic,” she wrote.
And one aspect that has triggered a great deal of confusion and shock to both among Palestinians and abroad is that a high number of attacks were carried out by young women. A fifth of attackers or alleged attackers were women. These attacks have evoked is due to the intersection between sexism and orientalism.
When Dabbagh interviewed a young women named Aisha, who had been abused by her siblings and during her two marriages. During the second Intifada, Aisha tried to attack a female soldier armed with nothing but a blunt razor blade, landing her in an Israeli prison, where she unexpectedly found escape and comfort.
“At the beginning it was difficult, but I could rest. It was better than outside. I would prefer to go back,” admitted Aisha.
Amal Abusif, a women’s rights activist and academic whose ongoing PhD research explores these issues, she said. “The issues can be political but the motives driving women are often personal.” She wrote that the recent wave of female stabbings is partly and indirect revolt against the patriarchy. “It’s a rebellion against society also. They’re fighting for gender equality.”
Even though the involvement of Palestinian women has largely been in the peaceful aspects of the struggle, their participation in armed resistance and other forms of political violence including terrorism goes back decades, from the hijackings of the 1960s and 1970s to the suicide bombers of the second Intifada.
Palestinian women have been involved in their national struggle. They have played a central role in the ‘Jerusalem Intifada’ and they ignited its first spark, via the Murabitat at al- Aqsa. But they were marginalised and sidelined during the second.