Opinion

No #MeToo for These Palestinian Women Imprisoned in Israel

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Khalida Jarrar in the courtroom of the Ofer detention facility, 2019.
Khalida Jarrar in the courtroom of the Ofer detention facility, 2019. Credit: Alex Levac
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

They’re not women, they’re “terrorists,” so no one cares when they suffer abuse. At a time when any sexist remark to a woman can lead to a riot, the torture during interrogation or false imprisonment of women infuriate no one. When careers and lives are ruined because of an improper kiss or a hug, the restraint of women for days and nights in contorted positions, sleep deprivation and false imprisonment are acceptable because they are “terrorists.” The #MeToo movement has gone far, sometimes too far and sometimes not far enough: It stops at the gate of Camp Ofer and the interrogation facilities of the Shin Bet security service. There, it doesn’t exist. There women can be abused to the heart’s content of the occupation authorities. No one will protest.

One day last week the detainee Khalida Jarrar, a member of the nonexistent Palestinian parliament, was brought into the depressing military court in Ofer. She was not tortured during her interrogations, but signs of hardship were clearly visible. Handcuffed, in a scruffy Israel Prison Services coat, her face showing the fatigue of three and a half months of detention and interrogations, a veteran of past detentions, most of them without charges being brought, she has been charged with “holding a position in an illegal association.” The mountain of Shin Bet briefings to members of the media, in which she was accused of responsibility for the August murder of Rina Shnerb in the West Bank, turned into a molehill in the form of a political arrest for “holding a position.”

Israel doesn’t even bother to hide the fact that it holds political detainees, as in despotic regimes.

Jarrar was charged with stands accused of responsibility for “the national and political activity” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular, left-wing party, whose right to exist the occupier does not recognize, just as it doesn’t recognize any Palestinian party’s right to exist, because they are all “terror organizations.” Even her prosecutors admit that Jarrar’s only sin is her political activity. Only three Israeli women, who are to be commended, came to Ofer to show solidarity with the courageous Palestinian feminist in jail. #MeToo? Women’s organization? Not here. The fate of journalism student Mais Abu Ghosh was even worse. According to her father and her lawyers, she was tortured during interrogation. A student activist, she has been in detention for about six months. The charges against her are terrifying, but after reading them it’s clear that nearly all of them are ridiculous. The most serious charge, “carrying a weapon, possession and manufacture of a weapon,” states that she filled glass bottles with gasoline at a gas station and pushed rags into them, for use as Molotov cocktails. That is the big arms manufacturer from Qalandiyah.

The other charges are completely political. “Contact with the enemy,” for example, refers to her participation in a conference on the return of refugees in Lebanon and an interview with the Hezbollah radio station. Her lawyers are demanding a voir dire, a trial within a trial, over the violence they say was used on her during interrogation. Her father says he barely recognized her the first time he saw her after her arrest. This was shortly after another detainee, Samer Arbeed, was hospitalized in critical condition following torture by his interrogators, who broke 16 of his ribs in 30 hours and caused internal injuries.

Abu Ghosh’s lawyers say that she was questioned for days and nights, bound in the notorious “banana” and “frog” positions. Here too, there’s no #MeToo. It’s forbidden to caress a woman against her will, as it should be, but it’s OK to shackle her in stress positions and abuse her. The women of the feminist movement who pillory forcible kissers won’t castigate any of the interrogators and torturers. The women’s organizations will remain silent: They’re too busy with the heroic struggle to put young women in tanks so they can bombard Gaza to their heart’s content, just like the guys, in the name of sexual equality.

But there are a few dozen Palestinian women in Damon Prison right now. Some are political detainees, some have been tortured during interrogation. Why don’t the angry lionesses of #MeToo care about them?

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