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Posted in: Israel, Propaganda, Muslim Women

Published on Jan 24, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Lancet Study Blames Palestinian Wife-Beating on Israel


It's official. Britain's premier medical journal Lancet has been completely Palestinianized. It no longer bears any relationship to the first-rate scientific journal it once was. Perhaps Lancet is no longer a leader but has become a follower in the global movement in which standards have plunged, biases have soared, and Big Lies now pass for top-of-the-line academic, scientific work.

The post-colonial academy is itself thoroughly colonized by the false and dangerous ideas of Edward Said (please read, my dear friend, Ibn Warraq's book Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism). However, I once believed that Said's paranoid perspective had primarily infected and indoctrinated only the social sciences, humanities, and Middle East Studies. We now see his malign influence at work in a new article, just out today, by professors who work at the Department of Medicine at Harvard University; the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at Minnesota University's School of Public Health; The Boston University School of Medicine; the School of Nursing at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; and at the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

Their study is titled: "Association between exposure to political violence and intimate-partner violence in the occupied Palestinian territory: a cross-sectional study." And yes, they have found that Palestinian husbands are more violent towards Palestinian wives as a function of the Israeli "occupation"—and that the violence increases significantly when the husbands are "directly" as opposed to "indirectly" exposed to political violence.

I believe that Arab and Muslim men, including Palestinian men, are indeed violent towards Arab and Muslim women. I also believe that war-related stress, including poverty, usually increases "intimate partner violence," aka male domestic violence. But beyond that, how does one evaluate this study?

First, let's follow the money. This study was funded by the Palestinian National Authority as well as by the Core Funding Group at the University of Minnesota. The Palestinian Authority is not a disinterested party. But even worse: The data was collected by the Palestinian Central Bureau. These are the people who told the world that Israeli soldiers shot young Mohammed al-Dura, committed a massacre in Jenin, and purposely attacked Palestinian civilians (who just happened to be jihadists dressed in civilian clothing or hostage-civilians behind whom the jihadists hid).

Second, let's note that the study has a political goal which trumps any objective academic or feminist goal. (These researchers claim to have a "feminist" perspective). In my view, this study wishes to present Palestinian men as victims, even when those men are battering and murdering their wives. And, it wishes to present Palestinian cultural barbarism, which includes severe child abuse, as also related to the alleged Israeli occupation.

Third, therefore, the study has purposely omitted the violence, including femicide, which is routinely perpetrated against daughters and sisters in "occupied Palestine" and has, instead, chosen to focus only on husband-wife violence and only on couples who are currently married. The honor murders of daughters and sisters by their parents and brothers is a well known phenomenon in Gaza and on the West Bank.

I have written about some high profile cases HERE and HERE. "Souad" barely survived being set on fire by her family because she became pregnant out of wedlock by the man who promised to marry her; Israelis nursed her back to health and she fled the area for Europe, where she wrote a book about her near-death experience. Asma'a al-Ghoul, whom I interviewed in 2008, was fired for writing a series of articles about honor killings on the West Bank and in Gaza. These barbaric, misogynist, and femicidal customs are not due to any alleged political or economic occupation by Israelis.

Fourth, if one is completely serious about violence against women, the researchers would have factored in the role of Hamas, which has "occupied" Gaza both militarily and religiously. Since they have done so, more and more (previously modern) women are being forced to veil; more child marriages as well as arranged marriages are taking place.

Indeed, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have lured young Palestinian women into becoming suicide killers. In 2002, they manipulated Wafa Idris, a clinically depressed woman, and in 2004 they lured Reem al-Riyashi, a wife and mother of two into an affair and then threatened to shame her (which would have led to her being honor-murdered). Instead, they gave her a path to glory.

This study chose not to include such terrible violence against women because it could not, strictly speaking, be attributed to the alleged Israeli occupation—or to the matter of the disputed territories.

Fifth, had the Lancet study wished to study—truly study—the effects of war on women in domestic settings, they would also have studied or at least referred to studies about the fate of Israeli women in terms of "intimate partner violence"; after all, they are also women and they are on the other side of the exact same conflict. A comparison might have been both just and arguably more feminist.

Sixth, Lancet is a British journal and it has hereby descended to the level of the same anti-Zionist/anti-Jewish propaganda that is common among Britain's own non-academic journalists. Countless British journalists have done precisely what this study has attempted to do: Blame it all on Israel.

Lancet has done this before, and I have written about this rather nasty tendency more than once. I have also written about this tendency among feminists in my book The Death of Feminism. Make no mistake: This study is introduced by Rita Giacoman, a real feminist who teaches at the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University which is located in, as Lancet describes it, "Occupied Palestinian territory."

In 2002, in an updated version of her book The Price of Honor British-American (and anti-Zionist) journalist Jan Goodwin claims that the Israeli military policies of self-defense have emasculated Palestinian men. Curfews keep grandiose, woman-hating, and honor- and shame-reared men at home for long hours. Based on anecdotal evidence, Goodwin believes that such men take their considerable frustrations out on women and children. Here, Goodwin quotes Suha Sabbagh, who says that the "Palestinian male, a father, the authority figure in the house, has lost all his authority." Goodwin dwells on the systematic "humiliation" of the Palestinian man by the Israelis. She writes: "Much of this belittling has taken place in front of their children and womenfolk," which in turn has "cut down" the image of the Palestinian man as the family's "hero" figure. "For Arab men, this is the same as losing their masculinity."

And here Goodwin, like so many other feminists, contradicts herself. Arab and Muslim overly vigilant paternal authority is precisely what has brutalized Arab and Muslim women. In 1992, Jean Sasson published Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. The unnamed al-Saud princess (whose story Sasson tells), describes the typically cruel way in which fathers, brothers, and husbands treat their "womenfolk." Let me quote her: "The authority of a Saudi male is unlimited; his wife and children survive only if he desires. In our homes, he is the state…From an early age, the male child is taught that women are of little value…the child witnesses the disdain shown his mother and sisters by his father; this leads to his scorn of all females…[the] women in my land are ignored by their fathers, scorned by their brothers, and abused by their husbands."

Iranian-Swiss Carmen bin Laden, in her book Inside the Kingdom, portrays life for women under Saudi male rule similarly. Women cannot go out without a male escort and they cannot leave the house or the county without male permission and accompaniment. A daughter can be married against her will, a father can seize custody of his children and not allow their mother to ever see them again. Bin Laden writes: "I rarely met a Saudi woman who was not afraid of her husband…A wife cannot do anything without her husband's permission. She cannot go out, cannot study, often cannot even eat at his table. Women in Saudi Arabia must live in obedience, in isolation, and in the fear that they may be cast out and summarily divorced."

Saudi Arabia has not been "settled," "colonized," or "humiliated," by Israelis.

Jordan has not been "settled," "colonized," "occupied," or "humiliated" by Israel. And yet, Jordan has a high rate of honor killing. According to Elaine Sheeley, in her 2007 book Reclaiming Honor in Jordan, nineteen to one hundred honor killings take place in Jordan each year. Based on another author's use of United Nations statistics, Sheeley also cites a much larger number of honor killings in Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank. (I am not sure how they came to this figure or if it is at all accurate but the number given is "2550 honor killings per annum. each year."

Due to the Bedouin leadership, honor killing is rampant in Jordan; the police jail the intended victims (for their safety) rather than the potential perpetrators; and even the King dare not sign into law serious conseqences for an honor killing. Judges are allowed to use their discretion in sentencing and sentences are very light.

Egypt is not colonized by Israel, and yet serious violence against women is common there. This includes female genital mutilation, wife-beating, daughter-beating, forced marriages—and, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, forced veiling of previously modern women.

I am not denying that war is Hell or that women do not often bear the brunt of war-related male frustration at home. I am challenging how Israel alone is being blamed in this study for a war that in truth, was declared long ago against the Jewish state by the Arab League, the Palestinian Authority, and more recently, by Hamas, and Hezbollah. I am challenging the "politics" of both this study and of Lancet whose aim is to scapegoat Israel for the barbarism and misogyny which is indigenous to Arab and Muslim culture, even more so, when jihad and terrorism dominate the world.


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