The Exploitation of Palestinian Women’s Rights NGOs

...International Legitimization of Gender Inequality

Multilateral organizations such as the EU and UN also contribute to the perpetuation of gender inequality within Palestinian society by collaborating with, encouraging, and lending an international platform to organizations and individuals who prioritize Palestinian political aspirations over gender equality and thus promote radical and/or violent agendas. As described in a report to the European Parliament (EP) by the EP Directorate General for Internal Policies, “Women’s empowerment in the Palestinian context and their struggle for equal rights is closely linked to their political and economic empowerment which can only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation.”

On September 26, 2017, Addameer General Director Sahar Francis spoke at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels at an event titled “The Role of Women in the Palestinian Popular Struggle.” The event featured Leila Khaled, whose affiliation was listed as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and was organized by Unadikum3. During the event, Khaled was quoted comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, saying, “We now have some sections that are more racist than the Nazis themselves. The Zionist movement in fact has (sic) followed the pattern to the key.”

In addition to Addameer and the European Parliament, UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk labeled WCLAC fieldworker Manal Tamimi as a “human rights defender.” Tamimi?frequently?utilizes antisemitic and violent rhetoric and imagery on social media (see appendix III). In August 2015, Tamimi?tweeted, “I do hate Israel, i (sic) wish a thrid Intefada (sic) coming soon and people rais (sic) up and kills all these zionist settlers everywhere.” Additionally, in an August 2014 interview, Tamimi reflected on the role of Palestinian women in the conflict, saying, “Palestinian women… are raising the new generation, they are putting the seeds of resistance… they grow up their children (sic) how to fight, how to be strong… even the men, they are getting their strength from women’s strength.”

Far from condemning Tamimi, WCLAC filed a complaint to the UN over the “Frequent targeting of Palestinian human rights defender: Mrs. Manal Tamimi.” Following an official complaint sent by Anne Herzberg, Legal Advisor at NGO Monitor, and the subsequent intervention of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tamimi was removed from the list.

WCLAC was granted official consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2005 and is accredited to act as a UN observer. WCLAC enjoys this official status while supporting violence and defending persons espousing violent and racist ideologies, such as Manal Tamimi.

In June 2017, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka ?imonović, presented her report and referred to a “clear linkage between the prolonged [Israeli] occupation and violence against [Palestinian] women.” Specifically, ?imonović highlighted the issue of the “gendered impact” of the conflict on Palestinian women and implied that Israeli policy is a major cause for domestic violence within Palestinian society. This echoes claims by Palestinian NGOs such as WCLAC and PASSIA, which in an August 2015 report asserted, “Violence against women is on a rise, inter alia, due to Palestinian men’s frustration which stems from the loss of their ability to provide and protect resulting from the dire economic conditions.” ?imonović provided no empirical information or statistics to back up her assertion.

Similarly, in December 2016, UN Women published a report “International Legal Accountability Mechanisms – Palestinian Women Living under Occupation.” The report, by UN Women Palestine and authored by Wendy Isaack (former Human Rights Specialist for UN Women Palestine and current Human Rights Watch employee) claims to show “the ways in which the Israeli occupation results in a wide array of human rights violations that have a significant impact on women and to consider international legal accountability mechanisms for redress.” However, the report suffers from several methodological flaws in that no empirical data or statistical information is presented to support the author’s claims. Additionally, the report relies heavily on highly politicized NGOs that offer unsubstantiated claims and display a blatant bias against Israel (see NGO Monitor’s report).

The report repeats the same patriarchal motif of prioritizing Palestinian nationalism before gender equality, thus granting legitimacy to a structural inequality in Palestinian society that relegates women’s issues to the background.

Problematic Role Models in Palestinian Society

The Palestinian elevation of the “resistance fighter” as hero steers women to adopt radical and violent roles. This phenomenon is reflected by the female Palestinian role models glorified by the Palestinian Authority (PA), international NGOs, and local women’s rights NGOs. For example,

  • In a speech before the European Parliament in September 2017, 17 year old Ahed Tamimi— whose arrest on counts of assault and incitement to terror has since resulted in her celebration as an international icon—said, “I’m very proud to be here with Leila Khaled, the most important symbol of the Palestinian revolution and (sic) really represents Palestinian women and shows us how woman at all stages of the Palestinian struggle have been able to be an example of what can be done. There are many symbols, many Palestinian women who resist, who oppose, we have Leila Khaled. We appreciate all of these women because they show the perseverance, the resistance, this commitment of the cause and they are fantastic example for women in Palestine.” Leila Khaled is notorious for hijacking airliners and is a member of the PFLP, designated a terror organization by the EU, US, Canada, and Israel.

  • The Palestinian NGO Miftah —a group that claims to “disseminate the Palestinian narrative,” “influence policy and legislation,” and “achieve a more supportive policy environment for reform and democratization in Palestine”— described Wafa Idris, one of the first female Palestinian suicide bombers, as “the beginning of a string of Palestinian women dedicated to sacrificing their lives for the cause.” Idris detonated herself on January 27, 2002, killing 81 year-old Pinhas Takatli and wounding 150 Israeli civilians. She is described as one of the “several young women” who “decided to join the ranks of the resistance movement.”

  • In May 2017, the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) inaugurated a youth center in the town of Burqa, near Nablus. The center is named after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who in 1978 murdered 37 civilians, including 12 children. Funding for this building was provided by Norway, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Local Government. Both Norway and UN Women strongly condemned the use of their funding for this center, while Denmark – which provided funding to the NGO via the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat – pulled funding and demanded that WATC return the Danish aid.

  • As uncovered by Palestinian Media Watch, on January 1, 2018, official Palestinian Authority TV aired a segment on the role of young people in the “Palestinian revolution.” The show’s guest was Madeline Manna, the coordinator of Fatah’s university student committee for women, known as “Sisters of Dalal” after Mughrabi. Manna said, “In the Palestinian universities, especially in the Fatah Shabiba [Student Movement], the female student committees were named after Martyr Dalal Mughrabi – Sisters of Dalal – after the Martyr who was the commander of 11 men. We learn leadership from her, and that women always lead… Dalal Mughrabi is a role model, like other heroic female Martyrs in Palestine. We draw willpower and determination from her, and perseverance and [the will to] continue this struggle.”


Women and women’s interest groups operate within a precarious position in Palestinian society. This reality does not seem entirely lost on European policy makers. In a report commissioned by the EU, the authors concluded that, “The EU must not lose sight of the fact that European activities in Palestine take place in a context that is not entirely in line with European values such as peace building, gender equality, democracy and human rights” (emphasis added). This conclusion is based on the finding that EU values of “peace-building, democracy, and gender equality” present “stumbling blocks” for Palestinian civil society.

However, until fundamental flaws are addressed, women will remain significantly disadvantaged and marginalized in Palestinian society in comparison to men. Consistent with figures from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the State of Palestine was ranked 114th out of 188 countries in regards to the 2015 Gender Inequality Index as well as the 2015 Gender Development Index (GDI). The GDI also demonstrated that the estimated gross national income per capita for Palestinian women was eight times less than it was for Palestinian men.

Palestinian civil space is heavily influenced by several large umbrella groups that require member organizations (numbering in the hundreds) to adhere to the so-called “Palestinian NGO Code of Conduct.” The code, which calls for anti-normalization, rejectionism, and the prioritization of Palestinian aspirations for statehood over all other endeavors, results in women’s groups attaining a degree of internal legitimacy in Palestinian society, but renders them political projects that do not challenge the existing discriminatory status quo.

This phenomenon further perpetuates the conflict and results in girls and women being presented with poor role models, encouraging them to participate in violence.

This unfortunate state of affairs is only exacerbated by European and international funding. By providing an international platform to groups that adhere to the Palestinian NGO code of conduct and do nothing to work against domestic Palestinian discrimination, international funders are legitimizing the linkage of Palestinian national aspirations to gender equality, thus helping to relegate women’s issues in Palestinian society to the background. Additionally, by continuing to fund such groups, international funders are directly contributing to advancing agendas that run counter to European and Western values, especially as they relate to peace in the Middle East and a two-state framework....


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