In November, in celebration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Mada al-Carmel hosted, as part of its Gender Studies Program, a workshop on “Palestinian Women in Jaffa.” The workshop focused on the issue of state control of the Palestinian home in Jaffa and on Palestinian woman’s identity in the spatial sphere of Jaffa.
Ms. Himmat Zu’bi, coordinator of Mada al-Carmel’s Gender Studies Program, opened the discussion. She explained how the workshop was part of the program’s effort to raise the issue of violence against women from perspectives that are generally not discussed, such as land expropriation, house demolitions, and the Palestinian exile. These actions involve political, social, and economic violence against Palestinian women. The Gender Studies Program had chosen Jaffa as a site for studying the status of Palestinian women in “mixed cities,” as part of striving for a deep understanding of the economic status of Palestinian women in Israel.
Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, director of the Gender Studies Program, presented a paper titled, “Homeland as Exile: Land Expropriation and Palestinian Exile as Tools of Violence Against Women.” She discussed the desire to exile Palestinians from their homeland created a psychology of tense expectation given the continuous threat of loss of place. She added that although the homeland, the home place, is a goal in and of itself, this same place has become a source for denying Palestinian existence through legal and economic means.
A feminist researcher on spatial matters, Ms. Amney Atamneh, presented a summary of her master’s thesis, which dealt with the identity and status of Palestinian women in the spatial context of Jaffa. She discussed the struggle and actions taken by Palestinian women in Jaffa against state policy, which is aimed at bringing about a Jaffa free of Palestinian residents. Toward this end, Ms. Atamneh noted, Israel uses ostensibly “clean” tools, such as “urban renewal,” with the objective of controlling Palestinian homes in Jaffa and removing their residents. She emphasized that it is impossible to understand the geography of “mixed cities” without considering the state’s political violence.
Researcher Mr. Sami Abu-Shihadeh, a resident of Jaffa, responded to the speakers’ comments: “We do not have sufficient serious, specific information on the events that took place during the Nakba. We do not know enough about what happened to Palestinian men and women…We must recognize the absurdity of our studying the Nakba and its consequences in Israeli universities, the same universities that, for the most part deny the Nakba.” Mr. Abu-Shihadeh expressed the need to return to the pre-Israeli experience, that is, to life pre-1948, to research the Palestinian case, and the need to call attention to the apartheid and ghetto policy that Israel implements in dividing the spatial sphere.