Ahead of International Women’s Day, Israeli and Palestinian women demonstrate against the occupation. Israeli security forces use tear gas to break up the protest.
Text by Yael Marom
Photos by Anne Paq, Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org
Roughly 500 Israeli citizens (of both Jewish and Palestinian backgrounds) along with around 1,000 Palestinian women (from the West Bank), demonstrated on both sides of the Qalandia checkpoint Saturday afternoon. The protest was meant to demonstrate Israeli-Palestinian solidarity in opposing the occupation, ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday.
The 1,000 Palestinian women marched from the Qalandia Refugee Camp toward the checkpoint that separates Jerusalem and Ramallah, attempting to reach the Israeli side. As the women approached the checkpoint Israeli security forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and sprayed pepper spray at them in order to forcefully disperse the protest. Dozens of the women were wounded, at least 10 of whom were taken for further medical care.
On the Israeli side, hundreds of women — from Nazareth, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Shefa-‘Amr, Jerusalem and more — held signs reading: “Equality yes, racism no”, “Enough have died for the occupation”. They also chanted to tear down the separation wall. The three women candidates on the Joint List, Aida Touma-Suliman, Haneen Zoabi and Nabila Espanioly, also took part in the demonstration. Israeli security forces prevented those on the Israeli side from approaching the checkpoint’s gate.
Joint List candidate Aida Touma-Suliman said that protesting along the separation barrier with Jewish and Arab women is the right way to take an active part in the struggle for women’s rights and against the occupation. “Instead of wasting money on settlements and occupation, we, women citizens of the State, deserve to benefit from those budgets in order to improve our lives. The women on the other side of the fence deserve to live lives free of occupation and checkpoints.”
Fida Tabouni, who took part in the demonstration, said, “You can’t talk about women’s rights without talking about the occupation. You can’t talk about International Women’s Day without discussing women Palestinian prisoners. For us, to talk about a patriarchal society is also to talk about a militaristic society.”
Another protester, Iris Stern Levi of the Coalition of Women for Peace, said: “There is an entire nation behind this wall, and we are responsible for that, whether passively or actively.”
Responding to the wounding of Palestinian women at the demonstration, MK Dov Khenin said: “The message of peace and hope was received with tear gas.” Asking what the Israeli security force were so afraid of, Khenin added, “we represent hope. The women here today are spreading such a strong message that it will succeed.”