Some Reflections on BDS and Feminist Political Solidarity

An introduction to a spe­cial sec­tion in Vol 4 No 1 of [email protected] whose au­thors argue for a fem­inist politics of solid­arity that is truly eman­cip­atory in its aspirations.
We are not asking you for heroic ac­tion or to form freedom bri­gades.

An introduction to a spe­cial sec­tion in Vol 4 No 1 of [email protected] whose au­thors argue for a fem­inist politics of solid­arity that is truly eman­cip­atory in its aspirations.

We are not asking you for heroic ac­tion or to form freedom bri­gades. We are simply asking you not to be com­plicit in per­petu­ating the crimes of the Israeli state.1

A little over two years ago, on March 13, 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) made a series of find­ings in their ob­ser­va­tions on Israel’s com­pli­ance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Significantly, they found that the State of Israel’s policies to­wards Palestinian and Bedouin com­munities as re­gards land rights, cit­izen­ship, edu­ca­tion and pro­tec­tion from ra­cial and ethnic dis­crim­in­a­tion, vi­olate sev­eral Articles of the Convention, in­cluding Articles 3, 5 and 7.2 Article 3 con­demns “ra­cial se­greg­a­tion and apartheid.” The news trav­elled quickly through so­cial and polit­ical net­works of act­iv­ists, law­yers working for human rights, and others, but seems to have been ig­nored by most main­stream media. Similarly, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (Findings of the South African Session) found that:

[S]ince 1948 the Israeli au­thor­ities have pur­sued con­certed policies of col­on­isa­tion and ap­pro­pri­ation of Palestinian land. Israel has through its laws and prac­tices di­vided the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian pop­u­la­tions and al­loc­ated them dif­ferent phys­ical spaces, with varying levels and quality of in­fra­struc­ture, ser­vices and ac­cess to re­sources. The end result is whole­sale ter­rit­orial frag­ment­a­tion and a series of sep­arate re­serves and en­claves, with the two groups largely se­greg­ated… this policy is form­ally de­scribed in Israel as hafrada, Hebrew for ‘sep­ar­a­tion’.3 

Ascribing the term apartheid to Israeli state prac­tices raises a plethora of com­plex polit­ical is­sues, most par­tic­u­larly, the in­ev­it­able com­par­ison with South Africa’s apartheid re­gime. I will in­stead focus on how the find­ings of the UN CERD, along with some other re­cent le­gis­lative in­nov­a­tions of the Israeli state, may aug­ment our un­der­stand­ings of the spa­tial and tem­poral di­men­sions of the oc­cu­pa­tion, and the polit­ical con­tours of this par­tic­ular set­tler co­lo­nial re­gime. I will then dis­cuss how apartheid, based on a logic of sep­ar­a­tion and frag­ment­a­tion, is chal­lenged by the BDS move­ment. The an­im­ating spirit of BDS, based on a global politics of solid­arity, finds a com­mitted ally in a fem­inist politics that is anti-​imperialist and anti-​war.

The UN Committee’s find­ings re­late to Israeli laws and legal prac­tices in the do­mains of prop­erty and crim­inal law, and pro­vi­sion of education

The UN CERD ad­opted a series of ob­ser­va­tions that re­late to ra­cial se­greg­a­tion between Jewish and non-​Jewish sec­tors in Israel, in­cluding in the edu­ca­tion system and in the pro­vi­sion of and ac­cess to housing and land, which “raise is­sues under art­icle 3 of the Convention.”4 The Committee found that the two sep­arate sys­tems of edu­ca­tion, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, re­main im­per­meable to one an­other ex­cept in ex­cep­tional cases. The main­ten­ance of sep­arate mu­ni­cip­al­ities – Jewish mu­ni­cip­al­ities and the “so-​called mu­ni­cip­al­ities of the minorities” – also raises con­cerns under Article 3.[5. ibid.] In par­tic­ular, they noted the re­cently en­acted Admissions Committees Law (2011) that em­powers private com­mit­tees to re­ject ap­plic­ants who wish to reside in a mu­ni­cip­ality on the basis of whether they are deemed to be “suit­able to the so­cial life of the com­munity.” This has en­abled ad­mis­sions com­mit­tees in pre­dom­in­antly Jewish neigh­bour­hoods and also of course in bur­geoning set­tle­ments to bar Palestinians from residing in those neighbourhoods.

The Committee noted sev­eral dif­ferent as­pects of the legal dis­crim­in­a­tion with re­spect to land is­sues that af­fect Palestinian and Bedouin com­munities. Several re­cently en­acted laws led the Committee to re­com­mend that the “state en­sure equal ac­cess to land and prop­erty” and to “ab­rogate or res­cind any le­gis­la­tion that does not comply with the prin­ciple of non-​discrimination”. The lan­guage of non-​discrimination doesn’t in my view ad­equately de­scribe the reality of the on­going, daily ap­pro­pri­ation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev) and many other areas, which be­gins in the post-​Mandate era with the Absentee Property Law. As scores of Palestinian and Israeli scholars have re­counted, the Absentee Property Law placed all Palestinian prop­erty owned by people who were deemed to be ab­sent in 1948 with the Custodian of Absentee Property. This land was then later trans­ferred to the Israeli State, and in some in­stances, private or­gan­isa­tions, in­cluding set­tler or­gan­isa­tions. The use of Military Orders, land use laws and urban plan­ning policies, re­stric­tions on the mo­bility of Palestinians, Mandate-​era laws re­garding the ap­pro­pri­ation of land on the basis of how the land is used, all op­erate re­com­bin­antly to dis­pos­sess Palestinians of their land. Recently en­acted laws how­ever, some of which are ana­lysed by the Committee, re­flect changes in the mode of ap­pro­pri­ation re­lied upon over the past 68 years. The Israel Land Administration Law of 2009, the 2010 Amendment to the Land (Acquisition for Public Purposes) Ordinance (1943); and fi­nally the 2010Amendment to the Negev Development Authority Law (1991) ef­fect­ively set out le­gis­lative mech­an­isms for the ap­pro­pri­ation of Palestinian land that will be trans­ferred into a private market eco­nomy of prop­erty own­er­ship. This re­flects a shift from the pro­cess by which ap­pro­pri­ated land was first held by the Jewish National Fund for the Jewish people, and some­times at a much later time, trans­ferred into the hands of private or­gan­isa­tions, in­cluding set­tler or­gan­isa­tions. This marks a sig­ni­ficant change from a system of own­er­ship in which the im­per­at­ives of an ethno-​nationalist set­tler state ini­tially re­placed a private market in land, which is far more typ­ic­ally an at­tribute of set­tler co­lo­nial sys­tems of prop­erty own­er­ship. In Canada, for in­stance, land that was ap­pro­pri­ated from First Nations was placed dir­ectly into a private market eco­nomy, para­sitic on the fic­tion of un­der­lying Crown sovereignty.

There are a few sa­lient as­pects of Israeli apartheid and ra­cial dis­crim­in­a­tion that the Committee did not con­sider, which are also rel­evant to a con­sid­er­a­tion of State-​sanctioned ra­cism and se­greg­a­tion. The cit­izen­ship laws that were up­held in 2012 by the Israeli Supreme Court make it vir­tu­ally im­possible for Palestinians with Israeli cit­izen­ship to reside in Israel with their spouses and chil­dren who do not have Israeli cit­izen­ship.5 The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law was amended in 2003 to ex­clude Palestinians from ob­taining Israeli cit­izen­ship through mar­riage. Specifically, the amend­ment to the Nationality Law pro­hibits granting res­id­ency or cit­izen­ship status to Palestinians from the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories mar­ried to Israeli cit­izens. The Supreme Court up­held the validity of this ra­cially dis­crim­in­atory law, on the basis of se­curity im­per­at­ives.6

The finding that Israel is ef­fect­ively per­petu­ating apartheid is sig­ni­ficant for many dif­ferent reasons. One im­plic­a­tion is that de­scribing Israel as an apartheid state may shift the way we un­der­stand the spa­tial and tem­poral di­men­sions of the con­flict over land, re­sources, and polit­ical cit­izen­ship. Another con­sequence of de­scribing state prac­tices that amount to a form of socio-​economic, polit­ical and ra­cial apartheid is that this dis­course may well in­flu­ence our polit­ical re­sponses to this on­going situ­ation of dispossession.

To begin with the first, in re­cent years there has been a move to­wards con­cep­tu­al­ising Israel/​Palestine as one geo-​political space. Seeing the oc­cu­pa­tion as a con­flict between Israel and the West Bank & Gaza masks the jur­is­dic­tional reality (and com­plexity) of the situ­ation, one in which sim­ilar legal tech­niques are used throughout the West Bank, the Naqab, and many mixed Arab-​Jewish towns and cities to dis­place Palestinians. Israeli set­tle­ments and the con­struc­tion of the Wall in the West Bank have res­ulted in the ap­pro­pri­ation of 59% of West Bank land, some of which lies in ‘seam zones’ that make Palestinian farm­land in­ac­cess­ible to its owners. Residents of some West Bank vil­lages have had con­tact with their fam­ilies, lands and busi­nesses cut off by the Wall. The set­tle­ments are con­nected to each other by roads that Palestinian West Bank res­id­ents are not al­lowed to travel on. Israel has di­vided the West Bank into sixty dis­con­tinuous zones, with over 300 check­points lit­tering the land­scape, many of them mo­bile or flying check­points.7 In Gaza, farmers are un­able to cul­tivate their lands which lie in the ex­pansive ‘seam zone’ guarded by the Israeli mil­itary. The three-​mile naut­ical limit in which Gazans can leg­ally fish has left thou­sands of fish­ermen dev­ast­ated. Inside the bound­aries of Israel, Bedouin com­munities are fa­cing evic­tion, dis­pos­ses­sion and crim­in­al­isa­tion through re­li­ance on Ottoman-​era land laws that have also been used throughout the West Bank to ap­pro­priate land for the Israeli state. Thus, to speak of Israel and Palestine as two sep­arate geo-​political en­tities really be­lies the reality of a space that is burdened by a com­plex re­gime of over­lap­ping jur­is­dic­tions of polit­ical, eco­nomic and mil­itary con­trol and an oc­cu­pa­tion that is not con­fined to areas that have clearly de­lin­eated bor­ders. The concept of apartheid, used to de­scribe sys­temic and leg­al­ised ra­cial se­greg­a­tion within the bound­aries of one ter­ritory is helpful in de­scribing the con­tours of the oc­cu­pa­tion. It also more ac­cur­ately re­flects the fact that pro­lific set­tle­ment activity throughout the West Bank has made the pos­sib­ility of a mean­ingful two state solu­tion dif­fi­cult to ima­gine.8

The frag­ment­a­tion of land, pop­u­la­tions, com­munities, net­works of move­ment and com­mu­nic­a­tion re­flect the logic of the Oslo Accords, which, in the view of Adam Hanieh, have es­sen­tially al­lowed Israel to in­cor­porate various forms of dis­pos­ses­sion within a “com­pre­hensive system of con­trol.”9Hanieh de­tails how, to take one ex­ample, the de­struc­tion of the Palestinian ag­ri­cul­tural sector from 1967 on­wards be­comes ce­mented post-​Oslo in the trans­form­a­tion of Palestinian land into a patch­work of isol­ated en­claves. The lack of ac­cess to their ag­ri­cul­tural land, sources of water for ir­rig­a­tion, and the rampant building of set­tle­ments on fer­tile ground has meant the dev­ast­a­tion of Palestinian ag­ri­cul­ture, the im­pov­er­ish­ment of Palestinian farmers and la­bourers, and also en­sured de­pend­ency on for­eign im­ports, all of which are con­trolled by Israel.[11. ibid.]

Neo-​liberal eco­nomic policies have been shaping life in the West Bank for sev­eral years. The com­plex re­la­tion­ship between the se­curity ap­par­atus, eco­nomic policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the pun­itive con­di­tions on the in­ter­na­tional funding it re­ceives, and the fin­an­cial de­pend­ence of vast swathes of people em­ployed by the PA have cre­ated a web in which many people are caught, and many ex­cluded, from glob­al­ised cir­cuits of credit and debt that carry the promise of a com­fort­able life­style in the midst of the oc­cu­pa­tion.10 

Frantz Fanon warned us of the pit­falls of na­tional bour­geois con­scious­ness, where, to para­phrase Azmi Bishara, those who have polit­ical power under the oc­cu­pa­tion “ex­ploit their po­s­i­tion as polit­ical elites to trans­form them­selves into eco­nomic elites.”11 The eco­nomic policies of the PA are re-​constructing the spa­tial and ma­terial con­di­tions of life in the West Bank. An eco­nomic pro­cess that seems to have no need for a uni­fied ter­ritory, nor for re­spect of basic demo­cratic rights, nor for self-​determination (in­deed, a pro­cess premised upon the con­tinual de­ferral of na­tional lib­er­a­tion12) is un­folding at a seem­ingly rapid pace. How can self-​determination be achieved when the scaf­folding of a neo-​liberal state form has already been put in place?

The con­front­a­tion between lib­er­a­tion politics and the neo-​liberal policies of Fayyad (Finance Minister of the PA until 2012; the cur­rent Finance Minister is Shukri Bishara), were re­vealed in a 2011 scene when Palestinian pris­oners were re­leased in the deal struck by Hamas with the Israeli gov­ern­ment. Palestinian pris­oners were greeted by scores of or­dinary and working class fam­ilies in the re­cently re­con­structed pres­id­en­tial com­pound, themuqata, in Ramallah. Linda Tabar noted how the mass pres­ence of or­dinary Palestinians, many from rural areas, drinking tea served by im­pov­er­ished street vendors, “mo­ment­arily sub­verted the pres­id­en­tial au­thority and power” re­flected in the ar­chi­tec­ture of the muqata. Tabar notes:

After over sixty years of strug­gling for freedom from Zionist set­tler co­lo­ni­alism, Fatah of­fi­cials are em­bra­cing the very sym­bols of dom­inant state power and au­thority, which up­holds the system that op­presses them. The real issue un­der­lying trans­form­a­tion of the muqata is the way the op­pressed begin to ac­cept the system of power and dom­in­ance they have long op­posed.13

The PA has be­come the pur­veyor of neo-​liberal eco­nomic policies that have fa­cil­it­ated a growing dis­parity in wealth between an elite minority and the mass of the Palestinian pop­u­la­tion. A growing middle class (of en­tre­pren­eurs, pro­fes­sionals and em­ployees of the PA) con­sti­tutes a class of con­sumers for the wide range of goods pre­vi­ously un­avail­able in the West Bank. In Ramallah, the con­sequences of such policies are clear; real es­tate spec­u­la­tion, the ex­plo­sion of 5-​star ho­tels and fancy car deal­er­ships built on a bubble of debt and credit mir­rors the kinds of eco­nomic policies re­peatedly ad­opted throughout the world as part of the Post-​Washington Consensus. Feminist critics of neo-​liberalism have stressed its dif­fer­en­tial im­pact on the lives of working women world-​over.

The logic of BDS, which aims to create a uni­fied and global re­sponse to the oc­cu­pa­tion, pushes back against these policies and prac­tices of frag­ment­a­tion and con­trol. BDS ap­plies to all activ­ities that sup­port the oc­cu­pa­tion, whether they take place on a set­tle­ment in the West Bank, a board­room in Tel Aviv, or the con­struc­tion of a rail line in Jerusalem.

The BDS move­ment also provides a bul­wark against the creeping neo-​liberalism so evident in the West Bank. As a civil so­ciety move­ment, BDSby-​passes the PA and the polit­ical im­passe it rep­res­ents. We can see how the cam­paign to boy­cott G4S for in­stance tar­gets the op­er­a­tions and prac­tices of an en­tity that ex­em­pli­fies quite per­fectly the global reach of private cor­por­a­tions into an as­ton­ish­ingly broad-​spectrum se­curity ap­par­atus. The G4Scam­paign con­nects the fact that this mul­tina­tional cor­por­a­tion, the world’s largest se­curity firm, is not only a major ser­vice pro­vider to Israeli prisons14but is also re­spons­ible for the deaths in cus­tody of African refugees such as Jimmy Mubenga, who was killed while being de­ported from the UK.15 The in­ter­con­nec­ted­ness of the vi­ol­ence of de­ten­tion the world over, from which this par­tic­ular cor­por­a­tion makes enormous profits, is brought to the fore by act­iv­ists who are at­tempting to build solid­arity act­ivism between the UK, Palestine, the US, Europe and elsewhere.

Why BDS is a fem­inist issue

Radical politics and polit­ical or­gan­ising seek to re­in­vent the world ac­cording to anti-​imperialist, anti-​capitalist, anti-​patriarchal and anti-​heteronormative eco­nomies of rep­res­ent­a­tion and pro­duc­tion. Several re­cent con­ver­sa­tions about the BDS move­ment with crit­ic­ally thinking aca­demics gave me an op­por­tunity to think about why some people choose not to sup­port BDS even in light of this on-​going situ­ation of co­lo­nial dis­pos­ses­sion of the Palestinian people. The first ar­gu­ment is that to sup­port BDS is to treat Israel as an ex­cep­tion­ally rogue state, or as ex­cep­tion­ally vi­olent. Why single Israel out? One aca­demic told me that she was tired of hearing about Israel when there are so many other awful things going on in the world. Implicit in this ar­gu­ment is that cri­ti­cism of Israel and sup­port of BDS is somehow anti-​Semitic. For a ro­bust de­con­struc­tion of this idea see Judith Butler’s re­sponse to Larry Summers’ con­tro­ver­sial ac­cus­a­tion on this very point,16 which she has had cause to re­it­erate on nu­merous oc­ca­sions since 2003, in re­sponse to the growing cen­sor­ship and legal pro­sec­u­tion of BDSact­iv­ists and sup­porters.17

Anyone fa­miliar with the legal-​political tech­niques used to dis­pos­sess in­di­genous peoples in set­tler co­lo­nial so­ci­eties such as Canada, Australia, and South Africa, amongst others, will find a great re­semb­lance between these places and the laws briefly de­scribed above. Of course Israel is not ex­cep­tional in its vi­ol­ence. The by-​now well-​known glob­al­isa­tion of poli­cing tac­tics that see Israeli mil­itary per­sonnel ca­vorting with their Indian coun­ter­parts to ad­vise on hand­ling the con­flict in Jammu/​Kashmir;18 the re­cent con­sid­er­a­tion of the use of ‘skunk oil’ and water can­nons by British po­lice forces on po­ten­tial protestors19 (skunk oil is quite com­monly used by theIDF in West Bank protests);20 the ra­cist (and some­times lethal) vi­ol­ence that black com­munities are quite reg­u­larly sub­jected to in the UK and in theUS also re­flect the ways in which co­lo­nial re­la­tions of race, class and gendered sub­jug­a­tion are con­tinu­ally re-​written in the present, across the globe. The pro­lific use of ra­cially charged “stop and search” tac­tics in the USand the UK bears a family re­semb­lance to the routine hu­mi­li­ation of Palestinians at check­points. But lim­iting one­self to an ex­er­cise in com­par­ison between dis­astrous forms of op­pres­sion that would at­tempt to measure and quantify state and cor­porate forms of vi­ol­ence on in­di­genous and ra­cial­ised pop­u­la­tions, as though we could cata­logue and rank them, is really to miss the an­im­ating logic of BDS, which is about building solid­arity amongst people who resist oppression.

The prac­tices of the Israeli state are also re­min­is­cent of ra­cially dis­crim­in­atory laws that African Americans had to face until the 1960s in the US. As Angela Y. Davis has noted:

We here in the US should be es­pe­cially con­scious of the sim­il­ar­ities between his­tor­ical Jim Crow prac­tices and con­tem­porary re­gimes of se­greg­a­tion in Occupied Palestine. If we have learned the most im­portant lesson pro­mul­gated by Dr. Martin Luther King – that justice is al­ways in­di­vis­ible – it should be clear that a mass move­ment in solid­arity with Palestinian freedom is long overdue.21

Creating solid­arity, co­ali­tions, and trans­form­ative fem­inist spaces re­quires a crit­ical self-​reflexivity and praxis that Indigenous, Black and Third World fem­in­ists have been de­vel­oping for many dec­ades. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Angela Davis, and Selma James all point to the fact that the main­stream and left fem­inist move­ments have much to learn from black rad­ical and anti-​colonial move­ments.22 Mohanty ar­gues that the work and con­cep­tual chal­lenges posed by “black and Third World fem­in­ists can point the way to­ward a more pre­cise, fem­inist politics based on the spe­cificity of our his­tor­ical and cul­tural loc­a­tions and our common con­texts of struggle.”23 What les­sons can we glean from other polit­ical move­ments? In terms of learning from Black Freedom struggles in the US in the 20th cen­tury, we can re­call that the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 was a pivotal and gen­er­ative event in the civil rights move­ment. Boycotts had been used throughout Alabama during the early 1950s and with the wide­spread sup­port of black com­munities in a variety of cities, in­cluding Montgomery, they caused suf­fi­cient eco­nomic damage to the city bus com­panies to ef­fect sub­stantive polit­ical change.24The Grunwick workers strikes in the 1970s, led largely by im­mig­rant South Asian women, de­pended on solid­arity boy­cotts to strengthen their cause.25 Palestinians have a long his­tory of util­ising boy­cott strategies to resist oc­cu­pa­tion. The cur­rent BDS move­ment sits within this long and varied his­tory of polit­ical resistance.

Do the sim­il­ar­ities in tech­niques of dis­pos­ses­sion and re­pres­sion between Israel, the US, Australia, Canada – not to men­tion a slew of other places – mean that we ought not to sup­port a growing and strong civil so­ciety move­ment in Palestine and abroad? Many critics of BDS often query why people who have no ex­plicit per­sonal, fa­milial or pro­fes­sional at­tach­ment to either Israel or Palestine take polit­ical ac­tion in re­la­tion to the con­flict; and fur­ther­more, often wonder why boy­cott ac­tion is not taken in re­la­tion to a range of other polit­ic­ally re­pressive re­gimes. These critics ig­nore the fact that most non-​Palestinian sup­porters of BDS are also active in other polit­ical or­gan­isa­tions and move­ments that share the polit­ical ob­ject­ives of the BDSmove­ment, as David Lloyd dis­cusses in the in­tro­duc­tion to this Special Section. Second, these critics of BDS also ig­nore the fact that over 170 Palestinian civil so­ciety or­gan­isa­tions (in­cluding trade unions, women’s or­gan­isa­tions, NGOs and others) have asked people the world over to sup­port them in their struggle against the oc­cu­pa­tion;26 to sup­port BDS is an act of polit­ical and eth­ical re­spons­ive­ness. A col­league who re­cently de­cided not to at­tend a con­fer­ence at an Israeli uni­ver­sity reached his con­clu­sion by drawing an ana­logy between the BDS move­ment and a la­bour strike. To at­tend the con­fer­ence and act­ively not sup­port the aca­demic boy­cott would have been, for him, akin to crossing a picket line. While many aca­demics may have little dif­fi­culty in un­der­mining col­lective struggles for so­cial justice, for those who see them­selves as polit­ic­ally pro­gressive I think this is a useful analogy.

The type of fem­inism that the au­thors in this Special Section on BDS sub­scribe to is anti-​imperialist, anti-​colonial and crit­ical of mil­it­arism. Revealing the com­pli­city of a mas­culin­ised and ra­cial mil­it­arism that finds firm roots in co­lo­nial and im­perial wars, fem­in­ists in the post-​war era have been at the fore­front of op­posing war­fare in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and else­where. From the Madres de la Plaza Mayo of Argentina, to Women in Black (who have also been active in Israel27) women have been at the fore­front of op­posing state ter­rorism and violence.

The oc­cu­pa­tion and dis­pos­ses­sion of in­di­genous lands, and the spa­tial vi­ol­ence of se­greg­a­tion that has long char­ac­ter­ised the lives of ra­cial­ised and poor women the world over, have been un­der­stood as central con­cerns of par­tic­ular types of fem­inism. Colonialist state forms have al­ways been pat­ri­archal and het­ero­norm­ative in sub­stance and struc­ture. A fem­inist politics that fails to ad­dress the ur­gent and on­going struggle for de­col­on­isa­tion re­mains ta­citly in ap­proval of, if not com­plicit with, neo-​imperial ag­gres­sion that is thor­oughly ra­cial­ised and gendered.

The de­ploy­ment of ‘equality’ dis­course by im­per­i­alist states and oc­cupying powers, to le­git­imate their status as demo­cra­cies, has been cri­tiqued by queer and fem­inist the­or­ists as a powerful mode of gov­ernance de­ployed to ob­fus­cate struc­tural forms of op­pres­sion and dom­in­a­tion, which are both ra­cial­ised and gendered. For in­stance, homon­ation­alism (as the­or­ised by Jasbir Puar, Aeyal Gross and others28) and fe­mon­ation­alism (as the­or­ised by Sara Farris29) are con­cepts de­veloped by queer and fem­inist the­or­ists which go beyond un­veiling the ways in which equality dis­course and the in­clu­sion of gay, les­bian and trans rights are de­ployed to le­git­imise the rep­res­ent­a­tion of im­perial and set­tler co­lo­nial states as genu­inely demo­cratic. These au­thors also decry the ways in which states wage wars, in­vade, and oc­cupy for­eign lands, on the spe­cious and hy­po­crit­ical basis that they aim to demo­cratise and equalise sex and gender re­la­tions. At this junc­ture, it is im­per­ative to note that the rise of right-​wing Islamist politics in Gaza and within his­toric Palestine cannot be ig­nored when the­or­ising a queer, fem­inist politics of solid­arity. What form should an anti-​colonial fem­inist politics of solid­arity take in the face of the sub­jug­a­tion of women and queers by re­ac­tionary polit­ical or­gan­isa­tions? Creating transna­tional fem­inist solid­arity politics that avoids a lazy re­lativism when having these dis­cus­sions in for­eign con­texts re­quires close col­lab­or­a­tion with, and learning from, Palestinian fem­in­ists and the many Palestinian fem­inist or­gan­isa­tions that have been a central part of the Palestinian struggle.

The del­eg­a­tion of Indigenous and Women of Colour fem­in­ists who vis­ited Israel/​Palestine in 2011 gives a very clear as­sess­ment of what is at stake, and the ways in which anti-​colonial res­ist­ance is in­tim­ately con­nected to struggles for race, gender and sexual emancipation:

As fem­in­ists, we de­plore the Israeli prac­tice of “pink-​washing,” the state’s use of os­tens­ible sup­port for gender and sexual equality to dress-​up its oc­cu­pa­tion. In Palestine, we con­sist­ently found evid­ence and ana­lyses of a more sub­stantive ap­proach to an in­di­vis­ible justice. We met the President and the lead­er­ship of the Arab Feminist Union and sev­eral other women’sgroups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on sev­eral fronts. We vis­ited one of the oldest women’s em­power­ment cen­ters in Palestine, In’ash al-​Usra, and learned about various income-​generating cul­tural pro­jects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS, young or­gan­izers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a com­pre­hensive frame­work for self-​determination and lib­er­a­tion. Feminist col­leagues at Birzeit University, An-​Najah University, and Mada al-​Carmel spoke to us about the or­ganic linkage of anti-​colonial res­ist­ance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the trans­form­ative role Palestinian in­sti­tu­tions of higher edu­ca­tion play in these struggles.30

The au­thors of this Special Section argue for a fem­inist politics of solid­arity that is truly eman­cip­atory in its as­pir­a­tions. The re­la­tion­ship between fem­inist struggles for freedom and oc­cu­pa­tion are nowhere more evident than in the vi­olent polit­ical re­pres­sion Palestinian women faced at the hands of the mil­itary on 8 March this year, when demon­strating for International Women’s Day. Women at­tempted to march past the in­famous Qalandia check­point, to em­phasise the place of women in the lib­er­a­tion move­ment and to as­sert their right to enter the city of Jerusalem freely. They were met with stun gren­ades and teargas, and 11 women were in­jured.31 Violence against women in the con­text of Palestine, as many in­di­genous and women of colour have ar­gued, cannot be sep­ar­ated from the real­ities of a highly mil­it­ar­ised occupation.

First pub­lished on [email protected]

Brenna Bhandar is Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at SOAS, University of London and a member of the Centre for Palestine Studies. Email bb2​9​@​soas.​ac.​uk. She has been a vis­iting lec­turer in Canada and South Africa. Her areas of re­search and teaching in­clude prop­erty law, equity and trusts, in­di­genous land rights, post-​colonial and fem­inist legal theory, mul­ti­cul­tur­alism and plur­alism, crit­ical legal theory, and crit­ical race theory. In her cur­rent re­search pro­ject, she ex­am­ines tech­niques of own­er­ship and dis­pos­ses­sion in set­tler co­lo­nial con­texts. Thanks to Adam Hanieh, Alberto Toscano and David Lloyd for their helpful feed­back on an earlier ver­sion of this piece.

 Footnotes and original article here:


Stay updated!

Sign-up for news, campaign updates, action alerts and fundraisers from the BDS movement.

Subscribe Now