“Upon this land is that which deserves life” – Mahmoud Darwish
On March 29th, the local women’s group Waves – Women for Change and the Deir Hanna Women’s Council held a public symposium to commemorate Land Day. The event, coordinated in cooperation with Kayan-Feminist Organization and the Arab Association for Human Rights, explored issues of national identity, land appropriation, and the status of women from a feminist perspective.
The symposium, held on the eve of the 36th anniversary of Land Day, marked the conclusion of a series of women’s events facilitated by Waves and the Deir Hanna Women’s Council throughout the month of March. As has become customary for events hosted by women activists in Deir Hanna, the evening was attended by dozens of local residents and by women from across the region. A call was made for enhanced cooperation in raising awareness about the status of the Arab minority in Israel – and of Arab women in particular, who are acutely vulnerable to discriminatory state policies targeting the Palestinian community.
The program was opened by Mrs. Suheir Al-Hussein, a local feminist activist and Waves group coordinator. Mrs. Hussein greeted attendees and acknowledged the important contributions being made to raise the status of women in Deir Hanna and throughout the Arab community at large. She emphasized the importance of women’s active participation in the political sphere and invited the audience to observe a moment of silence to commemorate the lives of the six demonstrators slain in 1976. She also paid tribute to women in the occupied Palestinian territory and to the many Palestinian prisoners still held in Israeli prisons, highlighting the plight of administrative detainee Hana Shalaby.
In an interview, Deir Hanna Women’s Council President Ms. Juhayna Hussein stressed the importance of such programs and of women’s participation in all areas of the public sphere, including the social, economic and political domains. Ms. Hussein reiterated the work of the Deir Hanna Women’s Council – spanning several years – to raise the status of women and increase their effective participation in the political arena.
In addition, the evening included a presentation by Kayan’s Department of Community Work Coordinator Rafah Anabtawi, who related Kayan’s efforts at the grassroots to raise the status of Arab women. Ms. Anabtawi touched upon the relationship between the status of Arab women and the status of the Palestinian community vis-à-vis the State of Israel, pointing out that one cannot speak earnestly about the status of Palestinian women without acknowledging the situation of an Arab national minority in a state that defines itself as Jewish. She added that in order to marginalize the Palestinian society, the State of Israel has consistently pursued domestic policies of racial discrimination. She stressed that Israel is not interested in the empowerment of Palestinian women, as these leaders could become a potent force in strengthening their community. Ms. Anabtawi also clarified that although women suffer discrimination by virtue of their status as part of the Arab minority, they also face gender-based discrimination from within the Arab community itself. She stressed that it is imperative to redouble efforts to reduce discrimination, in all its forms and manifestations.
The evening’s program also included a screening of the documentary film,”Generator,” which brings to light the tragic situation faced by Arab communities in the Naqab resulting from Israeli policies of discrimination, home demolitions and land confiscation. The film is a powerful expose of the harsh conditions faced by the Arab community of the Naqab and by Arab citizens of Israel in general. The film sparked lively debate among attendees concerning the ideals of freedom and liberty, and a discussion of the concept that “land cannot be liberated without the liberation of human beings.” Audience members articulated that the Arab community in general, and women particular, need to intensify their efforts toward intellectual, social, economic and political liberation. On this occasion, local poet and performing artist, Mrs. Taghrid Habib, recited a poem entitled, “The cries of lost.”
The evening was concluded by Mr. Ahmed Jabareen of the Arab Association for Human Rights, who reviewed the historical foundations and evolution of Land Day. He highlighted the role of women in the struggle and stressed the importance of their participation in the political and national domains.