Amazing account of an Israeli mother speaking on behalf of the Palestinian women

Nurit Peled-Elhanan is an amazing woman! The daughter of  Israeli general, Matti Peled, we might have assumed that she’d become a hardliner in the establishment. Moreover, with her daughter being killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in 1997, we would understand if she became contemptuous towards all Palestinians and their cause.

Somehow this amazing woman has not only overcome any bitterness towards her Palestinian neighbours. She has become a leading advocate of Palestinian rights. Her speech before the European Parliament, given on ‘International Women’s Day’ in Strasbourg, says it all!

Dr Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Thank you for inviting me to this today. It is always an honour and a pleasure to be here, among you (at the European Parliament).

However, I must admit I believe you should have invited a Palestinian woman at my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in my county are the Palestinian women. And I would like to dedicate my speech to Miriam R’aban and her husband Kamal, from Bet Lahiya in the Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers while picking strawberries at the family`s strawberry field. No one will ever stand trial for this murder.

When I asked the people who invited me here why didn’t they invite a Palestinian woman, the answer was that it would make the discussion too localized.

I don’t know what is non-localized violence. Racism and discrimination may be theoretical concepts and universal phenomena but their impact is always local, and real. Pain is local, humiliation, sexual abuse, torture and death, are all very local, and so are the scars.

It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army, has expanded around the globe, In fact, state violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the “enlightened” western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence which is hardly ever addressed and which is halfheartedly condoned by most people in Europe and in the USA.

This is because the so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb.

Great France of “la liberte égalite et la fraternite” is scared of little girls with head scarves. Great Jewish Israel is afraid of the Muslim womb which its ministers call a demographic threat.

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Almighty America and Great Britain are infecting their respective citizens with blind fear of the Muslims, who are depicted as vile, primitive and blood-thirsty, apart from their being non-democratic, chauvinistic and mass producers of future terrorists. This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is a non-devout Jew (zionists).

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I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour, I don’t know the kind of violence that turns a woman’s life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished , who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal.

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But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence against children is actually violence against mothers. Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves “Leaders of the free enlightened world” and in the name of this freedom and enlightenment rob us of our children.

Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters. They are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the (western) viruses , though they may have various illustrious names–such as Democracy, Patriotism, G-d, Homeland–are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.

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We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: `I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is less worth than a piece of land.`

All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of their dead bodies.

And all of us were brought up to bear all this silently, to contain our fear and frustration, to take Prozac for anxiety, but never hail Mama Courage in public. Never be real Jewish or Italian or Irish mothers.

I am a victim of state violence. My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals.

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Living in the world I live in, in the state I live in, in the regime I live in, I don’t dare to offer Muslim women any ideas how to change their lives. I don’t want them to take off their scarves, or educate their children differently, and I will not urge them to constitute Democracies in the image of Western democracies that despise them and their kind. I just want to ask them humbly to be my sisters, to express my admiration for their perseverance and for their courage to carry on, to have children and to maintain a dignified family life in spite of the impossible conditions my world in putting them in. I want to tell them we are all bonded by the same pain, we all the victims of the same sort of violence even though they suffer much more, for they are the ones who are mistreated by my government and its army, sponsored by my taxes.

Islam in itself, like Judaism in itself and Christianity in itself, is not a threat to me or to anyone. American imperialism is, European indifference and co-operation is and Israeli racism and its cruel regime of occupation is. It is racism, educational propaganda and inculcated xenophobia that convince Israeli soldiers to order Palestinian women at gun-point, to strip in front of their children for security reasons, it is the deepest disrespect for the other that allow American soldiers to rape Iraqi women, that give license to Israeli jailers to keep young women in inhuman conditions, without necessary hygienic aids, without electricity in the winter, without clean water or clean mattresses and to separate them from their breast-fed babies and toddlers. To bar their way to hospitals, to block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to uproot their trees and prevent them from cultivating their fields.

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I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I don’t know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect from the whole world. All I know is that the voice of mothers has been suffocated for too long in this war-stricken planet. Mothers` cry is not heard because mothers are not invited to international forums such as this one. This I know and it is very little. But it is enough for me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that I should cry for them, and fight for them. And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race and religion dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies, and ask what Anna Akhmatova–another mother who lived in a regime of violence against women and children–asked:

Why does that streak of blood, rip the petal of your cheek?

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‘India gang rape’ fashion shoot showing model being harassed on board bus sparks outrage

By Claire Cohen

A Mumbai photographer has caused outrage after publishing images which appear to glamorise the attack of a female student on board a New Delhi bus. Claire Cohen asks whether fashion and art that depict crime can add anything positive to the conversation

A photo shoot by an Indian photographer has been accused of glamorising rape Photo: Raj Shetye

 

 Presumably it seemed like a good idea at the time. But photographer Raj Shetye’s new picture series has sent ripples of anger around the world.

Why? ‘The Wrong Turn’, as it’s called, depicts a young, glamorously dressed, Indian woman on a bus, posing being groped and manhandled by a gang of men. In one image she holds her head, while two men attempt to pull her arms apart. In another she’s straddled by a man seemingly naked, but for a pair of boots. A particularly controversial shot shows the model being held in a grip lock by one man, while another pulls her bare leg from her long dress and appears to be kissing her knee.

Needless to say, it’s not a huge leap to associate the posed images with the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi, in December 2012. The crime shocked India, started an unprecedented debate on the vulnerability of women to sexual assault and led to days of protests, which forced authorities to introduce tough new anti-rape laws. Four of the perpetrators were eventually sentenced to death.

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The Mumbai based photographer has denied that his work depicts the exact circumstances of the crime, which Indians refer to by the pseudonym given to the victim; ‘Nirbhaya, a Hindi word meaning ‘fearless’.

But he has admitted that he intended to restart the conversation around the issue of women’s safety.

“This is in no way meant to glamorise the act, which was very bad,” Shetye told BuzzFeed. “It’s just a way of throwing light on it.”

“But being a part of society and being a photographer, that topic moves me from inside,” he continued. “I stay in a society where my mother, my girlfriend, my sister are out there and something like this can happen to them also.”

Shetye claims to have spent months perfecting the idea for the shoot, as he didn’t want to “create something irresponsible”. He also said that none of the fashion brands used has been credited, to avoid accusations of commercialisation.

The reaction to his photos on Twitter and Facebook, however, suggests that he’s well and truly failed in his mission.

The images are called ‘repulsive’, ‘digusting’, ‘sickening’ and ‘horrific’. Most users are outraged at what they see as commercial gain from crime. Some accuse him of seeking publicity. Many ask what victims of rape will think when they see the photos. Only a handful have come out in support of Shetye and posited that his title, ‘The Wrong Turn’ is in itself a comment on how society has lost its way when incidents like this can happen in the first place.

Sapna Moti Bhavnani, a Bollywood actress who took part in a recent stage production based on the gang-rape, wrote:

Bollywood director Vishal Dadlani said:

While New Delhi-based author Meenakshi Medhavan called it ‘tasteless’:

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She then went on to post a series of fashion shots that depict models being choked, harrassed by policemen and murdered.

It brings to mind Vice magazine’s much criticised 2013 ‘Last Words’ shoot, in which models posed as famous female writers who committed suicide – at the moments of their death. In that instance, the fashion brands featured were named, while no information was given on the authors (think Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf) themselves. Such was the outcry that Vice deleted the pictures from its site and apologised “to anyone who was hurt or offended.”

So furious has been the backlash against Shetye that he was forced to explain himself on Facebook and has removed the original images from his website.

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The artist allegedly wrote; ‘It is meant to highlight our double standards where people expect the rich or well-heeled to dress well and travel in the luxury security and comfort of their own vehicle…It was intentionally done in a bus to cause men to think of what gives them the right to assume that well dressed women in public transport (signifying public spaces in general) can be targets & also what gives the general public the right to cast aspersions on women and their character if they are well dressed and seen in public.’

But he also admitted that the reaction, “makes me feel satisfied about my work — at least the work I did is so impactful that I’m able to shed some light on this. I don’t feel happy, but it makes me feel satisfied. That whatever I’ve tried to communicate is being communicated.”

So what exactly is being communicated here? Shetye claims that he wants to throw light on the subject of rape and start a conversation. Andin a statement, he wrote ‘If the cost to set the ball-rolling here is that I have [to] be the bad guy, then be it that way.’

But what is Shetye making himself the bad guy for? Because I question whether anything positive can come out of this. When has art – of the sort that depicts crime or criminals – ever really changed anything?

In the late Nineties, an image of Myra Hindley, by artist Marcus Harvey,provoked an extreme reaction and was defaced during the 1997 Royal Academy exhibition on the YBAs. In 1964, Warhol’s ‘Most Wanted’ series of mugshots caused outrage at the Woyld Fair.

While Vice’s photo shoot – and others like it – have caused mass upset and widespread comment. But did any of them actually add anything useful to the conversation around the crime, or criminals, they depicted?

Only this week a 20 year-old Hindu woman has said she was kidnapped and gang-raped over three days in India’s Uttar Pradesh region. And in May, two teenage girls were raped and hanged from trees in the north of the country.

Is Shetye going to use these latest crimes as the basis for further works? Does he believe that doing so would really add anything positive to the debate around the safety of women?

Or would it, as his latest photo shoot has, simply cause widespread distress and disgust.

Do you think these pictures add anything to the debate on rape in India?