Difficult does not even begin to describe how I feel about analyzing and commenting on the chaotic political situation in Palestine these days. Yet politics is what I think, hear, and seem to talk about 24/7. You just cannot avoid it here since Palestinians are an incredibly politicized society – all political developments are closely followed on Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, or Al-Manar and then immediately discussed by women during their mint tea outings, by taxi drivers on my seven-minute drive to the WATC office, even by my neighbors’ children whom I see goofing around the house every evening when I get back from Ramallah.
Yet it is even more difficult to stay insensible and unmoved by the distress, sadness, anger, and shame that most Palestinians feel with regards to the messy state of affairs in their semi-authority. Emotions run high and most people around me seem to be burnt out. There are days when I also think I have had enough of the painful quest for truth, the saddening reality, and ceaseless questions. But whatever the frustrations might be, I know I am glad I can’t go back to the days of my superficial understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I can’t and don’t want to wipe out the experience of the check points, the image of the wall and refugee camps, the knowledge about 120,000 Palestinians without IDs (only 200 of whom Israel conceded to grant nationality), the stories about broken families and demolished houses…
Of course there are days when we all feel happy and normal and perfectly able to enjoy life. I particularly remember the night my friends and I went to a Samih Shuqeir music concert. This Syrian singer is probably one of the most beloved and adored by the Palestinians of all ages. In his songs he “talks about Palestinian sorrow, about their grief and pain.” It was the night to appreciate high tech since the concert was conducted as a video-conference with Mr. Shuqeir singing to his devoted fans from Damascus (he is not allowed into the Palestinian Territories).
Yet there are also days when the whole WATC office feels completely crestfallen. For example, when the news come from friends and relatives in the Gaza Strip, or the Gaza prison as they refer to it these days: the news about the closure of the Rafah Crossing or Hamas “security” raids or one of our “favorites” – the party’s decision to separate male and female workers in one of the media companies in Gaza City. Apparently, morals of women in Gaza are somehow less pure and respectable than in the rest of the country. Hamas leaders seem to think that further mixing will lead to some unpredictable outcomes that might threaten the very nature of the Palestinian society. For a moment the women in my office thought they were in Afghanistan with a new Taliban in power.
This is a truly alarming scenario to find yourself back in the King Al-Har (equivalent of our Dark Ages) times. Especially after a number of remarkable achievements Palestinian women organizations have accomplished over the recent years, among the most far-reaching is a 20% quota system. Now according to new election laws 20% of the council members must be women. According to the Central Elections committee, in the local Palestinian councils, 75 women were elected through the quota system and 130 women were elected directly by majority vote. This has had crucial ramifications particularly for rural women who can now directly affect the development of their communities.
I had a chance to see for myself how well organized, strong, and innovative local councilwomen are. Yesterday I attended one of the trainings organized by Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) for councilwomen in Nablus area. Once again I was reminded what an exceptional job WATC does in empowering Palestinian women. All council members who attended yesterday’s workshop on gender reading of budgets were initially trained by WATC to run in local elections. Now through a series of follow-up trainings which will cover advocacy, lobbying, networking, fund raising, and proposal writing these women are learning how to be professional and effective in their work. While men squabble over their political loyalties, women try to alienate themselves from any party and rather focus on benefiting their communities.
Posted By Tatsiana Hulko
Posted Jul 17th, 2007