Palestinians remember the first uprising of 1987 when clans were divested of their power, and leaders set new principles and rules to deal with others in a spirit of solidarity.
They remember the time when a single masked rebel was able to stop a whole clan from attacking citizens.
Now since the uprising was quelled a few years ago, assaults against women has been on the rise again. Extremists are forcing the hijab on women. And alliances between politicians and tribal chiefs are back.
With the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the clans regained their influence and power, and strengthened their position with state agencies, the two bound by common interests. Both nationalistic and Islamic factions competed for the clans’ affection.
Yasser Arafat established the Agency for Clans Affairs, reserving for the president the power to dissolve it and appoint another. It happened last September. When a dispute broke over the agency’s leadership in Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree to dissolve it.
“Hail Gaza!” was one of my friend’s comment about the rebellion of Palestinian clans and leaders, who held a meeting at the invitation of al-Tamimi family in Hebron, in order to declare their refusal of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was signed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in 2014, and the false information that was published about this convention and the principles stated in it.
In Gaza, which is under the control of Hamas movement, and is accused of trying to impose Sharia law and declare an Islamic state, none of the clans declared their refusal of the agreement. This does not mean that Hamas holds a positive view of this agreement, but they preferred to stay silent and not to show any reaction towards what was happening in the West Bank, especially in Hebron, where all Palestinian clans were invited to attend the Tamimis’ meeting.
The clans held a public meeting and published invitations on social media, openly challenging the Palestinian authority and government, who took no action about it.
Although the convention and the CEDAW committee interpretation of it do not explicitly include any texts that grant women the right to abortion in an absolute or random manner; on the contrary, it emphasised the need to criminalize trafficking of women, to give both wife and husband equal rights, and to treat them both equally in case of punishment.
The convention did not address homosexuality, as it is not among the jurisdiction or competence of the committee.
The convention also emphasized the basic rights of women, which should be granted to every human being without discrimination as stated in all international agreements and conventions, based on the fact that human rights are one whole indivisible unit. All these principles are also stated in the Palestinian Declaration of Independence and the Palestinian Basic Law.
CEDAW includes the right of equality for women in life, work, education, health care, political participation, decision making, marriage, divorce and management of family affairs, in addition to emphasising the need to focus on marginalized women, equality before the law, and taking the necessary measures to put an end to violence against women.
Despite the fact that all this can be easily verified, it was ignored, falsified and there were attempts of incitement among the clans. Since mid December, five years after President Abbas signed the convention, a wave of instigation against the convention rose among the clans in Palestine, perhaps in concurrence with Abbas’s endorsement of the decree that sets the legal age of marriage to 18 years, and the negative reaction of Al-Tahrir Party, which is active in the West Bank, especially in Hebron and Jerusalem, which created the controversy we are seeing today.
Clans against women’s rights
The alarming thing here is the force and boldness with which the clans issued their recommendations after the meeting. The final statement, which held the stamp of Palestinian Clans, stated that they all disowned the CEDAW, and all its implications, warned the Palestinian authority against it and called on them to withdraw from it and annul it. They also called for the closure of all feminist organizations in Palestine, ending their lease contracts and calling all those who lease them their property “accomplice in crime”.
What is even more alarming was warning the judges against conforming to the legal marriage age, as well as warning the media against covering the activities of “suspicious” organizations, and calling people to align themselves with the Palestinian clans and prevent feminist organizations and their representatives from entering all types of schools, holding school principals responsible in case their statement was violated, in addition to calling for a march and protests within a few days.
The clans speak in the name of religion and virtue in a strange alliance with some religious powers, although they deprive women of their inheritance rights, and force them to marry against their will. Clans fear women, because they claim the right to equality and non-discrimination. Clans don’t want to lose the power and the principle of guardianship which denies women to claim their rights and rebel against the oppression and violence practiced against them.
Clans emerged as a state in every sense of the word, and it possesses all the elements of power that monopolize violence, power and coercion in its ruling. Hence, people willingly relinquish a part of their freedom in exchange for their rights and freedoms.
What the clans did was a clear and dangerous coup against authority and society institutions. The audacity of clans shows that the weakness of the authority is in favor of the clans’ growing ability to undermine the concept of the civil states—which the authority called for years ago—and threaten social peace. The clans had disturbingly risen and their meetings and statements carried explicit calls for violence, killing, using hate speech, suppressing freedom of opinion and expression, and the infringement of values and national relations.
What the clan statement reflects establishes a state of rampant insecurity and chaos and that is exactly what the Palestinians suffered greatly from at the beginning of the second millennium; the thing that undermined the authority of the State and its ability to extend the rule of law on all Palestinian lands.
So far, all what the Palestinian Authority—which has lost its prestige— issued are timid statements that did not live up to the level of the tribes’ step, that challenged and undermined the power of the authority. And it did not take any steps to hold accountable those who encroach on the state. The Palestinian Authority failed to provide security and protection to citizens in marginalized and vulnerable regions to face the interference of clans’ authority. Even the national parties did not take a stand rejecting their attempts.
The truth is the Palestinian Authority contributed to strengthening the clans’ power, and facilitated their meetings. Moreover, the Government didn’t make any move to prevent the interventions of the clans’ authority in public policy-making, that are supposed to be issued through formal constitutional channels, in which the Palestinians struggled for long to build and provide protection and security to the society and to the advocates of human and women’s rights, and the retrogressive attitudes that threaten community values.
How the Authority Failed to Protect Women
Five years have passed since the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, endorsed the “CEDAW”, which is like other important Conventions to which Palestine has acceded, and was considered a national achievement that must be protected and built upon. However, the Palestinian Authority’s accession to all the Conventions served as political propaganda instead of helping in consolidating the rule of law and building a civil state. But the question is: Can Palestinians build a state under occupation?
The government didn’t take any serious and real steps towards powering women in the economic, political & social fields as women are partners in development. Moreover, necessary and serious action and measures weren’t taken to reduce violent crimes against women.
Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority and the government didn’t share or publish international human rights conventions to which the Palestinian State has acceded—especially the “CEDAW”— in the Palestinian events, and it didn’t update the legal reform by harmonizing the legislation in force, in the West Bank and Gaza, with the content of the agreement and other conventions.
Not a single step was taken to open a community dialogue to all relevant parties, including human rights institutions, feminist frameworks, men and theologians, to discuss any issues related to the harmonization of the Palestinian national legislation with the requirements of the convention.
This result made the clans’ authority, in the West Bank, challenge the Palestinian authority and law. And the clans held their meetings which openly called for killing, as a way of rebelling against the authority, the rule of law, freedom of opinion, personal freedom and inciting hatred and violence. However, the National Authority and government never reacted.
The clans’ move is very dangerous, and calls for sedition and threatens the civil peace. This is a result of the absence of power, authority, dialogue on national issues, and seeking an easy way out through issuing laws by presidential decrees, without considering the society and its needs. It’s also a result of the authority’s failure in consulting the elements of society, particularly the civil society that’s targeted by all sides.
Now, the time has come for the authority, government and factions to emerge from the state of silence and collusion with the clans in undermining women’s rights and violating society’s values.