by Khaled Abu Toameh
June 22, 2010 at 5:00 am
Here is some last-minute advice to the group of women who are planning to organize another aid ship to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Gaza Strip: Do not forget to wear the hijab and cover other parts of your body before you arrive at the Hamas-controlled area. And make sure that none of you is seen laughing in public.
Otherwise, you are likely to meet the same fate as other Palestinian women who have been physically and verbally abused by fundamentalist Muslims in the Gaza Strip.
Some women in the Gaza Strip have had acid splashed in their faces for allegedly being dressed "immodestly" or for being seen in public with a male who is not a husband, father, brother or son.
Just recently, Hamas's Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stopped female journalist Asthma al-Ghul under the pretext that she came to the beach dressed "immodestly" and was seen laughing in public.
"They accused me of laughing loudly while swimming with my friend, and for failing to wear a hijab," she told a human rights organization in the Gaza Strip. "They also wanted to know the identity of the people who were swimming with me at the beach and whether they were relatives of mine."
This incident came only days after a Hamas judge ordered all female lawyers appearing in court to wear headscarves and a long, dark colored clock under their black robes.
By seeking to help Hamas, the women who are planning to sail to the Gaza Strip are in fact encouraging the fundamentalist movement to continue oppressing Palestinian women living there.
Wouldn't it have been better and more helpful had the same group of female activists launched a campaign to promote women's rights under Hamas? Or to protest against the severe restrictions imposed by Hamas on all women, including the right to stroll along the beach alone or to wear a swim suit?
Moreover, it is ironic (and sad) that some of the women who are behind the new flotilla adventure come from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Kuwait - countries that not only have killed Palestinians, but also continue to oppress them and impose severe restrictions on them.
As for the Egyptian women activists, it would be helpful if they would advise their colleagues to sail toward Egypt, whose authorities are also imposing a blockade on the Gaza Strip and continuing to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the area. The Egyptians are also continuing to prevent tens of thousands of Palestinians from using the Rafah border crossing to travel abroad.
Have the Kuwaiti women on the planned trip ever thought about protesting against the mistreatment of Palestinians in their emirate?
Following the 1991 Gulf War, Kuwait expelled some 400,000 Palestinians who were part of a thriving immigrant community in the emirate. The Palestinians were being punished because of the PLO's support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait a year earlier.
Most recently, Palestinians complained that Kuwait denied entry permits for members of a Palestinian team of disabled athletes who were supposed to take part in an international tournament in the emirate. "The decision came from the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry under the pretext that the team members hold Palestinian passports," CNN quoted Palestinian sources as saying.
And why don't the Lebanese women who are planning the journey to the Gaza Strip organize a tour to Nahr al-Bared, a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon that was totally destroyed by the Lebanese army in 2007?
According to a recent report in the Electronic Intifada Web site, "reconstruction of the camp is delayed, the area is a military soon with restricted access, and the camp's economy is stalled and residents are largely employed."
The same report states that before the war, "around two-thirds of Nahr al-Bared's labor force worked within the camp's boundaries. As Palestinian refugees face heavy legal and social discrimination in the Lebanese labor market, working outside the camp is difficult."
Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have more Palestinian blood on their hands than any other country.