Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kvinna till Kvinna Feminists Support Repressive Chauvinistic Hamas Regime

Of all the nations of the world, few have come as far as Sweden when it comes to gender equality. The amount of Swedish women in top positions, within both the private and the public sector, is steadily increasing, and almost half of all Swedish MPs are women. With that in mind, a Swedish organization working to promote gender equality worldwide seems like the logical next step. This organization is called “Kvinna till Kvinna” (lit. “Woman to Woman”).

Formed as a response to the tragedies of the Balkan conflict, this organization collaborates with various women's rights organizations around the world in order to, among other things, “empower and further educate women activists and politicians“, “counteract violence against women and human trafficking“ and “educate authorities and influence decision-making processes and legislation“. A noble cause, to be sure, and one which deserves support in every way. However, as is so often the case with Sweden, this does not tell the full story. Like so many other organizations in this Israel-obsessed nation of ours, Kvinna till Kvinna also dabbles in anti-Israeli propaganda.

On their website, Kvinna till Kvinna has written extensively about women's situation in Israel, in Gaza and in the West Bank. It is far from pleasant to read about how Arab women in particular are being mistreated and discriminated against. However, it is somewhat infuriating that Kvinna till Kvinna apparently thinks it is entirely in order to use propaganda, entirely unrelated to the cause they claim to be fighting for. For one thing, they never use the word “Arab”, which would simply make an ethnic distinction. Rather, they say “Palestinians”, politicizing the identity of those Israeli citizens who are of Arab descent. To quote an example from their English-language website: “A fifth of the Israeli population is made up of Palestinians and 70 per cent live in rural areas. Palestinian women in Israel suffer double discrimination: as Palestinians in Israel and as women in the patriarchal Palestinian community.”

It would be more accurate to identify the patriarchal Islamic society as the key issue holding women back. Calling the Israeli Arabs “Palestinians” sounds like political rhetoric. Usually, when one refers to Israeli Arabs as Palestinians, one is attempting to make out Israel as a colonial state, where the “European” Jews have come to what was once the Nation of Palestine and replaced it with the State of Israel. And what is this constant talk of discriminating against the Palestinians, and women in particular?

First off, how exactly are they being discriminated against? Israeli Arabs enjoy the same rights as any other citizen of Israel; they vote and are members of both the parliament and the judiciary, although they lack one of the duties of Israeli Jews, and one generally adopted by male Bedouin and Druze—as Israeli Arabs are exempt from compulsory military service. They do, however, retain the right to serve voluntarily—a   right that is being used by a small but growing number of Israeli Arabs every year.

Secondly, they disregard initiatives on the part of Jewish and Israeli institutions to better the lives of Arab Israelis. Note that Arab women in Israel benefit from Israel’s Western, democratic political system :

-“Israel has extensive anti-discrimination laws. Moreover, since the founding of the State, the status of Arab Israeli women has been significantly improved by legislation stipulating equal rights for women and prohibition of polygamy and child marriage. Israel remains one of the few countries in the Middle East where women enjoy equality in rights and personal freedoms, including the right to vote and be elected to local and national office.”
In fact, although Kvinna till Kvinna makes a big fuss over the poor conditions Arab women in Israel are forced to live under, Haredi (or Ultra-Orthodox) women have lower health standards than their Israeli Arab sisters.

And, as if misrepresentation were not enough, Kvinna till Kvinna has also committed the signature sin of Sweden; hypocrisy. But more importantly, Kvinna till Kvinna, through one of their sister organizations, supported the Ship to Gaza-flotilla – often called, with more than a hint of bitterness and accuracy, Ship to Hamas.
In doing so, whether intentionally or not, they support the Hamas—one of the worst oppressors of women in the region (if not the worst)—who have recently embarked on a campaign to limit women's rights in Gaza. Examples include banning women from riding scooters behind men and preventing women from dancing in public as well as banning women from smoking water pipes. Is this really the kind of regime an organization working to promote women's rights should support?

In short, then, Kvinna till Kvinna is distorting the truth, omitting facts and lying outright, seemingly to further some unofficial political agenda. They are also hypocrites who have shown themselves to be quite willing to throw aside the ideals they claim to stand for, apparently not realizing that in so doing they are also throwing away all of their credibility. What the members of the organization do on their spare time, as private citizens, is their own business, even if that includes going against the stated goals of the organization. However, when the organization itself goes against those goals, when it lies and engages in political propaganda, it just goes to show that Kvinna till Kvinna is not to be taken seriously.

Women all across the world would be better off if Kvinna till Kvinna began to focus on improving women's situations worldwide. The struggle for women's rights is too important for its champions to squander their credibility in order to engage in political propaganda.

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