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Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem



Part 1 of 5

Some form of chivalry, of decency, toward women captives
is the internationally accepted norm. This special regard
for the condition of women in captivity is codified in international
law. For example, Article 3 of the Geneva Convention
stipulates that "Women shall be treated with all consideration
due to their sex." (1) Article 27 states:

Protected persons in the occupied territory are entitled, in
all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor,
their family rights, their religious convictions and practices
... women shall be especially protected against any attack
on their honor, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution
or any form of indecent assault. (2)

The Zionists ignore this article of international law, as they
do all other articles of international law, and totally disregard
the rights of their women captives. Today in occupied Palestine,
Arab women are tortured and subjected to cruelties just
as Jewish women were mistreated by the Nazis.

Echoes of the testimony of women prisoners of the Nazis
are found among Palestinian women prisoners of the Zionists
today. Former Nazi prisoner Maja Abramowicz Zarch, a
Jewess, testified:

For a bit of amusement, the Germans would put a woman
in a crouching position on a narrow bench and make her stay
like that until she would faint, or drop dead. (3)

Soraya Antonius, a Palestinian journalist and daughter of
the distinguished scholar George Antonius, documents the
fate of Palestinian women under the new Nazis, the Zionists,
in her study, Prisoners for Palestine: A List of Women Political

The testimony collected by Miss Antonius is no different
from that of Mrs. Zarch. Only this time the barbarism is not
that of Nazis against Jewish women, but that of Zionist Jews
against Palestinian Arab women. The evolution of this type
of madness among the Zionists, having finally become standard
practice, continues until today. Women are no longer
considered to be entitled to special rights. They are treated as
animals. The feelings of their families are disregarded.

When the police arrested a number of Jewish youths from
the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhoodcarryingout violent actions
against Arabs, the police released the Jewish youths the same
night. A police spokesperson said on Israel Radio's Arabic
service that the youths were released toease the tensions. Two
weeks later. female Arab students demonstrated peacefully in
Jerusalem. The police arrested five girls. When the girls'
parents heard this, they went to dignitaries in the city and
asked for intervention so the girls would not have to spend
the night in prison. The Arab notables went to the police and
asked to see a high official to plead the girls' case that they
be released and not spend the night in jail. The families were
afraid that the girls would be detained with prostitutes and
drug addicts. The police showed no respect for the Arab
dignitaries, made them wait outside and after promising them
to release the girls, failed to do so. The girls were not released
until late the next day. (5)

Miss Antonius further states:

Before June 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank
and Gaza, the number of women imprisoned for political
reasons could literally be counted on one's fingers. This was
partly due to paternalism, to the belief that women's opinions
were of no great import, and partly to a reluctance to place
women in prison, among criminals.

In the first weeks of the occupation the Israeli military
administrators showed a similar circumspection. The first
sentences imposed were fines, and during the remaining
months of the year very few (nine according to my data)
women were arrested, and of those few the better-known were
deported to Amman. But as resistance increased so did repression.
In 1968 about 100 women were arrested; in 1969,200.
For the period 1967 to 1979 there is a total of 1,229 given in
this list, which does not include over 150 names for which no
details are available, nor the hundreds of women and girls
rounded up in the Gaza Strip and kept in detention camps in
Sinai in 1972. I estimate that at the very least over two
thousand women have been arrested by the Israelis. Unless
political arrests are carried out on a massive scale, they are
not well reported by the Israeli press. One reads, for example,
"one hundred and six children (of both sexes) have so far been
brought to summary trial in various West Bank towns ..." or
that "scores have been rounded up3';6 but the detention of an
individual woman is not reported unless she is prominent in
her community, or known to the Western media, or unless she
is brought to trial for a specific action, or is deported and feels
she can talk without fear of reprisals against her family. Cases
of administrative detention are not reported, although a
woman may be detained for long periods (e.g. Leila Odeh.
who spent nearly a year and a half in prison on suspicion of
knowing about her sister's activities, but who was never
charged; or Wadad Aswad who was arrested four times and
tortured, on suspicion of knowing about her husband's activities
and who, again, was never charged or brought to trial).
Again, when aman is arrested his wife or his mother or sisters
are often arrested with him and held for questioning, sometimes
for weeks, as in Qasim Tamimi's case, where his wife
was only released because he died under interrogation, thereby
closing the police enquiry. The arrest of a male suspect's
womenfolk is seldom reported.

The best publicized example of this media silence is that
of Brigit Schultz, who was arrested in Nairobi in 1976,
clandestinely transferred to Israel, and held there for 14
months before her mother found out where she was. Even then
the fact that she was being held without trial was only made
public because her mother threatened to hold a press conference
under PLO auspices to reveal the truth. This case has
received some public attention because it concerns a citizen
of the Federal Republic of Germany; the defenseless inhabitants
of Gaza and the West Bank have slipped into the
night in virtually total anonymity.

The majority of detainees are imprisoned for interrogation,
or to bring pressure on male relatives, or even as a prmmptive
measure, as in the case of Sara Barakat, who was arrested
some time before Balfour Day in order to prevent the possibility
of her organizing a demonstration. Administrative
detainees cannot be kept for longer than six months at a time
without being charged, but a single magistrate can visit the
prison and then and there renew the period of detention for a
further six months, and this can be repeated, without even a
simulacrum of a trial. It is only necessary that "security
reasons" be invoked by the militq administration. These
cases are never reported. To give an idea of the numbers
involved: In one year, 1976, thirty three fhou.~and men and
women were detained, of whom "only 8, OW... were charged
because the police follow a policy of "indisc~minate mass
assests" .... There is not another enlightened democracy in the
world which follows such a policy of mass arrests of innocent

In cases where trials are held, and the prisoners allowed
access to a lawyer, the concept of "innocent until proved
guilty" does not prevail. The proceedings are conducted in
Hebrew and translations are inadequate and faulty; the signed
~'confessions," which are usually the only incriminating
evidence, are in Hebrew, a language which few of the defendants
know. In one case, Aliya Abu-Dayya testified that she
had "signed" the confession after having "read" it although
she not only did not know a word of Hebrew, but was also

As for the mass trials, this is an Israeli account of one held
on March 8,1977:

"Some sixty students held in Ramallah prison ... were
brought before a quick military 'trial,' if one can use such a
word about what actually happens on such occasions. There
was no formal or informal accusation of any kind. No opportunity
for any consultation with lawyers or parents was allowed.
Each student was merely asked 'Do you confess?'
without even being told about what or to what he should
confess or what law he had broken. Everyone who said 'I
confess' received automaticdly a fine of IL 1,000. Everyone
who said 'I do not confess'. received immediately a fine of IL
2,500 .... Such trials are now the norm in the West Bank, so
far as youths and children are concerned, and indeed happen
very frequently." (8)

Reasons of space prevent giving details of physical conditions
in Israeli jails, described by an Israeli joumalist as
"... Subhuman ... tembly overcrowded; the cells are dark
and damp.... Food is meager both in quality and quantity ....
The sanitary conditions are miserable .... Medical care is given
to the prisoner only when his condition is critical. The assumption
which underlies the policy of the Prison Service is
that a denial of liberty is not enough; the prisoner should be
oppressed by every possible means. The slogan is: 'A good
prisoner is a broken prisoner."' (9)

Daily calorie intake averages 852, compared to over 2,000
for normal requirements. (10)Average living space is less than
2.2 square meters compared to 11.3 squaremeters in the US. (11)
Discrimination between Jewish and Palestinian prisoners is
standard practice. In Beersheba prison, for example, Israelis
have beds and ten blankets, Palestinians have no beds and five
blankets; Israelis receive four visitors a month, Palestinians
receive one visitor a month; imprisoned Palestinian children
and students have no possibility of pursuing their studies. (12)

Torture and maltreatment of detainees have been attested
to by several outside observers, notably by Amnesty International,
the Swiss League for Human Rights, the US National
Lawyers Guild, the UN Special Committee to Investigate
Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population
of the Occupied Territories, the International Committee
of the Red Cross (Report on Nablus Prison, 19681, theS~nday
Times, and, in Israel, by the Israeli kague for Human and
Civil Rights and the Israeli lawyers Felicia Langer and h a

For technical reasons it has not been possible to include
both date of assest and of sentencing in the cases where a trial
was held. Dates given here are always the earlier one (year
only). When the year of birth is not known the age given is
that at the time of arrest. "Scntcnce" refers to the Israeli
accusation and does not connote accuracy, particularly with
respect to affiliation in a specific resistance organization. It
should be noted that the charge "member of an illegal organization"
frequently implies membership in a students
union or a women's charitable organization, rather than a
militarily active group. Raising the Palestinian flag, singing
Palestinian songs, wearing a white tee-shirt with red, black
and green colours, are all political crimes subsumed under the
charge "opposing the wcupation."~~ I have stuck to the
official charge; but in cases where facts - age, place of origin,
occupation - were obtained from former prisoners I have
added them. Where the date of arrest has been impossible to
trace, the date of release is given instead. Cases of deportation,
implemented because the prisoner had become seriously ill
after her interrogation, or because no charges could be made
against her or because of foreign governmental intervention,
have been included. The phrase "released under prisoner
exchange7' refers to an exchange agreed upon by Israel and
the PLO in March 1979 when 76 Palestinian political
prisoners were exchanged for an Israeli soldier eaptused in the
1978 invasion of South Lebanon. It is to this that Rasmiya
Odeh refers in her intesview. I have also added cases of homes
being demolished, since in every case this was done while the
suspect was still under interrogation and therefore presumed
innocent under the law. It should be remembered that when
houses are demolished the families are not allowed to remove
a single item of furniture from them. Nor are they allowed to
rebuild them later, unless the suspect is proved innocent.

Age is no defence. Many of the prisoners listed here were
minors, but this did not save them from imprisonment among
Israeli common criminals, generally prostitutes and drugpushers,
The youngest children here are the schoolgirls, all
under 14, from St. Joseph's School in Jemsalem, arrested in
May 1974, who probably include the Kutayin children aged
13 and 14 mentioned in the Israeli League for Human and
Civil Rights May 1974 report.I4 Women of 70 have also been
arsested, as have pregnant women and mothers with small
children at home and no one to care for them. It is to the honour
of all that they have been detemed neither by the appalling
reports of tortuse nor by the unheroic difficulties of keeping
their families cared for in their absence. And it is because of
their courage under suffesing that a contcmporary. bitter
saying has become current: "Al-ard qabl at-'ird." ("Land is
even more important than the honor of women.'') (15)


Issum Abdel-Hadi

I had always wanted to go to university and my family had
agreed to let me, but we lost our land, in Marj ibn 'Amer, in
the 1948 war, so it was no longer possible. I had just completed
my secondary school studies, then I married and then
I was coopted into the Women's Union (al-Ittihad al-Nissai)
and in 1949 became its honorary secretary. My husband
encouraged me, then as always, and has never criticized me
for my activities; otherwise I should have found it very
difficult. And my mother-in-law ran the house for me. She
wore the veil (I did too for a year, but I took it off when I went
to school).

Nablus was bombed from the air in the 1948 war and a lot
of our young men went off to fight. Then the refugees began
arriving, floods of them, and the Nabulsis collected food,
medicine, blankets, mattresses, and housed them in the
schools and mosques and churches. The women's clubs and
centres all over Palestine had been converted to emergency
stations for the wounded and now they had to be changed to
cope with the refugees. Eventually three refugee camps were
set up in 'Askar, Beit al-Mai and Ballata, for about 40,000
people. After things got more settled we established a free
maternity hospital for refugees and then achildren's hospital,
because we saw what a wretched condition the children were
in when they came to visit their mothers, (These two institutions
still exist, but they are now open to everyone because
the problem now is no longer a refugee problem, it's something
else.) Then there was a sports-cum-cultural club for
girls, which had been founded in 1945; we took it over in 1949
and held literacy classes and taught typing, shorthand, bookkeeping
and languages (since the occupation we teach
Hebrew as well as French and English). All the classes are
free for refugees and poor people, but those who can afford it
pay. Then in 1952 we founded a girls' orphanage, Rawdat
al-Fatayat, for the daughters of martyrs who had no one to
look after them, and for the most needy. There were 35 girls
at first, now there are 165; their ages range from two until
their future can be assured. Support comes mainly from the
wealthy families of Nablus, but later the Gulf states helped us
and we built a lovely place with four floors. At first the girls
only attended primary schools, but later they went up to the
secondary school leaving certificate, which allowed them to
get jobs and support themselves. We also established a vocational
training centre, and we kept in touch with our girls after
they left us. Then we started aclass to teach blind girls Braille,
beginning with eight or nine and reaching 35 by 1969. We
had trouble getting the families to accept because they felt
wounded in their pride: that the implication was that they
couldn't look after their handicapped girls. But apart from this
particular problem, and in spite of the fact that Nablus is a
conservative city, we were always greatly encouraged by
everyone's support.

The years went past .... In 1964 when the PLO was established,
we were chosen to be delegates to the Palestine National
Council (al-Majlis al-Watani al-Filastini), not as
women but as national figures. I was a member of the
preparatory committee in Jerusalem, later 12 women were
elected (there were over 450 men). I felt the establishment of
the PLO was a glimmer of hope, a beginning of national
mobilization. We had been deprived of our identity for 20
years and now at last the road was opening a little. We were
all yearning for something, for anything, and we wanted to
turn all our activities into political activity. It wasn't easy in
those days. There was a saying that was current: "The PLO
was born by decree of presidents and kings and the PLO can
be killed by the decree of presidents and kings," but I didn't
agree with this. I felt it was the beginning of the road.

In August 1965, at the suggestion of the PLO, we held a
conference and invited representatives from all over Palestine
to create an organization torepresent andmobilize Palestinian
women, and to work for the liberation of Palestine. This was
the beginning of the General Union of Palestinian Women
(GUPW). Our constitution was based on the PLO National
Charter and our headquarters were in Jerusalem until early
1967 (when the Jordanian government withdrew its recognition
of the PLO and shut all its offices, as a consequence of
the troubles in Sarnu'). The other women's organizations
cooperated and sent delegates to the PLO board, but they
retained their administrative identity and independence and
in this they were right, because it meant the Jordanian
authorities could not close down their offices when they
closed ours. Well, to return to the establishing of the GUPW,
the 139 delegates elected an administrative council who in
turn elected nine members to the Executive Committee. The
cities and towns they represented were Jerusalem, Nablus,
Jenin, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Hebron and Ramallah. Gaza was
represented on the administrative council but the delegates
could not attend the biweekly meetings because in order to
reach the West Bank they had to travel to Cairo and then to
Jerusalem. I was elected president of the GUPW Executive
Committee with 97 percent of the votes.

When our office was closed down we went under ground
and continued our work and meetings clandestinely. We went
abroad to carry on our activities, but it was difficult; I must
say we felt it, because alarge part of our work was information
on the Palestine problem and there we were defeated because
we simply could not keep it in secret. So when the PLO
headquarters were moved to Cairo, we delegated responsibility
to our representative in Cairo, and the Egyptian branch
became the Executive Committee as they could work openly.
On Monday, Jilne 5,1967, we were working in Jerusalem,
in Wadi Joz. It was very difficult to get back to Nablus -
there were 13 of us, we rushed off to the taxi station and
squeezed into the last cars to leave before the road was closed.
On the following Wednesday afternoon the Israeli army
entered Nablus. We had a lot of civilian wounded from the
shelling and fighting, and 75 young men were killed trying to
defend Nablus with old rifles. They sheltered behind rocks on
the hill above and fired at the Israelis in a desperate attempt,
but they were all killed. The Israelis captured eleven of them
alive and brought them to an open field and dug a trench. The
families of the boys were brought to watch as the Israelis put
the eleven, who were roped together, into the trench and shot
them. The corpses were left there for 48 hours before the
families were allowed to bury them, which is against our
religious observances -and there was no funeral service, of

The truth is that Nablus, like everywhere else, had no
means of resistance. We had begun, too late, to prepare for
war a week before it broke out: first aid training and a little
light arms training, because the Jordanian government no
longer objected to this after Hussein's reconciliation with
Abdul Nasser. We didn't have any arms and yet we were
living in hope, although we were worse prepared than in 1948.
All the people of Qalqilya were kicked out of their town; they
left their homes and arrived in Nablus carrying bundles of
food and clothes, sadness and shock on their faces. It was the
same picture we had seen in 1948, exactly the same picture.
Everyone was beaten to the ground - I was physically ill
- but we had to work, we had to help the wounded and the
families of the killed. The one encouraging thing was that the
Palestinians who had been in Israel, cut off since 1948, came
to see us, to see the families that they had been separated from
for 19 years. And they gave us advice and warned us about
what the Israelis would do to us, how we were going to
become labourers serving the Israeli economy. They told us,
"Keep silent, take great care, be steadfast," and it gladdened
us to see that they themselves were still steadfast. And
whoever had a piastre to spare came to us to buy Arab goods.
The Israelis imposed a curfew on the city - one was not
even allowed to stand near a window. If a child appeared at
his front door the parents would be shot; if a man went out to
call a doctor he would be shot between his door and the
neighbour's. Ways of humiliating us -they would round up
all the men in a quarter and keep them kneeling in the street,
rain or shine, while they inspected all the houses. Age made
no difference.

We began protesting against administrative detention because
it was quite unbearable, especially since some of those
arrested were children and some were very old. In July, a
month after the occupation, we began compiling memoranda
on what was going on - torture, mass arrests, administrative
detention - to send to the foreign diplomats, the Vatican and
ecclesiastical authorities and the International Red Cross
(ICRC). At that time women were not yet watched very
closely and we used to meet with foreigners and brief them,
and lead strikes and demonstrations.

In July I was brought in for questioning for the first time.
They said to me, "You receive fedayeen in your husband's
absence." I said, "Certainly not, we are conservative and
respectable and I would never dream of receiving men in my
husband's absence."They made a detailed search of the house
and took me to the military interrogation centre, where they
accused me of being in contact with "saboteurs." I denied the
charge but felt uncomfortable, because I knew they were
trying to intimidate me. They knew about my membership in
the GUPW and kept on asking me what work I had with the
terrorists, who visited me and whether I gave them money.
They tried some political blandishments: "Isn't it a shame that
you Arabs have been opposing us for 19 years? Isn't it time
to live as good neighbors?" said, "But we did live as
neighbors until you started taking our country away from us;
the 1948 war changed everything. You used to visit your Holy
Places, but now can we visit ours in Acre and Haifa, can we?
You've destroyed them, look at the cemetery in Mamilla
Road." They said, "You're meeting nothing but Communists,
that's where you get this sort of information." Finally they
returnedme to the house at two in themorning. After that they
brought me in for questioning five or six times before they
imprisoned me - whenever there was a demonstration or
incident, disturbances over a rumour that someone had been
arrested and tortured. The interrogators used to say, "You're
either very active or you're very hated and envied," and I used
to reply that I was none of these things and that what I did was
justified. But they went on accusing me, suspecting me. I'll
give just one example: At the end of 1968 they became
convinced that I had hidden a certain feda'i. So they went to
our girls' school at midnight, and invaded the dormitories
where the girls were sleeping and pulled their hair one by one,
to make sure they were really girls and not the feda'i in hiding.
The girls were terrified and shrieked and wept - imagine
waking up in the middle of the night and finding the bedroom
full of armed men pulling your hair! We can smile at it now,
but at the time it was a frightening experience for the girls. It
was Ramadan, too.

For all their omnipotence, the Israelis were frightened of
us, weak and unarmedas we were. Whenever they entered the
old part of Nablus they would impose a curfew, and they
always moved in groups, never alone. Women used to drop
flowerpots on them, or overturn pans of hot water or oil. I
remember once they chased a feda'i into the narrow streets
and he hid in a woman's house. She was Latifa Stetiyeh, 65
years old; she refused to open the door so the Israelis broke it
down and hit her on the head with their rifle butts and killed
her. Then they went into the house, but in the time it had taken
to batter her to death the feda'i had escaped.

In February 1969, thirteen of our girls from the West Bank
and Gaza went to mass on Sunday in the Holy Sepulchre in
Jerusalem. After the service they went and sat in front of
Christ's Tomb, where they were joined by other women. In
the evening we sent messengers to the foreign consulates and
the various ecclesiastical authorities to tell them what was
happening. The immediate reason for the sit-in was an incident
in Gaza. A group of women from Rafah and Khan Yunis
had gone to the prison in Gaza City to see their menfolk
because they had heard that they were being tortured. They
were not allowed in to see them, so they tried to storm the
prison and the Israelis shot at them, killing three and wounding
thirteen. So wedecided to stage a hunger strike in the Holy
Sepulchre, to protest against this and against the entire occupation.
In the evening the army came and asked us why we
were sitting there. They said, "It's not prayer time and we see
some of you are Muslim (because of the headscarves) and this
is not your place. Go to the mosque, get out, you have no right
to be in a church." We replied, "We refuse to discriminate.
Muslim and Christian, we all respect this place." There were
about 90 of us at that point. The soldiers opened all our
handbags and found our memorandum in three bags and
arrested the owners, saying they would be detained until we
all vacated the Holy Sepulchre. But we refused to leave. The
memorandum contained a protest against the annexation of
Jerusalem, against neighborhood punishment, against all
other infractions of the Geneva Conventions - confiscation
of property, deportation, exploiting of labour, the massacres
in retaliation for resistance, and against the military occupation
in general.

We stayed there two nights and three days without food
or water. It was bitterly cold, but the National League (al-
Lijnaal-Wataniya) sent us blankets and vitamins. The Israelis
kept the vitamins, saying we didn't need them if we were on
a hunger strike. In the daytime hundreds joined us, but women
had to go home to see to their children so only about 90 of us
remained sleeping there. At 5 a.m. all the labourers would
make a point of passing by the Holy Sepulchre on the way to
work and would smile encouragingly and make the V-sign,
and at 7 a.m. the children would all detour to pass by on their
way to school. Representatives from the ICRC and the consulates
also came but they never spoke to us; they just stared.
The Israelis posted guards to watch us. And on the third day
the Israeli authorities closed and locked the great entrance
Torture and Inhuman Treatment of Palestinian Women 643
door of the Holy Sepulchre, for the first time in history since
it was built. That day the Arab mayors and the leaders of the
Muslim and Christian clergy came to ask us to end the strike.
They promised to continue pressing our claims, so we went
home. It was a tiring and strenuous experience but 1 consider
that it was very successful.

On March 13, 1969 soldiers came to our house. We were
expecting it, because two days earlier 25 girls (some of them
only 14 years old) had been arrested on the charge of membership
in the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS),
so we knew something was wrong. The soldiers searched the
house and, to my astonishment, they found a typewriter and
a ream of blank typing paper hidden in the larder. To this day,
honestly, I don't know where it came from, but at the time I
was silent because I thought it might belong to my daughter
-who was then 16 -and she kept quiet because she thought
it belonged to me. As soon as the soldiers found it they came
to me and said they were arresting me and my daughter. The
thing is that the Israelis were always intensely suspicious of
private people who owned a typewriter and it was always
considered a proof of guilt. They told us to dress and get into
the patrol cars. My husband asked what we were charged with
and they replied, "We'll tell you later; they may be returned
tonight." And they took us to Nablus Central Prison. There
we saw all the girls who had been arrested two days earlier,
blindfolded, their hands tied behind their backs, their faces
showing traces of slapping. In another room we saw several
young men, also blindfolded, handcuffed, and beaten black
and blue, sitting on the ground in a circle.

We were taken to a room where the first interrogation took
place. They asked whether I had any connection with
Jerusalem or Ramallah, and I said that I did not. They accused
my daughter of membership in GUPS and of belonging to one
of the resistance groups. She denied both charges and was
sent to join the other girls. They told me, "You will have to
confess. We've questioned you six or seven times already and
warned you; now we have proof." I told them that I had done
nothing. In the late afternoon they took me to Jerusalem and
we reached the Russian Compound (Moscobiya) at about 6
p.m. They had given me nothing to eat all day. They took me,
I think, to the third floor - I don't remember now exactly
where the interrogation centre was. I was put in a room and
when they turned on the light I saw that the walls were all
spattered with blood, but otherwise the room was clean. They
brought a bed and blankets. An officer came at 8 p.m. and
said, "I saw you a month ago in the Holy Sepulchre. I
remember you were wearing the same coat. Why did you
organize the strike?" I replied that the honour of organizing
it was not mine and the word "honour" made him angry and
he left. Others came, and after the routine questions they tried
to frighten me by saying they had many accusations against
me. I remember one of the questions was strange, "Have you
ever used the hand cream 'Clipp'?' I said no, why? "Oh, just
asking." Then they showed me the photographs of two girls.
I denied knowing them, but in fact 1 did, and they were hidden
somewhere, but I said nothing. They said, "Have you ever
heard of Eichmann? The way we brought him in we'll bring
in these girls, however far away they are." Then they left.
They used to do that all the time. arriving and leaving abruptly
throughout the interrogation. They asked me, "Do you know
where you are?"

Next to me was a wooden partition and all night long 1
heard interrogations and beatings and men begging the torturers
to stop. It was then1 becameconvinced that anyone will
confess to anything just to stop the torture. I don't think it was
tapes I heard because once I saw them dragging Mariam
Shakshir, who was 18 or 19 then, out of the torture room, and
she looked very badly hurt. I'd hear men saying, "Stop it and
I'll give you the names," or show the caves, or whatever, and
I think that sometimes people used to confess to things they
had never done just to end the torment. I used to see them
lying in the corridor afterwards but we weren't allowed to
speak to each other. They did use tapes but they also used the
real thing.

The second day they told me they had tangible proof that
I had sent JD 500 to a clergyman and that it was to help the
resistance. In my note to the clergyman 1 had said it was to be
given to the poor in Gaza, but they didn't believe this. "You
are Muslim, why should you give money to a Christian priest
to help the poor?" I denied everything else, but this I couldn't
deny because they had my note. They kept me three nights in
the interrogation centre; the fourth night I was moved to a cell
in the Moscobiya. Aisha and Rasmiya Odeh were there; I
couldn't see them but we could speak because the big room
was divided into stalls by partitions. They told me they had
seen my daughter in Nablus prison, although the Israelis had
told me they were going to release her. Then the wardress
stopped us from talking. The next night I was taken to Nablus
prison and put in a cell, alone. We all slept on the floor on a
shoddy mattress without a pillow. There was one bathroom
for the entire section of about 40 and we were allowed one
bath a week.

I used to see girls returning, beaten, from an interrogation.
Ne'met Kamal(25) came out gasping and choking, her hand
broken and flapping at the wrist; I didn't think she would live
through the night. It was a common sight to see girls being
carried back to their cells because they couldn't walk. Randa
Nabulsi (1 7) was one of the four who were really tortured, not
just beaten up, and she broke down. Amal Hanbali (17).
another secondary schoolgirl, used to faint every time she
remembered her interrogation. I knew of three definite cases
of rape - there may have been more, but I know of three for
certain. 0f course some girls wouldn't talk about it because
they were ashamed of the disgrace. My daughter was beaten,
nothing more, her arms and legs marked all over by the whip,
black and red and blue. They were all beaten; four were really
tortured but they were steadfast, The ICRC is not allowed to
see arrested prisoners for 14 days, and these are the hardest
days. I remember they had to get doctors for the four severe
cases, and of course the doctors told the girls' families and
went with them to tell the Red Cross that it had to intervene.
Well, the delegate came on the fourth day but the four girls
were kept hidden in the interrogation room until he left.
Then they interrogated me. There were four men in the
room, and they said that there were many new accusations.
"One of the terrorists has confessed that you cooperated with
all the resistance groups and you know where two of the
leaders are hidden right now. You have to tell us where they
are. That's all, it's nothing complicated, but you will have to
tell us." I denied everything and felt I would now have to be
strong. They said, "We believed you before but not any
longer." One of them was huge, blond; he spoke Arabic but
was of German origin and notorious as a torturer. Another
was pleasant and spoke English, "Please tell us, we don't want
any trouble. We'll let you go home, you're not a young
woman. Go home and live in peace with your children. Please
help us."

I answered, "I can't remember" to everything they asked,
and added, "Perhaps I've lost my memory, due to age and the
sorrows of the occupation." The big man replied, "They say
in Nablus that your memory is like a reference library."
Then one of them opened a suitcase and took out handcuffs,
a chain, and three whips - a very thick leather one,
another which was thinner and flatter, a third with a steel tip
like a nail - and placed them on the windowsill. They told
me, "We'll know how to make you confess." I said, "I wish
I knew the things you want me to know, but I don't." The
huge blond went out and returned with my daughter. He
grabbed her by the clothes, lifted her like a feather and sat her
on the table. "Now, Mrs. Abdel-Hadi, will you speak, or are
you willing to sacrifice your daughter for the sake of the
terrorists? We'll throw your daughter to the soldiers. Do you
call yourself a mother? You don't deserve this title." And
things of that sort. I said, "If you believe that I am guilty, you
must punish me, not my daughter. I'm ready for any punishment."
And I took off my scarf and coat. He began to beat my
daughter with the thin, flat whip; she made no sound. Then
he switched to the thickone and she began to cry. And he said,
using filthy words that I prefer not to repeat, "First we'll beat
her, then we'll give her to the soldiers unless you tell us where
the terrorists are hiding." I kept on saying, "It's enough that
you beat my daughter yesterday, it's enough. She has nothing
to do with my actions." The others kept on saying, "Mrs.
Abdel-Hadi, please show some self-respect; you are a respectable
woman, please confess." The big man now began beating
my child with the steel-tipped whip and the blood came on
her arms and legs - they never beat her on the face - because
her skin was bruised from the day before. He went on using
filthy, disgusting words and saying they would turn her into
a prostitute. She had said nothing until then, but when he used
the third whip she cried out: "Wuhush" (beasts). My blood
was boiling, I can't tell you what I felt. I was so mad that I
gathered all the saliva in my mouth and spat at them, the first
time in my life I've ever done such a thing. I don't know what
happened then - I tried to grab the whip from the blond man,
and he turned and hit me on the forehead. Blood poured all
over my clothes as I put up my scarf to stop the bleeding. He
repacked the suitcase, saying, "Why did you take the whip
and hit yourself? We never touched you." The four men wrote
out and signed a statement that I had grabbed the whip and
beaten myself and they had never done any thing. "We respect
you, Mrs. Abdel-Hadi, hut you don't respect yourself. We
didn't have orders to beat you." They sent my daughter away
and took me to a new cell on the first floor, because they didn't
want the others to know that I had been beaten. They cleaned
up the blood and brought me better food than usual and a
bench, and I slept on it.

The electric light stayed on all night and I looked at the
walls. There were some smears of blood but the really
frightening thing was thegraffiti. "So-and-so spent two nights
here, and what will become of him afterwards?""X came here
after the interrogation, who knows what his fate will be?" "We
are in this room tonight, and tomorrow...?" They were
scrawled in pencil or scratched with a nail. They made a deep
impression on me, those unheard cries for help.

Next day I was returned to the others, but they forbade me
to talk to my daughter even during the morning and evening
half-hour exercises in the yard. They interrogated me again,
this time about the typewriter. Altogether there were seven
interrogations during the 45 days I spent in the jail, but there
was such an uproar in Nablus that they never beat my daughter
or myself again.

At 10 o'clock one morning they came and told me, "We
are taking you to the bridge." From the beginning they had
always threatened me with deportation. I asked them to let me
go home and say goodbye to my husband and three other
children. They said, "No, we'll tell your family and they can
follow you to Amman. You all say that the West Bank is part
of Jordan, well, you can all meet in Jordan." In the patrol car,
driving to the bridge, I felt I had lost everything. I felt how
weak, how powerless, we are. This was the real day of
occupation for me - I felt the full bitterness.
They dropped us at the bridge and we walked across the
border while the Israelis drove away, back to Nablus. The
Jordanians welcomed us and got a car and took us to Salt, to
the administrative headquarters, where they said, "Welcome,
you are in your own country," and asked some questions, very
brief and kind. They wanted to know whether I had anywhere
to go and I told them my brother was in Amman and would
certainly take me in. I arrived in the evening, exhausted and
miserable, and talked to the journalists waiting there.
My husband and the children joined me in 1972. They
couldn't endure it anymore.

In Amman I resumed my work, openly, as president of the
GUPW. We rented an office and began to work very hard. We
did information and looked after women in the camps and
mobilized them. We had our own militiaof girls who had done
military training, and in September 1970 we were wholly
involved. The Jordanians found me during one of the searches
after the fighting - a curfew was imposed and every house
was searched - and accused me of being responsible for
having organized what they called "the woman's chaos" in
the city. They told me I had to make a public appeal "to all
these people to stop firing." I wrote, "In the nameof Jordanian
and Palestinian women, I appeal to all those who are fighting
to stopdoing soand to turn their guns on thecommonenemy."
The GUPW offices were closed down by the Jordanian
government in the spring of 197 1.1 had quite a bit of trouble
later - searches, questionings and so on. The GUPW was
moved to Beirut and in 1974 we helda General Assembly and
elected a new Executive Committee and 1 was re-elected
president. But the Jordanians don't bother me now because
they know my work isn't in Jordan. Women are participating
in public life, but not enough. They must do more, push more
strongly. We are still too few in the Palestine National Council.13 out of 300.

Rasmiya Odeh

I was born in Lifta in 1948 and when I was a month old
my family fled to Ramallah. They had heard stories of the
massacre of Deir Yassin and the stories of rape frightened
them because they had four girls. At first we lived in a tent
and life was very hard. We had left everything behind -
anyway our livelihood came from the land, and how could we
take the land with us? My father tried to scrape together a
living by selling small goods in the street but in the early
1950's he decided to emigrate to the US. The rest of the family
stayed in Ramallah. There were 18 of us altogether,
grandparents, uncles, aunts, children, squeezed into the tent.
It was difficult. When my father sent some money from the
States we rented two rooms but we still faced great hardship.
And then my father was injured in an accident in the factory
Torture and Inhuman Treatment of Palestinian Women 645
where he worked and went to hospital. Since he could send
no more money we were forced to turn to UNRWA. My uncle
earned some money selling materials but it wasn't enough.
The family tried to return to Lifta to get some household goods
from our house but they didn't succeed; others were killed
trying to recover their possessions. My mother cried all the
time. I used to ask her, "Why are you crying? Where's papa?"
and she would say, "1 cry because the Jews came from every
comer of the earth and took everything we had and now we
have nothing to live on." I missed my father and didn't
understand his absence. I kept on looking for the place where
he was hidden. My family tell me I used to get lost and they
would find me wandering through the streets of Ramallah
asking people, "Where is America? I'm looking for America
and I can't find it."To my child's understanding the return of
my father was linked to the return of Palestine - one was
gone because the other was lost. I never lived my childhood
but spent my time with adults, asking them how to get back
to Palestine. And I saw everyone else living in the same
conditions so I felt that if we were all in the same state then
we had to solve the problem.

We had a neighbour, a communist, who was constantly
harried by (King) Abdullah's police. I felt this was because
he wanted to work for the return of Palestine. I started going
to communist meetings when I was 12 and then a year later I
joined the Arab National Movement (ANM) because it
seemed to be the political party that was most concerned with
the problem. I kept my membership secret from the family,
which was quite easy because my mother was alone and had
six children to look after.

About two years before the June 1967 war, father came
home and settled in Ramallah. He'd had a bad time after the
factory accident; his leg was broken and badly set and had to
be re-set. He was moved from hospital to hospital, a very bad
time. We lived off the insurance payments, and saved and
scraped and finally bought a house. Then the war came. I was
sitting for my tawjihiya (school leaving certificate) that
month. Fatherwas in Jericho because theclimate in the Valley
was supposed to be good for his health and we walked there
to join him. My mother said, "We've always been separated
in life, at least let's die together." On the road we saw corpses
burnt by napalm; the Good Samaritan Inn was full of charred
bodies, so appallingly burnt we couldn't tell if they were
civilian or military, and this affected me terribly. It was then
that I became convinced that military action was more important
than social or political work.

After 20 days in Jericho we walked back to Ramallah.
There we found that the room in which we had taken shelter
had been destroyed by ashell; if we had stayed we would have
been killed. Our home had been looted by the Israeli soldiers
and everything of value taken. The streets of Ramallah were
full of Israelis; this was the first time I saw them. They were
elated and happy and we were so wretched; they were free
and we were kept under curfew, restricted, and I kept on
asking myself how 1 could take part in the struggle. Everything
was in confusion and chaos, and political activity was
largely confined to the students. We used to demonstrate and
throw stones at the Israelis to protest against the desecration
of mosques and against the looting.

Around August or September more organized activity
began, still among the students because it was easierfor them
to act; they didn't have families to support or jobs that they
had to keep. There were arms in the area and we were given
theoretical - visual -training so that we would know how
to defend ourselves when the Israeli soldiers fired on our
demonstrations. I wanted to actually fire agun, not just study
diagrams of firing mechanisms, and to do this I had to go
abroad. But my family were against it; they didn't want me
to leave the house because the streets were full of Israelis and
they were afraid of rape and insults. For instance, one day
there was a large group of Israeli civilians visiting Ramallah,
swaggering, looking as though they owned the place. A group
of us stood there glaring at them, hate showing in our eyes,
and the soldiers came up to us and told us, roughly, to clear
off, and waved us off with their submachine guns.They didn't
actually do anything to us but we were scared and so were our
families. Even before the war my family was very conservative.
My father was shocked by American customs and
wanted to guard and preserve us from their influence. It was
accepted that the struggle and imprisonment were men's
preserve; we were not to be involved in demonstrations, in
which Israelis might manhandle us. But from the time I was
a child, I had always rejected this oppression of women and
my family didn't or couldn't forbid my commitment. I was
determined to get training, to do something; I had the will to
achieve. My family agreed to let me go to Beirut to study
because they thought it would keep me out of trouble. I got
to know an informer, and cultivated him because informers
were able to get one travel permits; also I thought that knowing
him would protect me from suspicion in my political
work, which proved to be true. This informer got me a permit
to study abroad and 1 went to the Arab University in Beirut
where I studied political economy. I also contacted people in
Amman and Beirut, among them Wadi' Haddad, who was
responsible for military affairs in the PFLP.

It wasn't all military work, though; 1 was also interested
in the women's problem. We couldn't accept the way she is
treated, forbidden to come and go, to act freely, to marry as
she pleases; just an armchair for men. We refused to accept
this and tried to awaken her awareness and will to struggle,
and to give her the assurance that she has the same gifts as
men and can be strong and active. Formal education isn't
enough; it doesn't change the men's attitudes. Even if I
complete secondary school my father can still marry me off
as he chooses. Girls finish school and return home and do
nothing because there aren't many job opportunities for
women, and because they are frightened that people may talk
about them. Things changed after the occupation. The Israeli
didn't differentiate between the sexes when he shot at
demonstrators, or when he searched a house, or when he made
an arrest. So danger changed the girls. Then the economic
situation - inflation, unemployment - affected everyone.
Twelve-year-old children began leaving school to help their
fathers e m enough to keep their families. Men were no
longer the only breadwinners. At first men opposed this state
of affairs, but then they were forced to accept it. There has
been an enormous change in the women's situation, social
and economic, in the occupied territories. And there was daily
danger and this also changed the women; they stopped thinking
of how to please men, and began to think of building social
structures, of fighting the occupier, of the future. The reality
of the occupation strengthened their resolve. In Lebanon, by
contrast, although women appear to be freer it's more superficial.

Go to part 2 of 5

Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem
By Issa Nakhleh

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