Op-Ed via Al Jazeera English

How Israel is being absolved of Palestinian women’s rights abuse

Although International Women's Day has its roots in revolutionary and anti-capitalist grassroots women's movements, in the Global South its celebration has come to be dominated by the UN and the NGO sector. The occasion is often used to reinforce certain development narratives of women's rights and to fundraise for projects.

This year, in Palestine, UN agencies, various international organisations, and local NGOs launched a week-long campaign called, My Rights, Our Power, which is meant to "to raise awareness on women's fundamental human rights" and domestic violence, in particular.

It focuses on five areas of concern: the right to a life free of violence, the right to achieve justice, the right to seek help, and the right to equal opportunities and the right to make one's own choices.

However, organisers have made one glaring omission in the campaign message: It does not mention the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as a major contributing factor to rights violations committed against Palestinian women. The words "occupation" or "Israel" are nowhere to be found in distributed press releases and campaign materials.

So, are we to believe then that Palestinian women are able to achieve justice and a life free of violence in the context of the continuing Israeli project of ethnic cleansing and cultural erasure?

This omission is clearly not a mistake or an oversight, rather it reflects a noticeable trend in the discourse of the international aid and donor community which talks about "issues" and "barriers" in the field of women's rights as if they all happen in a political vacuum.

In Palestine, this trend accelerated after the Oslo Peace Accords which served as a catalyst for the de-politicisation of Palestine. Twenty-five years ago, Oslo introduced a new frameworks for "peace" and "state-building" which not only undermined the Palestinian liberation project but also set in motion a fundamental transformation of the Palestinian civil society.

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