A Guardian article written by reporter Rebecca Ratcliffe focused on a UN speech by Randa Siniora, director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, and reportedly “the first female Palestinian campaigner to address the UN security council” (Women in Palestine face violence and political exclusion, campaigner tells UN, Oct. 26).

Whilst briefly acknowledging “existing gender inequalities” in the West Bank and Gaza, the Guardian then quotes Siniora blaming Israel for discrimination against Palestinian women.

The Israeli occupation and the resulting humanitarian crisis are deeply gendered and exacerbate existing gender inequalities. Women disproportionately endure the violence of occupation borne by all Palestinians, and often with gender-specific consequences,”

Palestinian women face attacks and discrimination by the Israeli military on a daily basis, she explained, adding that spikes in political violence lead to increased violence in the home.

The Guardian doesn’t attempt to explain how Israel, where, per Freedom House, “women generally enjoy full political rights in law and in practice” can “exacerbate existing gender inequalities” in Hamas-run Gaza or Palestinian controlled cities in the West Bank.  Nor do they offer a clue as to how the IDF can be blamed for Palestinian domestic violence – a bizarre charge leveled by the Guardian on at least two previous occasions.  Further, the full transcript of Siniora’s UN speech doesn’t provide much insight into the basis of her argument, and includes further source-free jargon-ridden accusations, such as “the occupation reinforces the patriarchal structures of Palestinian society”.

But, the larger issue – one we’ve commented on repeatedly – is the failure of Palestinians and their leaders to take some responsibility for their political, social and economic problems, and their knee-jerk tendency to scapegoat Israel – a pattern the British media reinforces with reports consistently denying Palestinians agency.  Palestinians, former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman explained, “are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate”.  The media narrative, he added, “demands that they exist as passive victims” of Israel, the only party that matters.

However, this isn’t merely about how such myopic coverage and flawed causality results in unfair reporting about Israel.  

Middle East historian Bernard Lewis has persuasively argued that there are two different ways in which individuals, groups and nations can choose respond to adversity. The first is to ask “Who did this to us?” The second is, “What did we do wrong?” The first one, Lewis maintains, leads to conspiracy theories, self-pity and avoidance of personal responsibility, whilst the other leads to self-help and moral agency. One usually leads to failure and the other to success.

At the end of the day, the primary victims of this habit of infantilizing Palestinians are Palestinians themselves. 

Related Articles