You cannot be a feminist and support Zionism

The Western fetishization of the ‘free’ women in the Israeli occupation: A blatant blindness to the plight of Palestinian women

The Pieta of Gaza @TheBeardBasha
The Pieta of Gaza (Photo @TheBeardBasha/ instagram)

After more than 100 days of Israel's war on Gaza, there have been many instances where my heart felt like it sank to the bottom of my stomach. The images, videos, and testimonies that we have seen in more than 100 days are sometimes unfathomable to watch or even witness; I fear that sometimes our brains become so desensitized. It was never normal to see a father holding the parts of his child in a bag, or women weeping at the loss of their loved ones, or the one that still keeps me wondering about how so much feminism has failed the Palestinian cause.

I remember a particular moment where I even questioned my feminism and what it means to be an Arab-Muslim woman when I heard of a Gazan woman who went through IVF only to say farewell to her son, highlighting that life in Gaza can be taken away at any moment.

And this is where the West has continuously gone on to fail women worldwide. It seems as if it is a woman’s issue until it comes to Palestinian women, and god forbid, a Muslim woman’s issue.

Palestine is a feminist issue, and feminism cannot be equated with Zionism. It is incompatible.

So, what is colonial feminism?
According to the Palestinian Feminist Collective, colonial feminism refers to Western and colonial discourse and politics that deploy the language of liberating women to justify invasions, genocides, military occupations, resource extractions, and labor exploitations.

And here is where it gets even more interesting: colonial feminism thrives on depicting Palestinian women as helpless victims in need of saving from their own culture, society, and religion. Since October 7, the graveyard that Gaza has become is justified in this context because the occupation is arguing that Hamas is putting its civilians at risk. Therefore, killing over 30,000 civilians, 70 percent of whom are women and children, is deemed acceptable.

The West has a fetishization of othering itself from other women. In 2023, 'Hijabophobia' was at an all-time high. Muslim women all over the West are subjected to much scrutiny for practicing their faith, and automatically, a piece of cloth becomes their barrier to feminism. The West fetishizes the secular Muslim woman, the one who removes her headscarf and denounces her religion, which, therefore, makes it easier for a woman to be killed in Gaza.

World Hijab Day takes place annually on February 1 to take a stance against raising awareness of Islam and women and, of course, educate about women's rights.

In her article, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference," American writer and professor Audre Lorde explained, “White women ignore their built-in privilege and define women in terms of their own experiences alone; then women of color become ‘other’… which prevents the literary work produced by women of color from being represented in mainstream feminism.”

This cannot be even more true now. After 100 days, we are seeing women bear the brunt of Israel’s war on Gaza. According to UN Women, out of every ten people killed in Gaza since October 7, seven have been women or children. It added that two mothers are being killed every hour, and nearly one million women and girls have been displaced.

The Israeli occupation is taking away everything from Gazans and violating every sort of international law. Under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, it is being shown. The far-right female Knesset members are not forward-thinking, nor are they feminists, as they serve the patriarchy through their own selfish demands, or in this case, to serve the colonial patriarchal system that values death over life, all for the sake of taking land that was not theirs to begin with.

However, as Lorde mentioned in her essay, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) women who are serving in this genocidal war are being celebrated for being women who are ‘fighting,’ and mainstream media, such as the New York Times, are failing to address its liberal agenda by focusing on these war-mongering ‘feminists.’

In an article released on January 19, in the New York Times ‘Israeli Women Fight on Front Line in Gaza, a First,’ the story revolves around one of its 'Captains', Amit Busi. At 23, she is one of Israel’s star token propagandists who is fighting not only innocent civilians but society, the ‘traditionally macho culture,’ who told her she could never make it.

The Israeli occupation is once again doing all it can to uphold its image of being the only free and democratic state in the Middle East. It has done this by pinkwashing and purplewashing, highlighting that it supports same-sex marriages, and now, that it supports women in combat roles.

The article stated that one of its occupation forces has ‘no time for feelings,’ and that fighting feminism in its ranks is part of a shared mission.

And while one of the infamous female captains of its ranks says she does everything to avoid civilian casualties, it is just so hard because of ‘Hamas.’

Expressing her ‘hope’ to have children someday and praying they will not have to experience conflict in Gaza, this statement seems to contradict her earlier remarks. Does it imply she envisions a future where Gaza is eliminated to safeguard her children? The question arises: How does this war-mongering feminist combat soldier genuinely protect civilian casualties? It appears to be part of a propaganda effort to evoke sympathy for women in the occupation while simultaneously disregarding the plight of women in Gaza.

She added that the occupation needs her there, and of course, they do because, in the public opinion battle, Israel has lost, and Israel continues to lose. It will do anything it can to keep up its public image and justify the number of civilians killed.

Women at the forefront of Gaza are not something to be celebrated; these women are simply serving the patriarchy, a far-right cabinet that includes all men, but no women.

It is time to start looking at Palestinian women with the same lens through which we look at all other women in the Western world. Palestinian women are not oppressed; Palestinian women are occupied, and any woman who supports the occupation cannot be considered a feminist, point-blank.
Buying into a version of feminism that does not exist, which is liberating Palestinian women from the clutches of Hamas, ignores the very real and grave harm they have been subjected to.

According to a recent report by UN women, the grave numbers highlight just a glimpse of what is happening in Gaza currently.

  • The only functional maternity hospital in northern Gaza is expected to run out of fuel.
  • Over 24,620 Palestinian civilians have been killed, 70 percent of whom are women and children.
  • Two mothers have been killed every hour.
  • At least 3,000 may have become new widows and women heads of households.
  • At least 10,000 children have lost their fathers.
    There are no safe spaces in Gaza because the Israeli occupation bombs so-called safe spaces.
  • Gaza’s pregnant women endure C-sections without anesthesia.
  اضافة اعلان

If you identify as a feminist, the time has come to recognize that the issue of Palestine is intrinsically tied to feminism. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the 75-plus-year ongoing occupation.

Palestinian women, like women anywhere else in the world, deserve equal opportunities and rights. Resistance against the occupation is an integral aspect of the broader struggle for gender equity.