When discussing the Palestinian cause from the Nakba to the Great March of Return, many things spring to mind: the phenomenon of Zionism and its gradual takeover of Palestine; the rise of âIslamismâ; the splitting of Palestinian national identity along factional lines; and even the possibility of a fourth intifada. Indeed one can find many such topics about which a lot has already been written. What rarely comes to mind, though, is the issue of Palestinian womenâs struggle and activism.
With her book Palestinian Womenâs Activism: Nationalism, Secularism, Islamism, Islah Jad fills the gap. The founder and former director of the Institute of Womenâs Studies at Birzeit University has written a book based on decades of research and interviews about gender issues and the role of Palestinian women in the national struggle.
In the first chapter, Jad provides a detailed overview of the history of womenâs activism and the fight for womenâs rights within the national Palestinian national struggle over the past century. She outlines the differences in values, attitudes and perspectives between the Palestinian elite and the peasants â or âfellaheenâ â with the former tending to be conciliatory towards British Mandatory rule and the latter viewing the British as a destructive force. These differences shaped the way in which womenâs rights narratives and minority activism were treated and acted upon. With their better access to Western education, the elite were more suited to running womenâs organisations, but had limited access to fellaheen women due to the inevitable cultural difference between them.
This book has been shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2019,Â please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site