Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2005, pages 60-61
Southern California Chronicle
Visiting Academic Discusses “Palestinian Girls Facing the Wall”
By Pat and Samir Twair
UCLA Women’s Studies panelists (l-r) Christine Littleton, emcee; Sondra Hale; Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Ellen DuBois (Staff photo S. Twair).
AUDIENCE REACTION ranged from an angry shouted protest to an enthusiastic standing ovation at an April 16 talk on “Palestinian Girls Facing the Wall” at the Huntington Library in San Marino. The speaker was Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a visiting professor at UCLA Law School and the UCLA Center for the Study of Women.
The occasion was a seminar entitled “History, Culture and Politics: Gendering International Human Rights,” sponsored by UCLA Women’s Studies and moderated by UCLA law professor Dr. Christine Littleton. Dr. Ellen DuBois provided a history of international women’s rights, while
anthropologist Sondra Hale summarized her paper on “Women and Genocide with Special References to Sudan.”
Kevorkian based much of her talk on discussions she has conducted with Palestinian girls in her capacity as project and research director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in Jerusalem. She oversees a women’s studies center in Nablus in addition to being a professor at Hebrew University.
The Palestinian academic briefly informed the audience of more than 200 about Israel’s apartheid wall that has put 16 percent of West Bank Palestinian land on the Israeli side of a barrier that is three times higher and twice as long as the Berlin Wall.
“Any Palestinian over the age of 12 must have a permit to cross gates in the wall that are only open 55 minutes of the day,” Kevorkian explained. “This puts a special burden on young girls who must line up every day to go through the wall to their schools and who often are subjected to harassment by [Israeli] soldiers.
“Fathers are humiliated to stand by helplessly as their daughters are searched,” she noted. “So they keep their daughters at home to avoid the searches, and they force them to marry early.
“It makes me furious when these girls are referred to as drop-outs,” Kevorkian said. “I call this deprivation of education.”
One young girl told Kevorkian that the Wall has turned her into a robot who sneaks along back roads to avoid checkpoints. Living behind the wall, the girl lamented, is being in a collective grave awaiting a slow death.
At this point, an elderly woman in the front row stood up and shouted: “I’m leaving. I won’t listen to this.”
Kevorkian responded to the outburst by saying how sad it is that she had to endure daily strip searches, while the American objector could not tolerate hearing the facts.
“The wall makes us revise our way of looking at space and power,” she continued. “This system of dominating space embraces race, class,
oppression and gender violence. The wall enables the Israelis to see every movement of the Palestinians, depriving them of any privacy. When the Palestinian man’s space is violated, he translates this into committing violence on women and preventing them from going to school.”
The first question from the audience was hostile: “You teach at Hebrew University, are there any Israeli Jews who teach in Arab universities?”
“Indeed there are,” Kevorkian replied. “I believe two Israeli Jews teach at the Birzeit campus and others teach at Bethlehem University.”