The activist sent the letter to her friends at Anarchists Against the Wall, in which she wrote of the incidents of sexual harassment she had experienced in Kfar a-Dik, a West Bank village where the organization holds protests in support of the Palestinians from time to time.
This correspondence, along with other testimonies obtained by Haaretz, tells of a wider phenomenon of sexual harassment and assault of Israeli and foreign protesters in the West Bank. In the past two years, at least six incidents were recorded in the West Bank and East Jerusalem: two in Sheikh Jarrah, four more in the Mount Hebron area, in Masra, in Kfar a-Dik, and an alleged case of attempted rape in Umm Salmona, near Bethlehem, that was revealed in Haaretz.
Recently, a special forum was started by a group of women from leftist groups for the purpose of dealing and monitoring such incidents. “The objective is to learn the subject,” says one of the group’s members. “We want to develop tools and guidelines for creating an environment with fewer cases of harassment.”
Protesters were asked to dress in a way that was considerate
The popular protests of Israeli and foreign leftist activists alongside Palestinians had already began in the middle of the previous decade, but had become more popular in recent years. The protests in Bil”in and Sheikh Jarrah have become points of pilgrimage for activists on the left from Israel and abroad, who join the Palestinians in protest every Friday, when these protest usually take place. In Sheikh Jarrah the protest began when Palestinians were evicted from their homes that were returned to their Israeli owners by court order. In other organization, activists help Palestinians under constant harassment of settlers in places such as south Mount Hebron.
The joint activity of Israeli leftist activists on one side and local Palestinians on the other has created rare cases of cooperation in this time of conflict. But at the same time, complaints of sexual harassment by Palestinians started to emerge. In April 2010, an American peace activist filed a complaint against a Palestinian, charging he had tried to rape her. The suspect was later freed when the activist withdrew her complaint.
Hanna Beit Halachmi, a longtime leftist feminist activist, says the outcry began in the spring of 2010, when the organization Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, issued a message requesting that the female activists arrive to the protests dressed in a manner that is considerate toward the residents.
The statement created a rift between the organization’s female activists and male activists who said their response was exaggerated. Soon after, the activists began holding meetings in which they discussed, among other issues, the issue of sexual harassment.
Alongside the struggle against the sexual harassment, the female activists have criticized the responses of their Israeli associates. The ire of many of the activists in the past and in the present is directed at their associates in the left who, according to them, are belittling the significance of the harassments, all in the name of “the opposition to the occupation.”…