Can Palestinian Men be Victims ? Gendering Israel’s War on Gaza
On pleure la perte des femmes et des enfants, mais les hommes palestiniens peuvent-ils aussi être des victimes ?
Only within this logic can criticism of Israel’s war on Gaza be answered, straight faced, with statements about the “fate” of women and homosexuals “under” Hamas. Recently, a spokesman for Israel answered Noura Erakat’s condemnation of Israel’s violation of international human rights by sharing this gem of wisdom: “Hamas, they wouldn’t allow a young, liberal, secular woman to express her views like you do, ma’am. They would not allow my gay friends to express their sexuality freely.” This statement aims to mobilize the gendered discourse of the War on Terror, a discourse that plays on the affective registers of US liberalism through a pandering to feminist and LGBTQ rights. This pandering allows Islamophobia and war to be manifested as a public and international good—after all, it is “we” that are defending the helpless from the ravages of Muslim and Arab men. Laleh Khalili has called this “the use of gendered ‘telling’ to distinguish those who are to be protected from those who are to be feared or destroyed.” This discourse is so powerful that it does not need to rely on facts—it has in fact overridden them.
The Israeli war machine, much like the US war machine in Afghanistan or Iraq, does not protect Palestinian queers and women and children. It kills them, maims them, and dispossesses them alongside their loved ones—for the simple reason that they are Palestinian, and thus able to be killed with impunity while the world watches. Today, the difference between Palestinian womenandchildren and Palestinian men is not in the production of corpses, but rather in the circulation of those corpses within dominant and mainstream discursive frames that determine who can be publicly mourned as true “victims” of Israel’s war machine. Thus the sheer number of womenandchildren dead are enough to mobilize the US president and the UN to make statements “condemning” the violence—but the killing, imprisonment, and maiming of Palestinian men and boys in times of war and ceasefire goes uncited. In Israel men, settlers, and even soldiers are framed as victims of Palestinian terrorism and aggression. All are publicly mourned. In an almost direct reversal, while Palestinian boys and men have been the primary target of Israel, as evidenced by the population of political prisoners and targeted assassinations, are not seen by western based mainstream media as victims of Israeli terrorism and aggression. Palestinians are put in the self-defeating position of having to fight to be recognized as human, to be recognized in death and in life as victims of Israeli policies and actions.