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Mahmoud Abbas has a problem with women

JNS columnist Stephen M. Flatow asks: Why is it that every time a female U.S. government official says something that the PA doesn’t like, PA leaders respond by making a disparaging remark related to the fact that she is a woman?

Why is it that every time a female U.S. government official says something that the Palestinian Authority (PA) doesn’t like, PA leaders respond by making a disparaging remark related to the fact that she is a woman?

In his bizarre two-hour rant before the Palestinian Central Council on Jan. 14, PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley “wears high heels not for elegance but to use to hit anyone who attacks Israel.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the U.N. General Assembly in September 2015. Credit: U.N. Photo/Cia Pak.

When Condoleeza Rice was secretary of state, an official PA newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, called her (on June 23, 2002) “the dark complexioned lady,” “the Black Lady” and “this pitiful woman.” On Nov. 3 of that year, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida railed against Rice for “her loose way of sitting, when she puts one leg on top of the other.” The writer then alluded to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Another official PA newspaper, Al-Ayyam, referred to Rice (on June 22, 2003) as a “black widow,” a “single black lady” and a “black raven,” and patronizingly compared her to African-American supermodel Naomi Campbell.

The PA’s problem with women is not limited to Republicans. In its Oct. 3, 1997 issue, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida’s editor in chief denounced Arab leaders whom, he said, “would have sung love songs” to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright “were it not for her advanced age and the fact that she has passed her prime.”

I wonder if the PA’s disturbing obsession with physical appearance of these female U.S. officials is a reflection of the anti-woman culture that the PA fosters in Palestinian society.

According to Amnesty International, women and girls living under PA rule during the past year “continued to face discrimination in law and in practice, and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence, including so-called ‘honour’ killings.”

“Honor killings” are homicides in which men murder female relatives whom they suspect of violating Islamic fundamentalist morals, such as premarital relations, dressing “provocatively” or being seen in the company of an unauthorized boyfriend. According to The Washington Post, even when the PA imprisons such killers, “pardons and suspended sentences are common.”

The Palestinian women’s rights group TAM reported that 18 Palestinian Arab women were murdered in “honor killings” in 2016. But the PA’s Palestinian Public Prosecutor’s Office claims there were “only” nine such killings.

Human Rights Watch reports that the PA “still allows rapists to escape punishment.” It notes that during the past year, “women seeking marriage and divorce suffered discrimination”—for example, PA courts “required Muslim women to obtain a male relative’s consent to marry and to obtain the husband’s consent to divorce, except in limited cases.”

The Times of Israel reported last year that when the PA set up its legal system, it decided to include Article 99 of Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 of 1960, “which grants judges the ability to dramatically reduce sentences if the case has ‘extenuating circumstances’…[which] allows men who murder, assault and rape women in the Palestinian territories to receive significantly reduced sentences…in the majority of other such cases in Jordan and the Palestinian territories, the ‘extenuating circumstances’ the judges cited to lighten the sentences were that the family dropped charges against the defendants—who are part of the family—saying it was an honor killing.”


The United Nations has a division called “UN Women.” Its website reports, “There are no specific laws or provisions in the [PA-ruled territories] that protect women against domestic violence and sexual violence.” The PA’s penal code “contains discriminatory provisions for women in relation to rape, adultery, and sexual violence committed in marriage.” Women who report rape “risk being criminalized for “adultery.” According to UN Women, 30 percent of women in the PA areas “have been subjected to a form of violence within the household,” and 65 percent of them “preferred to remain silent.”

Little things reveal a lot. Palestinian women candidates who ran for office in the last PA municipal elections were prevented by the PA from putting their own names on the ballots. The PA authorities listed them only as “sister of” or “the wife of.”

If that happened under any other government in the world, Jewish “progressives”—including J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace and all the rest—would be screaming in protest. Instead, they are silent. So yes, Mahmoud Abbas has a problem with women—and Abbas’s Jewish cheerleaders have a problem of their own: they’re in denial.

Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, three other daughters and nine granddaughters.

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