+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

New name for an old crime: Police get creative with 'honor killings'

Israeli police, it seems, have finally learned not to use the infuriating term ‘honor killings’ to describe the murder of Arab women. Unfortunately, their replacement is far worse.

The good news is that the police arrested suspects in the murder of Bisan Abu Ghanem, and that authorities have apparently learned not to stop calling such murders “honor killings.” The bad news is that the new explanation for women’s murder is worse yet: their “independent conduct.”

Please insert the new phrase into your lexicon: “murdered on grounds of her independent conduct.” This new excuse for murdering women proudly joins others in an illustrious list: “romantic,” “family-crisis,” “honor,” “cultural,” the good old “crime of passion” and more.

This new masterpiece of nomenclature was first cited in a police press report of Tuesday, Dec. 9, announcing that the murder case of Bisan Abu Ghanem – the last and tenth murder victim in her family, killed on October 25, 2014 – has been solved.

Bisan Abu Ghanim, the tenth woman to be murdered in her family.

Bisan Abu Ghanim, the tenth woman to be murdered in her family.

Ostensibly, we as women and activists have been waiting for the commendable moment when the murderers of Arab women are indicted, something that does not happen often enough. Indeed, I could not conceal my satisfaction regarding the efficacy and speed of the labyrinthine investigation, which led to the arrest of six suspects; nothing of the kind took place after the murder of Bisan’s stepmother in 2000, or after the murders of her sisters several years later. I even allowed myself to imagine that once the perpetrators are brought to court, we may see further indictments in cases that had gone unsolved.

So the central investigator in this case certainly deserves tribute. But whoever wrote the press release in Hebrew really must have struggled with the ban on the term “honor killing” as the grounds for this horrific crime. Clearly the writer knew that the term is a red flag for furious women’s organizations, and since nothing in the list above was quite suitable, and some sort of “grounds” must be found, the new phrase “independent conduct” was invented. This is in fact an umbrella that covers everything — behavior, dress-style, speech, aspirations and plans for the future, legal battles with an ex over child custody, any behavior characterized by independence.

And after all, why should any woman, and especially an Arab woman, conduct herself independently? She is expected to be attached by an umbilicus to some man whose whims and goodwill determines where she goes. Think how much patronization, stereotyping and arrogance are encoded in this term: a) We know that women are not independent; b) She who knowingly conducts herself “independently” thereby endangers her own life. c) Protecting women involves raising awareness of the dangers involved in their mounting independence.

Honor killing may be a preferable term after all

For me, as a woman who has struggled for 20 years to be able to say with abundant womanly pride that I am independent entity in my own right, a human being who is not dependent on any man – this police press release was a slap in the face. Where do you think you are living? Independent? By what right? You still belong to someone, and your provocations in the name of human rights and feminism are leading you in a very dangerous direction.

If until now the grounds of honor killing pointed the finger toward a woman’s sexual conduct, and hinted at control over her body and her sexual life, now comes “independent conduct” and expands the domains of control in almost every conceivable direction.

Women from the West Bank town of Bethlehem march past Palestinian Authority policemen during a protest against honor killings and other forms of violence against women, November 16, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Women from the West Bank town of Bethlehem march past Palestinian Authority policemen during a protest against honor killings and other forms of violence against women, November 16, 2013. (File photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Here is my suggestion for you, distinguished members of the Israel Police force: if you really must cite grounds, then “gender-based” is the appropriate name for a woman’s murder, or murder “due to misogyny,” or “grounded in chauvinism,” or, in the case of the city of Ramle: “organized-crime murders affecting women, men and youth.”

Women are murdered because they are women, precisely because they see themselves as persons in their own right, and because some man nearby wants to control them. They are born independent and sometimes grow to be reliant on some man in their surroundings, not the other way around. It is natural for a woman to be independent, liberated, and to do whatever she cares to with her life, her body and her future.  Women’s lives or conduct are not the grounds for murder or for anything else.

I am concerned that this new excuse — “independent conduct” — will become a problem in its own right, so I suggest we go back to “honor killings.” The latter is more focused, understandable and limited. I promise to protect the honor of my family, and my whole khamula (clan) and my entire society if need be. Just leave me my independent conduct which I have spent my entire life cultivating.

This article was first published on +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
Who will put an end to the murder of Arab women in Israel?
WATCH: Arab women protest against domestic violence in Israel

Newsletter banner 5 - 540

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      The good news is that Arab women in Israel can elect a strong woman in Israel to represent them in the Knesset. They can vote for an Arab-Israeli Muslim woman named Anett Haskia. I suggest that progressive Arab-Israeli join the Jewish Home party and vote for Anett Haskia in the primaries.

      She encourages investment in the Arab-Israeli community. Such investment means jobs for Arab women. Jobs for Arab women means independence from a paternal culture which seeks to keep them dependent.

      Reply to Comment
      • Y-Man

        Pedro X is looking out for all you Palestinian women. He has your best interest at heart, so listen to his not at all self serving or cynical suggestions.

        Reply to Comment
      • Y-Man

        If there’s one thing that Palestinians should really do, it’s vote for a “Jewish Home” party. The state of Israel needs house n*ggers if it’s going to seem like it’s not actually a prima facie racist premise.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Bennett supports protection and equality for Arab Israelis. In a speech given in Eilat on November 20, 2014 Bennett said:

          “But you have to know 99.9% of Arab citizens are loyal to the State of Israel. It is only a very small minority acting out against.”

          “Therefore, the policy of the government of Israel should be a tough hand against terrorists, but extending a hand of embrace to faithful citizens. The hard line I wield against terrorists in the Cabinet will continue with new efforts in light of the security situation. But in my job as Economy Minister, I will not permit harm against any employee on the basis of religion or race. Something like that will not happen in Israel.”

          “I have the instructed officials in the Ministry of Economy to step up enforcement against any discrimination-related offense. The test of a true democracy occurs precisely when the security situation is difficult. It is very easy to talk about democracy when everything is wonderful, but our test is to stay a strong democracy even in difficult times.”

          In 2013 Bennett was quoted by Gatestoneinstitute.org:

          “There are some who do not want to see the Arab and Jewish sectors live in fine and healthy coexistence,” Bennett remarked. “But we won’t let them win.””

          Reply to Comment
          • Godwin

            “arbeit macht frei” 🙂

            Reply to Comment
          • Phil Fumble

            What a distraction you are Brian. You get a Pinocchio for,that one. Neither Bennett or Pedro get discredited by that link. You are full of slander

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            From someone who just dropped a load of eerily empty AIPAC copy writing on that other site I linked to, with not an honest sentence among it, and someone whose idea of a smart rebuttal is “retard,” well, I don’t care what you think.

            Reply to Comment
          • Phil Fumble

            Brian, nobody can hope to reach a close minded fool like you. My goal is to expose your lies.

            Reply to Comment
          • Josh

            Hah, let’s welcome Fumblewacko the next funny incarnation of gingermeravsluggohasbara BS swat tesm stalking after Brian.
            Man, you really think anyone is going to take you serious? Grow up.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Pedro – why would they want to vote for a quisling like her (who considers illegal settlements a blessing and a boost to security) when they have a perfectly good role model in Hanin Zoabi?

        Whilst you’re full of suggestions for the New Year, can you give us any helpful ideas as to how ultra-orthodox ladies can free themselves from oppression – perhaps rigorous laws to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex (+ religion, ethnicity etc) so that they can sit where they like on buses (even when menstruating), and not be segregated when praying or demonstrating? Perhaps instituting a proper separation between state and religion would be desirable so that they can avail themselves of civil marriage, divorce and burial, and other basic rights that civilized western states take for granted?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Leila

      I think the author is missing the point and shooting at the wrong target. What is said in the police statement and what is a sad fact, is that the perpetrators actually thought that their victim behaves to independent for a woman(as in earlier cases). As she says: “Women are murdered because they are women [no], precisely because they see themselves as persons in their own right [yes], and because some man nearby wants to control them [yes].”
      It is not the police who says “We know that women are not independent”, but the perpetrators say that woman should not be “independent”. “She who knowingly conducts herself “independently” thereby endangers her own life” is thus a fact, when it comes to families where this approach is the rule and where chauvinist perpetrators are found that want to “correct” the situation.
      So I’m sorry to say that it is utter nonsense that it is implicit in the police release that “Protecting women involves raising awareness of the dangers involved in their mounting independence”. To state this and create this really akward line of argumentation is really a shame. I can’t see anything wrong in this press release (while I still see a lot of mistakes in the police conduct of recent years).
      Instead of twisting the content so hard to get this kind of article we should continue criticizing a patriarchal and misogynist culture in some families and the prevalent talk of sharaf. Yes, the murders are “due to misogyny,” or “grounded in chauvinism”. But here is the problem. Don’t make a weak description of the real problem to the real problem.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Phil Fumble

      It is nice to see that 972 will once in a blue moon show journalistic integrity and promote a just cause on its platform. Indeed, this is an issue that requires a tremendous amount of awareness. These women deserve no less.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan the inevitable lot of your

        And who exactly would “these women” be? This particular story is about a Moslem Israeli family, but family violence and the high incidence of murder by intimate partners (40-80% in many countries including Israel) has no significant correlation with Islam. Indeed Ethiopian Jews in Israel (2% of the population) comprise 11% of those admitted to battered women’s refugees and 25% of those killed by their husbands in recent years. Those suffering in silence without making police complaints are “particularly women from conservative or religious backgrounds (of all faiths), as well as immigrant women from Ethiopia or the former Soviet Union”. Organizations active in protecting women from family violence include the Crisis Center for Religious Women in Jerusalem, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, L.O. Combat Violence Against Women (24-hour hotlines in Hebrew and Russian) and Miklat-Bat Melech (provides shelters specifically for haredi women).
        See http://www.refworld.org/docid/469cd69ec.html

        Reply to Comment
        • Phil Fumble

          I see. Your just upset that 972 published an article thst does not explicitly bash Israel, Ziomism, or Jews. So you have to create your own drama. Fool.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            I am not in the least unhappy with +972’s editorial perspective which I thoroughly approve of. Of recent articles portraying a very positive view of Israel I would cite Reuven Rivlen’s stance on social tolerance, including acceptance of the Palestinian minority, and the very recent articles describing Israeli high school students’ protest about the IDF backing oppressive occupation, as well as the analysis of a recent court ruling arguing that Israel should remain true to the sentiments of its Declaration of Independence promising equality and justice for all citizens.

            Reply to Comment
          • Phil Fumble

            Do me a favor, stop being such a nudnik.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            “nudnik” – “retard” – “fool” — all in one day! The list of Phil’s powerful rebuttals grows by the hour

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            The Fumbler says many of these articles “explicitly bash … Jews”. That’s surely rather strange when the vast majority of the authors are Jews. However these are self-loathing Jews who respect international law and human rights and peace, justice and equality, whereas self-respecting Jews loathe international law and human rights and peace, justice and equality. That is a little bit antisemitic isn’t it Phil?

            Reply to Comment
          • Phil Fumble

            I tried twice to,parse something of value from your posting. Unfortunately, I,could not extract anything though the thick packaging of hate, jeslosy, intolerance, etc.

            I am curious to hear your definition of self loathing Jew. What an awful thing to say about someone.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            “self-loathing” is not a term I believe has any value at all but there two final retorts of a scallywag Zionist for whom facts or logic fail. The first is your old favourite: “antisemite” but when that obviously fails because the critic is a Jew, the second comes into play: to accuse the critic of being “self-hating” or even “self-loathing”. Stereotyping the large groups of people who do not love Israel enough as antisemitic or self-hating is ethically on a par with claiming all Arabs are violent terrorists or all Jews are grasping and caballistic fifth columnists.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Click here to load previous comments