+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

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

Who will put an end to the murder of Arab women in Israel?

Ten women from the same family have been murdered since 2000. In failing to protect them, we have failed in coming to terms with the fact that women are independent, free human beings who have exclusive ownership over their bodies.

(Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe)

The first documented murder of a woman in Palestine occurred in 1930. A young Christian woman returned to her village on horseback while being held by one of the Arab fighters. He claimed that he gave her a ride to the village when a deluge of rain caught her in the fields. Someone from the village concluded that an act of forbidden love was involved. The next day that young woman’s body was found in a cave near the village. Her virgin body was buried in the cave; her tomb became a pilgrimage site because she was pure when she was murdered. The warrior, of course, continued to fight for occupied Palestinian land, and lost the battle as we know.

Women shout slogans during the International Women's Day march in Qalandiya, West Bank on March 8th, 2014. Around 400 women and supporters marched to the Israeli checkpoint holding signs and shouting slogans against the occupation, calling to boycott Israel. The demonstration was dispersed by Israeli forces with tear gas and shock grenades.

Women shout slogans during the International Women’s Day march in Qalandiya, West Bank on March 8th, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Eighty years have passed. In the meantime the State of Israel was founded, and the Palestinian minority within it is still fighting for its civil rights and its Palestinian Arab identity. Since then many women have been murdered by men in their family who were angry about something that didn’t seem quite right in their behavior as women. Somehow the honor killing of that Christian girl has become Islamized, yet Muslim sheikhs rush to absolve Islam after each murder. The “heroic” men have been transformed into anonymous masked men who are paid in advance by other men for the murders. The rage and the irrepressible wrath has been transformed into a carefully crafted deed carried out by a criminal gang armed with illegal weapons. It determines who is going to be killed, when and how. The very same men who appoint themselves “the honor guard” of the family allow themselves to do what they forbid the women.

So in one place an act of love has become part of normal life, while somewhere else a Facebook account decorated with photos becomes an excuse to harm a young woman. Arab honor, which is trampled upon in this country everywhere and in every way, has settled upon the frail shoulders of Arab women. It has been transformed into a public trash bin, into which the “motives” are tossed in order to provide a legitimate excuse for the murder of Arab women.

In an astounding show of cooperation, the macho police force and patriarchal society reinforce and preserve this verbal trash bin. This is the same bin that has produced the “immigration crisis that caused the husband to murder his wife and then attempt suicide” among Ethiopian women. For women from the former USSR it has become the “violent drunken husband,” while for everyone else it has created the category of “romantic motives” as the excuse for murder. And who is in charge of this trash bin? Uniformed men who are fighting to clear their names, which are tainted by cases of sexual harassment and corruption.

Every year, 5,000 women are murdered throughout the world. In Israel the annual tally is 20; 10 are Arab and another 10 are Jewish. The one place where we have achieved equality. The numbers are similar in Jordan and Syria, and since the beginning of the year 13 women have been murdered in the occupied territories.

Let us dwell for a moment on the number that has rattled the lives of every Arab woman in Ramle and Lod this week. Ten young women from the Abu Ghanem family have been murdered since 2000. Their killers had a broad spectrum: some of the women were married, others were single; there were women with children, students, and younger women; all between the ages of 16 and 35. Ten souls in a single family!

Bisan Abu Ghanim, the tenth woman to be murdered.

Bisan Abu Ghanim, the tenth woman to be murdered.

But to me the most horrid number wasn’t ten, but two. Only two of the murders have been solved, that of Hamda and Rim. None of the other murderers have been put behind bars. Nor have they faced a judge or paid their debt to society for their deeds. Doesn’t the fact that eight firearm-carrying murderers are running around among us concern you? Do you think these weapons only shoot at women?

What can be done to spur the police to do something about it? Should we call the cops and tell them that these young men are planning a terrorist attack in the renowned Ramle Market? Maybe that will get the police moving?

The response to Arab society sounds like this: “educate your sons, teach your daughters.” The perception is that something needs to be done about a community with an inbuilt cruelty to women. I refuse to accept these absurd arguments. To my delight there are all sorts of studies from all over the world that show what Arab women have achieved over the last 20 years. Whether it is high education levels, integration into the work force, marriage-age fertility rates, self-awareness and the social involvement of Arab women, the graphs point in the right direction. It’s a fact!

But at the end of the day we failed to save them. We didn’t save the young woman from the unrecognized Bedouin village south, or the girl from the crime-ridden city. This despite the fact that most of these women contacted us, the police, the welfare authorities, the media and women’s organizations. We have been unable to save them.

We have failed as a society. As professionals, both men and women, we’ve failed to prosecute crimes. We have failed to protect the lives of free women and rehabilitate the victims of domestic violence. We’ve failed in educating our children to understand and show respect for the other. We’ve failed in coming to terms with the fact that women are independent, free human beings who have exclusive ownership over their bodies.

With the 10th murder, that of Bisan Abu Ghanim, we score a big fat zero as a society. And that is really reprehensible.

Samah Salaime Egbariya is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew hereTranslated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia.

WATCH: Arab women protest against domestic violence in Israel
PHOTOS: Women leading the struggles in Israel/Palestine
Women behind the lens: Palestinians filming the occupation

Newsletter banner 6 -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

    * Required


    1. bar

      The writer is absolutely right. The Israeli police needs to be more involved. They should do this even though it will boomerang and Adalah and the BDS movement will then turn around and claim there’s discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    2. David T.

      What a pathetic attempt to suggest that there’s no real discrimination against Non-Jews in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Discrimination (against non-Jews) in Israel is nothing compared to discrimination against women in Arab societies. But a Jew-hating scumbag such as yourself would not care.

        Reply to Comment
        • “Discrimination (against non-Jews) in Israel is nothing….(the rest of this sentence is off topic)

          It’s always nothing when its happening to someone else. What would you know about being on the receiving end of discrimination in the state of israel for non-Jews anyway? What if you’re a Jew of a different hue? There’s continued discrimination against Beta Israel and black american Jews who’ve made aliyah. This is an ongoing issue that is very well-documented. This is also not the topic but you broached the subject.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            And what exactly makes you think that I’m a Jew of a right hue and I’m not on the recieving end of whatever discrimination is supposedly takes place in Israel?

            “There’s continued discrimination against Beta Israel and black american Jews who’ve made aliyah”

            Reply to Comment
          • “And what exactly makes you think that I’m a Jew of a right hue and I’m not on the recieving end of whatever discrimination is supposedly takes place in Israel?”

            Maybe you’d like to clarify what you’re saying by “Jew of a right hue”? Also, you say bullshit – about what? Discrimination against Beta Israel and “black” Jews? There’s over million and a half results re: “racism against black Jews in Israel” on Google.

            As to your question – “And what exactly makes you think that I’m a Jew of a right hue…?” This.
            “Discrimination (against non-Jews) in Israel is nothing……”

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Maybe you’d like to clarify what you’re saying by “Jew of a right hue”?

            Sure. Right after you clarify what “What if you’re a Jew of a different hue?” supposed to mean.

            “Also, you say bullshit – about what? Discrimination against Beta Israel and “black””
            Jews?” Yep.

            “There’s over million and a half results re: “racism against blacke Jews in Israel” on Google.”
            Nope. Are you lying intentionally or just overfilled with your own bullshit.? Oh, I know! You don’t know how to use search engines. You don’t think that any query would yield results that you intended to receive, do you?

            “This. “Discrimination (against non-Jews) in Israel is nothing… ”

            Yet another bullshit-based assumption. You have not even slightest idea what is discrimination.

            Reply to Comment
          • I’m sorry, I gave you credit for understanding things that are over your head. Don’t let a little thing like facts bother you, continue living in your magic bubble.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            What hue are you? I find it useful in assessing character generally to ask: “If this person has been born a Gentile in Germany in 1920, how would they have behaved? Would they have been…a true believer, with gusto, an enthusiast (the SS)?…an ambivalent follower?…a passive follower?…a passive resister?…an active resister (White Rose, Hans and Sophie Scholl)? What hue are you?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            The difference between Rightists and Leftists is that the Right had long overgrown something as unimportant as skin colour, while Leftist scum still believes that the skin colour still has any meaning.

            Well, maybe to your national-socialist kin, but not to anyobody else.

            Reply to Comment
          • This isn’t about right and left issues, it’s just about right and wrong.

            -Israeli teenagers: Racist and proud of it

            Ethnic hatred has become a basic element in the everyday life of Israeli youth, a forthcoming book finds.
            By Or Kashti | Aug. 23, 2014 | 12:20 PM | 15
            – TEL AVIV, 9 February 2012 (IRIN) – Growing up in Israel, Shay Sium became accustomed to being called a “nigger”. (in Hebrew – Kushim)

            Sium, 32, has lived in Israel most of his life, but says he and other Ethiopian Jews are treated differently from other Israelis: factories do not want to employ them; landlords refuse them; and certain schools turn away their children.

            “The word discrimination doesn’t describe what we experience. There is another word for it: racism. It is a shame that we still have to use this word today,” he told IRIN.

            An estimated 125,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, but while they are supposed to be full citizens with equal rights, their community has continued to face widespread discrimination and socio-economic difficulties, according to its leaders.

            A recent decision – as reported by local media – by 120 homeowners not to sell or rent their apartments to Israeli-Ethiopian families has brought discrimination against Ethiopian Jews in Israel back into the spotlight.

            Hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis took to the streets on 18 January to protest the move by landlords in the southern city of Kiryat Malakhi – Shay Sium’s hometown.

            From the Independent UK

            Israel gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent

            Alistair Dawber Jerusalem
            Sunday 27 January 2013

            Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.

            The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.

            One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Sam Goldring

      Teaching that murder is Haram.
      That honor is for God not oneself.
      That murder does not restore honor it only brings more disgrace on the family.

      Reply to Comment
    4. The Trespasser

      By the way, the very suggestion Arab males should drop their barbaric traditions and must not be killing Arab females is racist – each people has a right for the traditions of their own. Camel-back-riding sons of desert have very little need in fake humanity imposted on them by Westerners.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        This means what? You have the right to your own Deuteronomy-adherent barbaric traditions and to question this is racist? And what are you? A sheep herding son of the desert? A shoe making son of a son of the shtetl? A son of a right wing Russian immigrant? An American son of an insurance salesman from Brooklyn? Feeling stereotyped? Misunderstood? You poor dear.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          “You have the right to your own Deuteronomy-adherent barbaric traditions and to question this is racist?”

          I dare you to name three Deuteronomy-adherent barbaric traditions which control Jewish life these days.

          Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Oh I never made any such, absurd sweeping claim. I pointed out that YOU defend the proposition that any people has the right to barbaric traditions and that it is racist to deny them that (which does actually raise the question as to what barbaric traditions a racism fighter like you feels entitled to) while in addition, insinuating in the most crudely racist way that “camel-back-riding” Arabs are incapable of modern life. But I see that you DO feel terribly misunderstood now. You poor dear. Such a sensitive soul. You and Colonel Ofer Winter the Holy Warrior are such poor misunderstood sensitive souls. I’ll try to be gentler. I had no idea.

            Reply to Comment