Women Murdered in PA
By Micah Halpern
Thursday August 16, 2012
Murder is wrong and murder must be punished. It is a fundamental principle and should be a basic tenet of all societies, cultures and religions. But it is not. There are those who justify murder under a rubric called honor.
Justifying murder under the rubric called honor is neither honor nor is it justified.
For centuries the Islamic world has practiced what they called honor killings. Even supposedly secular governments in the Muslim world treated honor killings differently than they did murder. The excuse was that honor killings are part and parcel of Middle East tradition.
But there is no honor in murdering defenseless women and there is no way to justify the actions of the men who murder them.
So-called honor killings are most often perpetrated by men who are out of control - angry and shamed by the actions of their female victim. They murder the objects of their anger and absolve themselves of shame.
The numbers are staggering. Since 2007, forty-two women have been murdered in the Palestinian Authority in honor killings. In 2011 alone thirteen women were murdered. So far, in 2012, twelve women have been murdered by their husbands.
The Palestinian Authority has done almost nothing to stop this epidemic.
Last year PA president Abbas signed a new law changing the status of honor killers. On paper, men who murder in the name of honor are to be treated like all other murderers. In practice, the new law has never been in effect. Palestinian men who kill their wives or daughters are seldom convicted and if they are sentenced, they are given a mere six months. In Gaza under Hamas the maximum sentence for honor killing is twenty-four months.
The most recent and a very blatant example of honor killing took place in Bethlehem just steps away from the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. The victim was Nancy Zaboun, a twenty-seven year old mother of three who had been was abused by her husband for ten years and was finally filing for divorce. After a court hearing Nancy left the courthouse and walked up the steps through the open air market in Bethlehem, extremely close to the Church. He husband then stabbed her multiple times in the chest and slit her throat. It happened in broad daylight, in the open air market, and everyone watched.
Over the years Nancy Zaboun had been hospitalized because of the beatings and yet, her husband was never charged. Instead, the police had him sign a document saying that he would no longer beat his wife. In this case he did not beat her, he stabbed her and slit her and murdered her. And now her five, eight and eighteen year old children have no one to look after and protect them.
A silent march was organized in Bethlehem to memorialize Nancy Zaboun, victim of an honor killing, and to truly honor her. Marchers carried signs that read: "No to murder, yes to life" and "Shame on us Palestinians who kill our women." But the protest, not surprisingly, had very little impact.
Even the term used to describe these murderous acts is wrong. Calling them honor killings bestows an ill placed and even false sense of honor upon men who have premeditatedly murdered a relative. Using the term killing buys in to the erroneous belief that what they have done is a justifiable act and it lessens the degree of criminality.
These murders are not justified - not in the Koran and not even in post-Koranic Islamic law. The Koran actually forbids the murder of another believer. That explains why these murders have been swept under the category of tradition or, as it is sometimes called, culture.
Islam, especially the Islam of the Middle East, is heavily influenced by tribal customs and this is one of those examples. When someone brought dishonor to the family/ tribe they were killed and through their death honor was restored to the family or tribe.
Traditionalists, on the other hand, actually argue that holding the threat of death over a family member protects the family unit from breakdown.
They argue that the knowledge that if you shame your family you will be killed and justifiably, by the person shamed - is an essential part of family and tribal life.
This issue is not going away. During the month of July there were two more horrific examples of honor killing in the Palestinian Authority during which fathers beat their daughters to death, one in the city of Tulkaram and the other in Hebron. Imagine beating your child to death.
If there is any good news it is that this year, in Gaza, a husband was executed for murdering his wife and Nancy Zaboun's estranged husband was arrested at the scene of her murder. Nancy was killed because she sought a divorce.
After the murder Nancy's family refused to bury her. They said they would bury her only after justice was carried out and her murderer was himself convicted and executed. But soon after making those statements the family succumbed to Islamic law and tradition and community pressure and laid her to rest.
The PA has not yet decided how to proceed with charges, but Palestinian leadership is sensitive to world opinion and Palestinian leadership might respond to pressure if the non-Islamic world pays attention to this murder and other honor killings. The PA wants to join the community of nations and the community of nations should not look away and neither should they condone this behavior.
What disturbs me is how, in the aftermath of these murders, the feminist movement and almost all women's organizations have remained silent. There has been no audible outcry to protect these women by the organizations whose very reason for existing is to defend women. One excuse that I have heard is that these women's groups are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place: how can they attack the Palestinians, the group that they so vehemently defend against Israeli oppression.
It seems to me that their lack of response is a clear message saying that they are more true to their hatred of Israel than they are to their defense of Women's Rights. I say to them, there are other organizations to champion the case of Israeli Palestinian relations, these women have no one else.
These women need you now, before another woman is senselessly and unjustifiably murdered in the name of false honor.
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