Israeli mother Addresses European Parliament

Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997. Below is Nurit’s speech made on International Women’s Day in Strasbourg earlier this month.

Thank you for inviting me to this today. It is always an honour and a pleasure to be here, among you (at the European Parliament).

However, I must admit I believe you should have invited a Palestinian woman at my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in my county are the Palestinian women. And I would like to dedicate my speech to Miriam R’aban and her husband Kamal, from Bet Lahiya in the Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers while picking strawberries at the family`s strawberry field. No one will ever stand trial for this murder.

When I asked the people who invited me here why didn’t they invite a Palestinian woman, the answer was that it would make the discussion too localized.

I don’t know what is non-localized violence. Racism and discrimination may be theoretical concepts and universal phenomena but their impact is always local, and real. Pain is local, humiliation, sexual abuse, torture and death, are all very local, and so are the scars.

It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army, has expanded around the globe, In fact, state violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence which is hardly ever addressed and which is halfheartedly condoned by most people in Europe and in the USA.

This is because the so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb.

Great France of “la liberte égalite et la fraternite” is scared of little girls with head scarves. Great Jewish Israel is afraid of the Muslim womb which its ministers call a demographic threat.

Almighty America and Great Britain are infecting their respective citizens with blind fear of the Muslims, who are depicted as vile, primitive and blood-thirsty, apart from their being non-democratic, chauvinistic and mass producers of future terrorists. This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is a non-devout Jew.

I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour, I don’t know the kind of violence that turns a woman’s life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished , who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal.

But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence against children is actually violence against mothers. Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world and in the name of this freedom and enlightenment rob us of our children.

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Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters. They are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses , though they may have various illustrious names–such as Democracy, Patriotism, God, Homeland–are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.

We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: `I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is less worth than a piece of land.`

All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of their dead bodies.

And all of us were brought up to bear all this silently, to contain our fear and frustration, to take Prozac for anxiety, but never hail Mama Courage in public. Never be real Jewish or Italian or Irish mothers.

I am a victim of state violence. My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals.

Living in the world I live in, in the state I live in, in the regime I live in, I don’t dare to offer Muslim women any ideas how to change their lives. I don’t want them to take off their scarves, or educate their children differently, and I will not urge them to constitute Democracies in the image of Western democracies that despise them and their kind. I just want to ask them humbly to be my sisters, to express my admiration for their perseverance and for their courage to carry on, to have children and to maintain a dignified family life in spite of the impossible conditions my world in putting them in. I want to tell them we are all bonded by the same pain, we all the victims of the same sort of violence even though they suffer much more, for they are the ones who are mistreated by my government and its army, sponsored by my taxes.

Islam in itself, like Judaism in itself and Christianity in itself, is not a threat to me or to anyone. American imperialism is, European indifference and co-operation is and Israeli racism and its cruel regime of occupation is. It is racism, educational propaganda and inculcated xenophobia that convince Israeli soldiers to order Palestinian women at gun-point, to strip in front of their children for security reasons, it is the deepest disrespect for the other that allow American soldiers to rape Iraqi women, that give license to Israeli jailers to keep young women in inhuman conditions, without necessary hygienic aids, without electricity in the winter, without clean water or clean mattresses and to separate them from their breast-fed babies and toddlers. To bar their way to hospitals, to block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to uproot their trees and prevent them from cultivating their fields.

I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I don’t know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect from the whole world. All I know is that the voice of mothers has been suffocated for too long in this war-stricken planet. Mothers` cry is not heard because mothers are not invited to international forums such as this one. This I know and it is very little. But it is enough for me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that I should cry for them, and fight for them. And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race and religion dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies, and ask what Anna Akhmatova–another mother who lived in a regime of violence against women and children–asked:

Why does that streak o blood, rip the petal of your cheek?

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Published in “Jews for Justice for Palestinians”: http://jfjfp.com/?p=7720

‘Male Circumcision is Not Mutilation – Period.’ by Sheryl Saperia

A regional court in Cologne, Germany has effectively banned the circumcision of young boys, subject only to medical exception. Such a position has been proposed by various individuals and groups throughout the Western world, and can be refuted along several lines.

For instance, neither the right to security of the person nor to gender equality should operate in such a way as to proscribe male circumcision on the grounds that it is comparable to the justifiably prohibited custom of female genital mutilation (FGM).

FGM is sometimes termed female circumcision, but this is a misnomer as it implies a minor operation equivalent to male circumcision. According to Doriane Coleman, a Duke University law professor whose expertise is children and the law, “This analogy can and has been rejected as specious and disingenuous, as the traditional forms of FGM are as different from male circumcision in terms of procedure, physical ramifications, and motivation as ear piercing is to a penilectomy.”

The World Health Organization is also clear that:

“FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.”
The immediate and long-term consequences of FGM are too numerous to catalog here, but include severe pain; shock; hemorrhage (which can be so severe as to cause death); tetanus or sepsis; infertility; and an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths. In a 1997 joint statement, the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA declared “FGM to be universally unacceptable, as it is an infringement on the physical and psychosexual integrity of women and girls and is a form of violence against them.”

What, then, does the WHO have to say about male circumcision?

That it “is one of the oldest and most common surgical procedures worldwide, and is undertaken for many reasons: religious, cultural, social and medical. There is conclusive evidence from observational data and three randomized controlled trials that circumcised men have a significantly lower risk of becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”

Dr. Kirsten Patrick acknowledges in her 2007 British Medical Journal article that while male circumcision carries a complication rate somewhere between 0.2 per cent and 3 per cent, the procedure carries little risk if capably performed. She also notes its health benefits and draws a comparison to standard childhood immunizations, “a procedure for which the infant cannot give consent and which carries the risk of adverse events ranging from fever to anaphylaxis and aseptic meningitis.”

In the absence of strong and non-conflicting medical evidence that male circumcision regularly causes substantial harm to young boys, the arguments against the procedure are severely weakened. Since male circumcision and FGM are simply incomparable, gender equality should not demand the banning of the former just because the latter is illegal. And while the right to security of the person is certainly implicated by circumcision, the low risk of harm (and the fact that most complications are extremely minor) means that this right should be balanced against other compelling rights, such as religious freedom.

It is well known that the circumcision of baby boys is mandated by the Jewish religion. In fact, this ritual is so essential to Jewish peoplehood and covenantal identity that a former professor of mine specializing in minority rights once suggested that preventing Jews from circumcising their sons could amount to genocide. Such an argument elicits particular discomfort given that a German court has outlawed the procedure. Male circumcision within the first few years of boy’s life is also strongly encouraged by the Islamic faith. Perhaps the only positive outcome of the German ruling is that Jews, Muslims, and even Christians have united to protest the profound infringement on their religious freedom. They were not alone: the UN’s Special Rapporteur on religious freedom, Heiner Bielefeldt, and German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle also added their voices to the criticism.

According to the German court, the right to religious freedom “would not be unduly impaired” because the child could later decide for himself whether to have the circumcision. Aside from the court’s interference with a religious precept that the ritual must take place long before adulthood, the judgment could ironically cause greater harm to one’s bodily integrity because circumcision for adolescents and adults, as compared to infants, is more complicated and has a higher rate of adverse effects.

Here in Canada, a court could evaluate the right to security of the person as provided by section 7 of the Charter not only in the context of section 2(a) of the Charter, which guarantees freedom of religion, but also section 27, which provides that the “Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

Indeed, the German ruling makes for a compelling argument in favour of Canada’s multiculturalism policies, which are essentially grounded in the notion that individual rights are not always enough to protect a minority group’s traditions and values, and that the recognition of special group rights is therefore necessary.

In other words, failing to recognize the fundamental importance of male circumcision to both Jewish and Muslim religious traditions may be qualitatively different than undermining an individual parent’s right to make choices on behalf of his/her child.

Of course, the protection of minority rights must have limits. Inherently harmful minority customs like FGM and honour killings can never be justified. But male circumcision does not belong in that category so long as both parents consent to the procedure and, most importantly, it is performed competently.

Multiculturalism policies, when instituted properly, can enhance a society’s security by making minority groups feel welcome and accepted, rather than disenfranchised and disconnected from the state. Yes, lines must be drawn somewhere. But there are insufficient medical, legal, and moral grounds to draw that line at male circumcision.

Sheryl Saperia is the Director of Policy for Canada, Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on Twitter:
www.twitter.com/sherylsap

From From Huffington Post, Canada
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