Monday, February 14, 2005

Whom Do They Think They’re Kidding?

The riots in the northern village of Mughar this past weekend were sparked by rumors that Christian youths had pasted pornographic photographs of local Druze women on the Internet. Yesterday’s printed edition of Ma’ariv had two brief opinion pieces on the rioting. One, by a Druze public figure whose name currently escapes me, condemned the violence but at the same time pleaded with readers to understand the special Arab attitude toward women’s honor. The other, written by Zoheir Andreus, the editor of the Arab newspaper Kul al-Arab, was all too predictable: it blamed the Jews.

Regarding the former: come off it, Mr. Druze Public Figure; whom do you think you’re kidding? In Arab culture, women’s honor has nothing to do with the women themselves. It is merely a reflection of the honor of the men. If a woman has sexual relations out of wedlock or is unlucky enough to be raped, her entire family is disgraced and is often pressured to kill her in order to cleanse the stain on their honor. In some cases the wearing of a miniskirt and makeup is enough to draw a death sentence. The grim task of execution is often given to a minor because he will receive a lighter punishment, after which he will be able to return to his family as a free man. Rather a bizarre way of demonstrating respect for the honor of women, don’t you think?

We know that honor killings are the dirty little secret of Arab culture. Like spousal or child abuse in western countries, everyone knows it goes on but no one likes to talk about it. A few months ago Israeli Arab members of the Knesset were guests on a political television program. The topic was the phenomenon of Arab men pretending to be Jewish in order to pick up Jewish women whom they took back to their villages and married, sometimes without letting the women know that they already had wives. Every time the program host tried to speak, the Israeli Arab MKs methodically shouted him down, accusing him of smearing all Arab men and demanding that he also show examples of Jewish men who had committed similar offenses.

Yet this was nothing compared to what happened when one of the women guests, an official of a local women’s rights organization, dared to mention the topic of honor killings. She barely got a word in before she was shouted down at twice the volume.

Let’s see: control issues, murder, hypocrisy, denial. Special treatment, indeed. Tell us another one, Mr. Public Figure.

(UPDATE: The author of the article is Knesset member Majalli Whbee.)

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