| Palestinian men are often wrongly portrayed as violent or misogynistic rather than as victims of Israeli violence writes Hebh Jamal Getty | MR Online KHAN YOUNIS, GAZA – OCTOBER 16: A man cries because his home was bombed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 16, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Gazans are evacuating to the south following warnings to do so from the Israeli government, ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive. Israel has sealed off Gaza and launched sustained retaliatory air strikes, which have killed at least 2,500 people with more than 400,000 displaced, after a large-scale attack by Hamas. On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel from Gaza by land, sea, and air, killing over 1,300 people and wounding around 2,800. Israeli soldiers and civilians have also been taken hostage by Hamas and moved into Gaza. The attack prompted a declaration of war by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the announcement of an emergency wartime government. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images/TheNewArab)

Western feminism and the dehumanization of Palestinian men

Originally published: The New Arab on January 18, 2024 by Hebh Jamal (more by The New Arab)  | (Posted Jan 24, 2024)

Earlier this month, TalkTV host, Julia Hartley-Brewer, interviewed Palestinian parliamentarian Dr Mustafa Barghouti.

Throughout the segment, Hartley-Brewer continuously shouted at Barghouti as he spoke about Israel’s relentless war on Gaza.

As Barghouti tried to respond, Hartley-Brewer angrily shouted at him:

Maybe you are not used to women talking, I don’t know!

While Hartley-Brewer wrongly accused her guest of misogyny, Barghouti was calm albeit visibly uncomfortable. She goes on to end her segment again saying:

Sorry to have been a woman speaking to you.

Hartley-Brewer’s outburst perfectly illustrates the moral bankruptcy of Western mainstream attitudes, and Western feminism, towards Palestinian men that routinely dehumanise even the most respected among us.

So much so that it is seldom the mainstream media even sees Palestinian men as worthy enough to be victims of Israeli violence.

Take the interview of Palestinian journalist Ahmed Alnaouq who lost 21 members of his family in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike on 22nd October. While at first Good Morning Britain allowed Alnaouq to tell his story and express his grief, it quickly turned into a conversation of the “horrors committed by Hamas, a terrorist organisation.”

Alnaouq was not allowed to express anger, and had to quickly defend himself when stating that there is a clear double standard being perpetuated by the mainstream media.

Nearly 10 years ago, academic and co-founder of Jadaliyya, Maya Mikdashi, wrote a crucial piece titled Can Palestinian Men be Victims?

In it Mikdashi explains that in Western based mass media, there is an emphasis on civilian deaths that are “disproportionately women and children.” She explains that the reiteration of these disturbing facts shows a clear lack of “public mourning of Palestinian men killed by Israel’s war machine.”

Through these 104 days of genocide, Israel has systematically abducted, tortured, and executed, Palestinian men while also bombing them with their families.

Quickly, images of these men in what can only be described as concentration camps, are instead depicted as Hamas fighters without any evidence. In fact, many have identified their loved ones from the Israeli propaganda images and videos, confirming they are in fact civilians.

Since 7th October, pro-Israel advocates have described systematic rape committed by Hamas fighters against Israeli women.

While Palestinian outlets have already pointed to massive flaws with this categorisation, the seeming success of this propaganda has not only created a justification for the genocide unfolding against Gazans, but also has created a predatory view of Palestinian men as violent misogynists at best and dangerous predatory rapists at worst.

On CNN, Representative Pramila Jayapal said that we “have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians,” CNN correspondent Dana Bash replies:

you don’t see Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women.

The absurdity of Bash’s comment is of course not met with any real substance or truth. In Gaza, there have been horrifying testimonies of women being forced to strip all their clothes while evacuating with their families, and some reporting they were assaulted and then threatened with rape, including a pregnant woman.

It is not only Palestinian women who are experiencing sexual violence during this war, but multiple reports of it taking place against Palestinian men and boys.

The Palestinian Return Centre found that “reports of sexual abuse have increasingly emerged after more than 100 Palestinian men detained by Israeli forces have been stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and made to kneel on a street in northern Gaza, according to images and videos widely circulated on social media and confirmed by the Israeli army.”

Meanwhile in Israeli prisons, there have been many accounts of Palestinian men and boys experiencing torture and abuse since 7th October.

One particularly shocking account came from former U.S. State Department director, Josh Paul, about the rape of a Palestinian teen in an Israeli prison in 2021, reported by a Palestinian children’s rights organisation Defence for Children International Palestine to the U.S. state department.

When the U.S. state department inquired about such a case, the human rights group was described shortly after as a terrorist organisation along with 5 other social justice groups.

A study conducted by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel collected thousands of testimonies of Palestinian men tortured by Israeli authorities, including sexual torture. The report shows “sexual ill-treatment is systemic”.

Of course, this type of systematic sexual violence does not meet the mainstream. Palestinian men are not seen as victims of war, conflict and unjust imprisonment. Their abuse is often followed by the question,

what did they do to deserve it?

Going back to Hartley-Brewer’s interview with Dr Mustafa Barghouti, her accusation of him “not being used to speaking with women,” is not a new phenomenon. We have seen many times how Western feminism is weaponised to silence and dehumanise Arab and Muslim men.

What the interview also reveals is what Mikdashi describes as the gendering of this horrific war.

“The massifying of women and children into an undistinguishable group brought together by the ‘sameness’ of gender and sex, and the reproduction of the male Palestinian body (and the male Arab body more generally) as always already dangerous.” The status of Palestinian men as victims, she pointed, always remains circumspect.

The gendering of the Palestinian genocide will mean Palestinian men will most likely not have their stories heard, their pain will go unrecognised, and their torture will be categorized as routine practice.

It is up to people of the free world to remind each other that this war is not just a “war against women and children,” it is a war against all and every Palestinian body who has lived under a blockade and brutal siege for over 16 years, and more broadly against Palestinians demanding their liberation since 1948.

Hebh Jamal is a Palestinian American journalist based in Germany.

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