Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Mar. 27, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper
[Following are excerpts from a talk given by Abla Shamieh of the Union of Palestinian Women's Associations at a Workers World Party International Women's Day forum in San Francisco March 8.]
This year's International Women's Day in Palestine acquires a special meaning for Palestinian women in the Diaspora, the occupied territories, and those living in Palestinian National Authority areas. It enables Palestinian women to utilize their decades-long experiences--and the collective women's experience worldwide--to chart a new Palestinian future, a future that accords Palestinian women their basic rights and ensures that equality for women, in practical and legal terms, is a certainty and a natural development to the long struggle of Palestinian women.
Two weeks ago, 29 Palestinian women political prisoners were finally released from Israeli jails following a courageous fight for their dignity and liberty. Their steadfastness and courage acted as a shining model for the thousands of Palestinian male political prisoners still languishing in Israeli jails, still fighting for their freedom and liberty. The women's release is yet another example of the Palestinian women's centrality in the national struggle for an end to Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
For decades, Palestinian women were the keepers of the flame--toiling the land and protecting it with their lives, working in Israeli factories and sweat jobs, demonstrating, and marching for the release of their husbands and sons. Fighting on all fronts to keep the struggle itself alive.
With the advent of the Palestinian National Authority into Gaza Strip and small parts of the West Bank, Palestinian women are still at the forefront--fighting to maintain their hard-earned rights, fighting for full equality, justice and jobs. They do not want to see their achievements during the national struggle lost and their role relegated to a secondary one.
Palestinian women today remain the rekindling flame for the millions of Palestinians stranded and forced to live in exile, with Israel denying them their natural right to return to live in their homeland, and strapped with a bad and unjust peace agreementOslo Accords--which ignores the rights of two-thirds of the Palestinian people.
As we celebrate this occasion, Israeli government bulldozers continue to demolish Palestinian homes, expanding illegal settlements and uprooting thousands of olive and fruit-bearing trees from tens of thousands of acres to build these new settlements.
As we meet today, Israeli bulldozers are clearing land to build more settlements in Jerusalem and demolish more homes in the capital of the Palestinian people. Palestinian residents of the city are being denied their basic rights and Palestinian women in Jerusalem are being forced to give up their Jerusalem residency status, the price exacted by the Israelis for them to join their families and loved ones.
Today, and more than ever before, Palestinian women are fighting on two fronts: fighting the occupation and maintaining the continuity between Palestinians in Palestine and those in the Diaspora; and fighting harder than ever to insure that their societal, political and economic rights are not abused.
On this day and on behalf of Palestinian women, a sisterly greeting goes to all the women of the world. United we stand for the rights of women worldwide.
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