- Resistance, Repression and Gender Politics in Occupied Palestine and Jordan
Many scholars have examined the role of women in the Palestinian resistance movement, while others have studied the protest strategies of the various parties and groups represented in the struggle. However, none have attempted the kind of amalgamation of gender theory and social movement theory demonstrated in Frances Hasso's historicized ethnography of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine(DFLP) and its most influential women's organization, the Palestinian Federation of Women's Action Committees (PFWAC). Due to her personal experience with the PFWAC during and after the first Palestinian Intifada, through interviews with current and former partisans, and through examination of policy papers and other documents, Hasso deftly demonstrates the way in which political field opportunities, techniques of mobilization, and party ideology affected female participation in DFLP branches in Jordan, [End Page 146] the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait. This much-needed contribution to the field helps explain the importance of the relationship between state and movement, inside and outside, leaders and partisans, and men and women, not only for women's issues but in the continuing struggle for Palestinian autonomy.
Hasso brings to the fore the role of DFLP ideology in allowing women to rise to leadership positions in the organization, asserting that the party's Marxist Leninist tradition, liberal intellectualism, and rejection of traditionalism provided a more open space for women partisans. However, she also acknowledges the importance of political field conditions and mobilizing strategies for creating space for women's participation. In comparing the vastly influential women's movement in the Occupied Territories with a limited role for women in Jordan, Hasso notes that Israeli tolerance of women's organizations allowed the female partisans of the DFLP in the Occupied Territories more flexibility to organize grassroots movements, which were supported by the party's commitment to peaceful resistance and eschewing of violence. Secondly, the lack of direct communication and control of the Occupied Territories branch of the Democratic Front by the Central Office and the women's ability to raise money from international donors allowed them to pursue their agenda without a great deal of interference from the leadership in exile. Thus, Hasso demonstrates how the realities on the ground allowed women to take control of various initiatives of resistance.
Perhaps the most innovative and interesting part of Hasso's study concerns the DFLP women's group, the Palestinian Federation of Women's Action Committees, founded in the Occupied Territories in the late 1970s. The committees were originally conceived as a single-sex grassroots movement to get rural women involved in the struggle for Palestinian liberation, through education, marches, and protests. However, it soon became clear to the female leadership of the organization that women's issues proved just as, if not more, important than the nationalist struggle. Therefore, the leaders "reformulated the organization's program, suggesting that partisans shift from a utilitarian nationalist strategy for the mobilization of women to a deeper nationalist-feminist orientation based on field experience and evaluation" (71). The women did not directly challenge the male-dominated structure but worked with women in literacy programs and income-generating projects, attempting [End Page 147] to convey to them a sense of self-worth and skills that would allow them to support themselves and their families to some degree. As Hasso states, "PFWAC attempted to empower women, rupture their isolation in their homes and redefine their traditional work even as it taught them skills and provided services that arguably reinforced the gendered division of labor" (78). The PFWAC also allowed women flexibility because it did not require members to become partisans of the DFLP and it ignored calls for great indoctrination of women with party ideology. These tactics allowed the PFWAC to become one the most influential grassroots organizations in the Occupied Territories in the 1980s. By 1987, approximately two to three percent of women were members of the PFWAC, ten...