September 23, 2005
"Honor" in the West Bank
What Happened in Taybeh?
September 21, 2005
Marthame & Elizabeth Sanders
The small town of Taybeh, located a few miles outside of Ramallah, was recently attacked by a mob from the neighboring town of Deir Jarir. The report below is based on news accounts and conversations we have had with friends in Taybeh, eyewitnesses to the event in question.
For ten years, a Muslim woman named Hiyam from the village of Deir Jarir had been working at a sewing shop in Taybeh owned by a Christian man named Mahadi Khourieh. Thirty-two years old, unmarried and pregnant, Hiyam was found dead from poison on Wednesday, August 31, 2005. According to her family, she committed suicide rather than bring the shame of a child out of wedlock on her family. It is likely, however, that her family forced her to take her own life. The family accused Mahadi Khourieh of being the father, a charge he denied.
On Friday and Saturday, September 2 and 3, the elders of Taybeh went to Deir Jarir to ask for a period of hudna (quiet) while the matter was being investigated. The elders of Deir Jarir refused.
At 10 pm on Saturday, hundreds of young men from Deir Jarir arrived in Taybeh. They set fire to Mahadi Khourieh's home, as well as those belonging to other members of his extended family. All in all, seven houses (home to fourteen families) were torched, but no one was harmed. The families had fled earlier, expecting some kind of retaliation after the calls for hudna failed.
Residents of Taybeh began calling authorities to intervene - Palestinian, Israeli, and American (several residents of Taybeh are dual citizens). The Israelis arrived first in three jeeps, after the first house had been torched, and watched. They did not intervene. The Palestinian police, coming from Ramallah, had to pass through an Israeli checkpoint to arrive in Taybeh. They were held at the checkpoint for three hours. The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem persistently called the Israeli military to allow the police to pass through, an intervention that may have facilitated their eventual passage to Taybeh.
The Palestinian police arrived after midnight and dispersed the crowd, arresting 13 of the young men from Deir Jarir. Major Taybeh institutions, including the three churches, the Taybeh Beer Brewery, and the ruins of the ancient al-Khader church, were untouched.
On Sunday, September 4, the mayor of Ramallah came to Taybeh to investigate. Mahadi Khourieh confessed to an affair, but denied being the father. The elders of Taybeh again went to Deir Jarir to ask for another hudna because of the confession. Elders of other villages, including the mayor of Ramallah, were present. These community leaders all condemned the acts of mob violence in Taybeh. The hudna was agreed to with the following stipulations:
- Residents of Taybeh, with the exception of Mahadi Khourieh's two brothers, are allowed to pass through Deir Jarir (the only road out of Taybeh, due to the Israeli closure at the other end of town).
- The thirteen young men from Deir Jarir are released without charges being filed.
- The usual penalty to the Khourieh family of $100,000 for such an affair will be waived. In exchange, the extended Khourieh family is responsible for the repair to their homes.
After the six-month period of hudna, the two villages, with support from neighboring communities, will begin the work of sulha (reconciliation). In the meantime, police patrols have remained as needed in Taybeh and the Palestinian Authority has "put all its weight" into solving the conflict, according to Taybeh's Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Ra'ed Abusahlia.
The incident itself bears a closer look to understand what is at stake.
So as not to totally walk over his rights, I'm going to encourage people to read the analysis at the original site.
Posted by tomscud at September 23, 2005 09:30 AM
Filed Under: Gender Issues
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You know, if Palestinians showed up with this organized determination for real injustices to themselves, the whole damn conflict would have been resolved.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 23, 2005 07:24 PM
I think you underestimate the Israeli ability to spot and stamp out effective opposition to themselves. They were VERY active in stifling nascent nonviolent oppo during the first intifada in the 80s.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at September 23, 2005 07:37 PM
Violence, non-violence, it doesn't matter. It is organized persistence that matters. Palestinians in the USA, for example (and I mean immigrants not as much Palestinian-Americans born here) do not lobby their representatives consistently for minimal consideration even without having the burden of (at least pre-9.11) vicious official repression against it.
The problem lies in a fatalism about politics among the larger community of Palestinians (as opposed to non-fatalism about ridiculous concepts of family honor), which would be OK (the political fatalsim) if it were not combined with a) an urgent situation requiring correction, and b) a history of self-destructive bellicose fantasy-land nationalism among the elite (elimination of Israel in the past for example -- and I am using that as an example, yes, I know the situation has changed and that is used as an evasion to avoid discussion of Palestinian rights, but demands are typically wholly out of reach of the efforts the society is willing to pursue).
Societies are often pre-paralyzed pre-conflict or their situation of oppression, as well as worsened by the oppression; the historic backwardness and illiteracy of early Palestinian society, combined with the resentments among the more elite classes over being dissed bigotedly by Europeans and European Jews, have created an atmosphere where rhetorical nonsense trumps effective action, excuses are tolerated and even encoursged, and it allows predators to function.
This incident illustrates that the society is still more driven by clan-tribal concerns than individual and national interests. (Look at the range of action devoted to the task -- entire communities motivated, complex negotiations, effective targetting and intimidation of things one is hostile at; this historically only happens politically (and intermittenly) when some religious sensibility (a clan-tribal totem) is upset --- 1929 Wailing Wall violence, the Hasmonean tunnel in 1990s, Sharon on Temple mount).
The focus on clan-tribal issues -- issues like a woman murdered for honor, which are backward and inimical to individual freedom and equality -- is paralyzing when a society is seeking its real rights in face of a hostile oppressor society that is way ahead of them in terms of seeking their own individual and national interests.
One ought not understate the chronic and even massive viciousness by which Israelis can or have pursued their aims against Palestinians but one can vastly overstate the level of effective resistance or counter-engagement offered, and it is due as much or more to internal social paralysis (illustrated by the social priorities present in the pathology of this episode) as to the machinations of colonial or nationalist predators.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 24, 2005 11:20 AM