The message that domestic violence is unacceptable is undermined by Palestinian officials on PA TV who advise that under Islamic law, it is permissible to abuse women.
An advertisement produced by the United Nations and paid for by Canada advising residents of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that domestic violence is “unacceptable” is currently running on Palestinian TV, yet the message is regularly contradicted by PA officials who advise that under Islamic law, it is permissible to abuse women, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported.
The ad, which has been running on official PA TV several times a day since the beginning of January, shows cartoon images depicting abuse victims over which a narrator tells the viewer that “violence is damage that harms women, young women, men, and young men. It has many forms such as physical blows, psychological violence, or sex against your will.”
The narrator details that last year, 243 million women worldwide suffered sexual or physical violence, and that in the PA 29% of women were subjected to violence by their husbands.
“Violence is not inevitable. Violence is unacceptable. You can always get help,” the narrator concludes.
According to the text at the end of the ad, the video was produced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime through the joint program ‘Life,’ which aims to eradicate violence against women in the PA and Gaza Strip.
The ‘Life’ program is funded by Canada and is being implemented together with UN and PA bodies.
However, PMW noted that Canada and the UN are apparently unaware that a senior PA official has affirmed that Islamic law, including its teachings on the permissibility of domestic violence in some situations, take precedence over other forms of law within the PA, including the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). To emphasize his point, the official added that the PA is not committed to CEDAW “at all” except for where it aligns with Islamic law.
Nan Jacques Zilberdik, senior analyst at PMW, commented that “it’s wonderful that the PA – encouraged by international supporters Canada and the UN – addresses and condemns domestic violence in this TV ad. However, the condemnation only becomes real when it is echoed by PA leaders. Unfortunately we still often hear top PA officials allow and even advocate domestic violence as well as issue ‘rulings’ that limit the freedom of Palestinian women.”
For example, in a video posted to his Facebook page last January, Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor, Supreme Shari’ah Judge and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice Mahmoud al-Habbash told viewers that “President [Abbas’] ratification in 2009 (sic., 2014) of the CEDAW convention was a ratification conditioned on what is consistent with the Palestinian constitution, with the Basic Law… We have a Basic Law that says: ‘Islamic law is the source of legislation.’”
He added that “truthfully, even if we signed the CEDAW convention we are not committed to it at all, except for what is consistent with Islamic law… We are committed to the international laws in what does not contradict our national heritage, religious heritage, and our faith. The president has said this, the [PA] government has said this, and we [the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice] have said this.”
In December 2018, al-Habbash justified violence against women even as the PA ran a similar ad teaching viewers that it is never okay to hit women.
Other such examples of senior PA officials sanctioning violence include the PA’s Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the PA, presenting a number of “rulings” that limit women’s rights.
Recently, he instructed that women cannot travel without a male relative as a chaperone, while the preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and head of the Supreme Muslim Council, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri has prohibited women from submitting complaints against their spouses to the Israeli police.
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