Feminist Palestinian legislator’s letter from an Israeli jail on International Women’s Day

| Khalida Jarrar and Allison Deger pour Mondoweiss |

International Women’s Day is celebrated across the globe today, March 8th, and is most commonly associated with advancements for the role of women in the workplace and workers’ rights and protections.

In the West Bank, leading feminist and imprisoned Marxist-Leninist politician Khalida Jarrar released a statement from jail to mark International Women’s Day. Jarrar was sentenced to 15-months in an Israeli prison last year after she signed a plea deal admitting membership in an illegal organization, the political faction she belongs to as an elected official in the Palestinian government.

Here is her message from HaSharon Prison in northern Israel curtesy of her lawyer Hanan al-Khatib,

“On this day, we affirm that we are Palestinian prisoners of struggle, and part of the Palestinian women’s movement, and that the national and social struggle goes on constantly and continuously until we win our freedom from occupation, and our freedom as women from all forms of injustice, oppression, violence and discrimination against women. On this day, Palestinian women mark this occasion in light of the crimes of the occupation against Palestinian women, children, elders and youth.

This year, our call focuses on the freedom and self-determination of our people, and the freedom and self-determination of Palestinian women : achieving equality and liberation, and ending all forms of oppression and injustice committed against them.

We stand as part of a global struggle with all the world’s women freedom fighters : against injustice, exploitation and oppression.”

Jarrar is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which is seated in the West Bank city of Ramallah, though generally considered a defunct body as elections have not been held in more than a decade. Jarrar took office in 2006 as a member of the Ali Abu Mustafa party, an offshoot of the secular and socialist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In 2014 she told Mondoweiss she ran on the Ali Abu Mustafa list and not with PFLP as means to skirt possible Israeli prosecution for belonging to a banned group. Under military code, membership to any political party is strictly forbidden, which is a conundrum for any Palestinian politician holding office even those whose maintain formal channels with the Israeli government. However, generally Palestinian belonging to the ruling party Fatah are not charged with membership in an illegal organization, a crime all Palestinian politicians are guilty of under the most literal interpretation of the law.

Leaders like Jarrar who are affiliated with groups that have a history of carrying out attacks against Israel (the PFLP launched a number of airplane hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s), are more exposed to prosecution. She has not been charged for any criminal activity other than representing her constituents.