Tuesday round-up

// 24 March 2009

Feminist Peace Network posts about some of the unbelievably vile t-shirts which Israeli soldiers are adopting:

The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.

There really aren’t any words, are there?

Meanwhile, over in the US some campaigners decided that the best way to raise awareness of domestic violence in teen relationships was to ‘re-enact’ the description in the police report of Chris Brown’s attack on Rihanna. Without, as far as I can tell, any sort of permission at all, and casting white actors. Renee deconstructs the many levels of fail:

This is about realism right; so showing simulated violence which in no way reflects the real terror she must have felt as Brown spilt her blood all over his car is showing the horrors of domestic violence? Hearing the monotone drone of the narrator as he describes what have must have been the most terrifying moments in her life, instead of her screams of pain and fear is meant to place her in the center of this incident?

In the final act of co-option the woman chosen to play her isn’t even black. So in a bid once again for realism, it is somehow appropriate to replace a black woman with a white woman? What does this tell us about which bodies are valued in this society? Are we to feel more sympathetic to this pseudo-victim because she is white? Are we meant to have an easier time identifying with her because of whiteness? In a world in which the black woman is daily devalued, replacing her physical body without commentary and assuming that whiteness can represent her is truly a racist act. Just as in Richard Wrights, The Outsider, though both white women and black women are victims of violence, it is the harm done to the white female victim that is understood as the truly criminal act. This is not because we value white women universally, but because we over value whiteness to the extent that any crime committed against it is considered a true social violation.

Latina Lista addresses the way that detention centres in the US restrict access to abortion:

In an excellent article in the Texas Observer entitled Access Denied, it was discovered that almost 10 percent of immigrant women in detention custody of ICE are pregnant as a result of being raped.

The vast majority of these women, when given the choice as to whether or not they want the babies, understandably do not. Who would want to be reminded of an act of extreme violence perpetuated against them by a complete stranger?

Yet, the author of the article found that these women were never allowed the option of terminating their pregnancies. In fact, in 2008 and 2009, federal records show that while there were pregnant immigrant women in ICE detention facilities, not one had an abortion.

A British woman living in Dubai has been jailed for adultery, and failed to win custody for her children:

Her friend Sandy Norman said today’s family court hearing in Dubai was “a done deal”. She said: “As she was found guilty of adultery, it makes her an unfit mother. To my knowledge, no woman has won custody of her children in Dubai.”

Vermont is edging towards marriage equality.

Treehugger profiles the Women’s Bean Project.

AfterEllen reviews Sunshine Cleaning, “a movie written by a woman, directed by a woman, starring two women, targeted at women”.

Hull Rape Crisis is being forced to look for a new home, after its rent nearly doubled:

Hull Rape Crisis rents an office and a counselling room from the West Hull Women’s Centre, on the second floor of the Rainbow Centre.

The Women’s Centre has asked the organisation to pay £600 a month, instead of the current rate of £347 a month, from April 1.

A spokeswoman for West Hull Women’s Centre said the increase was necessary due to rises in utility bills and the fact Hull Rape Crisis now used the building on a full-time basis.

Staff are appealing to Mail readers to come forward with suggestions for a new location. Ms Moore said: “We’re not expecting to find anywhere for free, but we need somewhere that is reasonably priced.”

Only a few days left to sign the petition calling for the NHS in Oxfordshire to fund surgical procedures for gender dysphoria treatment.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham criticises the media for failing to cover women’s sport:

“We’ve just had a great week for women’s sport in the cricket and in Sheffield with the swimming. And yet how much do the next generation of women and young girls know about it?” said Burnham. “There was no live coverage from Sheffield as far as I can tell, even though it was the first outing for Rebecca Adlington and Jo Jackson in the pool [since the Olympics].”

He said little had changed since he called for women’s sport to be taken more seriously in the wake of the success of Adlington, 400m gold medalist Christine Ohuruogu and cyclists Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Romero and Nicole Cook.

This week, Adlington’s coach observed that media coverage of her achievements tended to focus too much on her girl next door personality, and not enough on her sporting prowess.

Maybe given that women also pay a license fee to the BBC, they shouldn’t be allowed to restrict their coverage to almost exclusively men’s sporting acheivements?

Comments From You

Butterflywings // Posted 25 March 2009 at 2:25 pm

While those are vile, I suppose Palestinians never kill civilians, inclduing women and kids?

Like, I don’t know, suicide bombs? Shooting rockets?

(I don’t care whether they are men, women or children btw, no civilian should be killed; a feminist blog should know better than to use the emotive ‘poor ickle women and baybees’ argument).

Holding Israel to ridiculous high standards that I suppose teh poor oppressed Palestinians don’t have to adhere to is, er, anti-semitism.

Jess McCabe // Posted 25 March 2009 at 2:50 pm

@Butterflywings

“Don’t commit war-crimes” is not a ridiculously high standard. Just because the Israeli army is criticised in this post, incidentally criticised for adorning themselves with t-shirts boasting about raping and murdering women dpesn’t imply that Palestinians are beyond criticism. (I don’t think it’s an accident the citizens depicted are women, nor is it a case of infantalising women. These t-shirts – and, very likely, the soldiers themselves – clearly threaten to use rape and murder of pregnant women as a specific tactic to terrify Palestinian civilians.)

It’s not anti-Semitism to criticise the Israeli Defense Force.

Incidentally, I’m Jewish and I have two teenage cousins living in Israel. My family is actually living with the suicide bombs and rockets. My Israeli cousins will, in a matter of only a few years, end up doing national service. Some of my more distant relatives already have. I’m worried not only about the war crimes that the Israeli soldiers are doing, but (perhaps selfishly) also about the dehumanising impact of this on my cousins. Will my sweet 13 year old cousin, or his friends, be wearing a t-shirt boasting about rape of Palestinian women in a few years? Or even worse?

Jackie Bather // Posted 25 March 2009 at 3:04 pm

Thank you, Jess, for keepng us in the picture re: misogynistic behaviour everywhere…I personally don’t always catch these news items, independently.Credit is also due to your very courteous reply to ‘Butterflywings’, who appears to be unable to see both sides of the argument, in a non-abusive manner.

Kate // Posted 25 March 2009 at 3:45 pm

God I’m depressed if objecting to someone joking about rape as a war crime or the hilarious targetting of pregnant women now counts as “ridiculous high standards”.

On the plus side – I have to try and find one for my faith in the world – these T shirts finally tipped the misognist radar for my usually oblivious housemate.

aimee // Posted 25 March 2009 at 4:14 pm

Yes, excellent response, Jess. I doubt I would have been able to be so polite.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 March 2009 at 12:54 am

Butterflywings, are you equating the actions of a country’s army with terrorists? Because forget whatever she might have said which you think unfair to the Israelis, you dealt them a far worse insult. The Israeli army should be held to standards because they are paid to fight legally, and not considered terrorists, and have a duty to stick to killing combatants and not engaging in unlawful practices. That is what an army is expected to do. We expect armies to avoid carrying out war crimes, which is why armies are legal, and terrorism isn’t. Because armies are supposed to be held to a standard.

Also, in a post criticising the printing of insensitive t-shirts practically admitting they carry out illegal, immoral and inhumane activities which are war crimes, whining about how terrorists also kill civilians is plain trolling.

Yes, terrorists kill civilians. Terrorists, who everbody acknowledges as acting immorally and illegally and desperately, and who number far fewer than the army they are fighting. Nobody is justifying Palestinian terrorists who kill civilians. This post is not even about terrorists. It may surprise you, but not every post mentioning some aspect of Israel or Palestine or the conflict has to focus on how awful Palestinian Terrorists are. Because everyone pretty much knows that terrorists by definition, are illegal and do immoral things to achieve their agenda.

However, a country’s army is expected to hold to a standard.

We’d rather everyone was doing no raping or killing or murdering civilians, and the point of the post is that the people framed as the ‘good’ law-abiding army should especially not be falling to the level of the terrorists they are fighting, or abuse their powers over civilians. Nobody should suffer this, and t-shirts glorifying illegal, inhumane behaviour and targeting minorities (and the T shirts target all Palestinians, they are certainly not focused on terrorists!) have no place in an army that thinks itself better than its enemy.

Lara // Posted 26 March 2009 at 4:55 pm

Reading the content of those t-shirts is totally chilling and terrifying. Why on earth aren’t these soldiers disciplined? If they are going into local t-shirts shops to have these printed, it is no wonder there is so much conflict and racial hatred.

David // Posted 27 March 2009 at 5:33 pm

The soldiers won’t be disciplined because they are in the right mental state to be soldiers. They are a product of their training. It is almost impossible to function as a soldier if you see your enemy as an equal human being. You can’t be a sniper without seeing the person you’re about to kill as being less than human; jokes about raping and torturing them are just an extension of that.

Rape and the subjugation of women has always been a weapon in war and it will always be one. What the IDF are doing isn’t new and it certainly isn’t unusual; they are, however, in a well-publicised warzone so what they do comes to public attention.

But if they are just printing t-shirts rather than actually doing what they threat, they’re behaving a lot better than just about any soldier in active service in the last 200 years. Look at Darfur, Chechnya, most of NIgeria/Sierra Leone and the Balkans.

squinen // Posted 28 March 2009 at 8:49 am

It’s interesting that you equate criticism of the IDF with anti semitism and more so that it shows a lack of knowledge and understanding of the situation in Israel.

Here are some facts: Israel is illegally occupying parts of Palestine in defiance of several UN resolutions; Palestinian Arabs who remain in Israel have a different status under Israeli law as “Foreign visitors” rather than “citizens” even though they are remaining in their own homes and have never left the country. Israel has refused to ratify the ICC which would prosecute individuals for their war crimes, including the use of rape as a weapon of war.

Although I agree that the killing of civilians is never right, you also have to remember that every single citizen of Israel (apart from minors and the ultra orthodox Jews) are part of a militia so shooting at targetting Israeli citizens could be argued to be legitimate warfare. Furthermore, The military activity of Palestinians is carried out by a legitimately elected government who are unrecognised because they are Sunni Muslim in ideology and because a charter that dates back to their 1981 inception declares that they will not recognise Israel. Understandable since the establishment of Israel was problematic to say the least.

The Israeli army works differently to other armies in that it operates in cells and commanders have a high degree of autonomy. This means that they are more efficient and the officers can act independently as need arises. However, this also allows for action such as the barring of entry for the Red Cross in the recent conflict and the existence of T Shirts like these. It is well known if you know where to look that many members of the Knesset believe that one Israeli life is worth 10 Palestinian and this is a manifestation of this view.

It must also be said that many Israelis do not support these views and many of the orthodox community not only distance themselves from the violence but also doubt the legitimacy of the state itself. This means that there are so many factions that right wing politics become more and more popular as a way to create a unified identity. These offensive t shirts and actions are a desperate attempt to legitimase one community and demonise another.

I’m so sorry to go on but these things need to be understood before a meaningful debate can carry on. And it needs to be pointed out that the two sides cannot be compared properly because the disparity of power is so great.

Jess McCabe // Posted 29 March 2009 at 6:03 pm

@squinen Hmmm, I’m with you up to the point about all citizens being part of a militia. Actually, you point out yourself that ultra Orthodox Jews and minors are not in a militia. You could add to that people who refuse to do military service, or refuse to fight (there’s the option, as I understand it, of non-combat-type roles). Any terrorist attack on civilians doesn’t make any distinctions between individuals. Children and others who have nothing to do with the Israeli government’s attacks are just as much targets as anyone else. There’s no need to justify any kind of terrorist attacks to show that what the Israeli military and the Israeli government is doing is horrendous and shocking and wrong.

But, well, maybe we should avoid bringing in the whole discussion about the Israel/Palestine situation into this thread. The point is surely that these t-shirts, and the attitudes they betray, and the war crimes they boast about, are horrific.

Butterflywings // Posted 22 April 2009 at 7:00 pm

No, Anne Onne, I am not equating the actions of a country’s army with terrorists.

Yes, armies should be held to standards.

I am saying the opposite, in fact. The Israeli army has standards. Here, some unknown number of soldiers slip from them. The army, though, is fighting *terrorists* who *routinely*, not on occasion, but as a matter of policy, attack civilians.

It seems bizarre to portray the Israeli army as evil monsters, and the Palestinians as innocents.

I said in my original post that the T-shirts are indeed incredibly offensive. That goes without saying.

However, they are not official army uniform.

If OP had wanted to debate militarism, she could have done so. Rape…sometimes female soldiers are raped by so-called colleagues. Torture. Cruel ‘initiation’ and bullying. Racism. There are plenty of issues with militarism to address.

But she didn’t – she had an agenda, beyond ‘some nasty T-shirts’.

Some people are brainwashed into thinking that the Israelis are evil and oppressing Palestinians who have no choice but to commit terrorist acts.

I am not buying that we are all Hamas now crap, which is equally as offensive as these T-shirts.

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