In the case of Zionist settler-colonialism in Palestine, the goal of acquiring land led to the use of brutal tactics aimed at the dispossession and elimination of the indigenous population. Colonizers embraced sexual terrorization as an instrument for achieving this strategy. Rape, though still under-documented, played a role in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians in 1948 and after. Many families fled their homes, in part due to their concerns over their women being raped by Zionist forces. Indeed, it can be said that the conquest of land has gone hand in hand with sexual violence in the history of the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Sexual Violence and Palestinian Genocide Since the Nakba
Understanding the intensified attacks on Palestinian women’s bodies in times of heightened attacks by the settler colonial regime requires a feminist analysis. Such an analysis takes the Nakba as its analytical point of departure. Israel was built on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland, on its land, pain, and displacement. It was built on the destruction of our communal social ties, the violation and invasion of our homes and bodies.
Rape and killing of Palestinian women was a central aspect of Israeli troops’ systematic massacres and evictions during the destruction of Palestinian villages in 1948. During the Deir Yassin massacre, for instance:
All the inhabitants were ordered into the village square. Here, they were lined up against a wall and shot. One eyewitness said her sister, who was nine months pregnant, was shot in the back of the neck. Her assailants then cut open her stomach with a butcher’s knife and extracted the unborn baby. When an Arab woman tried to take the baby, she was shot…Women were raped before the eyes of their children before being murdered and dumped down the well…
Thus our struggle for indigenous sovereignty within anti-colonial activism as feminists is necessarily situated in the protection of Palestinian women’s bodily safety and sexuality, family, and communal right to life. It is a struggle against the hypermasculine Zionist military and settler apparatuses that frame Palestinian women as inherently threatening racialized Others whose bodies must be violated and destroyed as the internal enemy and “reproducers of Palestinians.” This logic is inseparable from the settler colonial logic of elimination.