Nada Elia (Ph.D Comparative Literature) teaches in the Liberal Studies Program at Antioch University in Seattle.
She will be speaking at the World Issues Forum 12-1:30 p.m. in the Fairhaven College Auditorium. Her talk is entitled “When Land Came Before Honor: Palestinian Women’s Response to Military and Domestic Violence.”
She will also be speaking for the Paths to Global Justice forum at 4-5:30 p.m. in Communications Facility 125. That talk is called, “Saving Our Muslim Sisters.”
Ariel Wetzel: Why aren’t Muslim women seen as a threat in mainstream American culture? How does the mentality of “saving” Muslim women fuel the “spread of democracy?”
Nada Elia: There is a complete denial, in the US, is of Arab women’s agency. Instead, they are homogenized, and viewed as helpless victims of Islamic fundamentalism. As victims, they do not present a threat, and are perceived instead as needy of assistance--the kind of assistance that we, the world’s greatest democracy, can offer. Or should I say, can forcefully, violently, impose, whether Muslim women want it or not? Because we know better, of course...
AW: In what ways are women targets of violence in contemporary wars? Why isn’t gender violence heard more in the mainstream?
NE: Sadly, there is a greater acceptance, generally, of sexual violence against women than against men. Sexual violence against women is almost taken for granted, whereas the rape of men still makes headlines. Both men and women were raped and otherwise sexually abused in Abu Ghraib, but it is the images of men that shocked and horrified the world. Does a woman suffer less from rape than a man? I don’t think so. But the public response to the rape of a man is generally greater. Raping a man is outrageous, raping a woman is routine, business as usual...
AW: Could you tell me a little bit about your background: how’d this become an interest of yours?
NE: I’m Palestinian. Both of my parents are from Jerusalem, and became refugees in 1948. I was born in Iraq, and grew up in Lebanon. In the US, I am frequently asked questions like “how often do you go back to Palestine,” which reveal the utmost ignorance, on the part of even educated Americans, of the most basic aspects of the Palestinian tragedy, namely that, because we are Palestinian, because my parents are from Jerusalem, we are denied re-entry into our ancestral homeland, after having been terrorized into leaving it in 1948. That’s the only way Israel, which exists on the historical land of Palestine, can be the “Jewish state”--by ethnically cleansing the non-Jewish indigenous people. When I realized the scope of ignorance in this country, I committed myself to remedying this as best I can, whenever I can. Palestine never was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Palestine was the land of the Palestinians, who are denied the right of return to this day, despite UN Resolution 194, passed in 1948, which guarantees them that right, but which Israel continues to violate.