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Gender, Palestinian Women, and Terrorism: Women's Liberation or Oppression?

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2007 Pages: 493-519
Anat Berko; Edna Erez
Date Published
June 2007
27 pages
Based on data obtained from interviews with 14 Palestinian women who were detained or incarcerated in Israeli prisons for security offenses, this study tested the hypothesis that Palestinian women's involvement in terrorism is a reflection of women's liberation.
The women's responses in the interviews indicate their involvement in terrorist-type acts was not a reflection of their being liberated from the traditional female role in their culture. The findings confirm Palestinian women's secondary role in terrorism by providing support services and facilitating operations through disguise, cover, or appearance. Women also help in recruiting and supporting other females involved in terrorist operations. When they go on suicide missions, they follow the operational plans and instructions of men. In the world of Palestinian terrorism, women play auxiliary and subservient roles, just as they do in Palestinian society. The women did not express an interest in a future based in affiliation with terrorism once they were released from prison. They viewed their terrorist activities as a deviation from their destined roles as family caretakers and future mothers. The interviews with the 14 women were conducted between February 2004 and January 2006 in 2 separate wings of the prison in which the women were housed. Each woman was interviewed in at least two sessions separated by a few days, weeks, or months. The interviews consisted of open-ended questions that developed into conversations on the interviewee's childhood and growing up, landmark events and significant others in their lives, relationships with family and friends, and their personal aspirations during various life stages. Other topics included the women's views on womanhood, the role of women in Palestinian society and its political struggles, and their hopes for the future. Data from the interviews were analyzed through coding techniques for qualitative data described by Glaser (1992). 58 notes and 42 references