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Poster of Arafat in Ramallah
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, April 7, 2014

(Mr. Phillips is president of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia Chapter; Mr. Korn, the former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, is chairman of the RZA-Philadelphia /

Former president Jimmy Carter has a brand new book out, purporting to survey the abuse of women throughout the world. Well, not quite everywhere in the world: there is one place which, despite a recent 100 percent increase in the murders of innocent women, that does not merit even a single mention in the ex-president's book -- the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

At first glance, this omission might seem strange. Carter, after all, has devoted much of his post-presidential career to speaking out about what he claims is the mistreatment of the Palestinian Arabs -- by Israel. But for some reason, when it comes to the mistreatment of Palestinian women by fellow-Palestinians, Carter has nothing to say -- even in a book-length survey of the problem of misogynistic violence.

The Palestinian women in question are the victims of what is known as "honor killing." Such cases involve men murdering female relatives whom they accuse of violating Islamic fundamentalist morals. Sometimes their “crime” is no more than "provocative dress," or being seen in the company of an unauthorized male. Some of the women are believed to have committed adultery, or simply premarital relations. Their murders are justified as "preserving family honor.”

In 2012, thirteen such murders were reported in the West Bank territories controlled by Palestinian Authority. Last year, the official number of victims more than doubled, to 27, according to the Washington Post. But these are just the ones the authorities are reporting.

The Post notes that in addition to killings over suspected morality violations, sometimes the violence is a way to hide the fact that the women were raped or molested by their relatives. In other cases, the "honor killings" are actually related to inheritance disputes or simply "the desire to punish female independence."

The oppression does not end there. It extends to the way the Palestinian legal system deals with the murderers. The Palestinian Authority's official legal code actually includes laws "that guarantee light sentences for honor killings," the Post notes. And even when the killers are punished, "pardons and suspended sentences are common."

Jimmy Carter's new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power is divided into 18 chapters. There is a chapter on "honor killings," but it is the shortest--less than three pages long. At the end of the book, the former president presents a long list of steps that should be taken to protect women against discrimination and violence. There are 23 recommendations. Coming in last -- "Condemn and outlaw honor killings" -- is number 23.

The problem, though it is bad enough, is not just that Mr. Carter gives such short shrift to a serious and worsening crisis. But what little he does write about the issue is, frankly, appalling. He begins, not with a description of the prevalence of honor killings in Arab and Muslim countries but, rather, by announcing that the phenomenon of honor killings "has a justification in the ancient Holy Scriptures of Jews and Christians." He then quotes a verse from Deuteronomy prescribing capital punishment for certain instances of adultery. Nowhere does he bother to explain that the verse in question, like other biblical references to capital punishment for various crimes, pertained to ancient times and are obviously not practiced in Christian or Jewish communities in our day.

The ex-president then mentions an example of an honor killing in Saudi Arabia and another in Pakistan, and praises the leaders of Jordan for supposedly trying to combat the problem (but "strong community beliefs" still support the practice, he notes), before hurrying to cast the net of culpability as wide as possible, emphasizing that such killings have been carried out by Hindus and Sikhs, too.

But Palestinians?  – whose number of honor killings has increased the most (by percentage) and faster than perhaps any other in the world?  Not a word.
Mr. Carter does, however, have quite a bit to say about the way Israeli Orthodox Jews treat women. He spends almost two pages -- nearly as much space as devoted to the entire topic of honor killings -- berating Israeli haredim for supposedly considering women "inferior" (they do not) and for preferring to sit separately from women on buses.

Whatever one thinks of the bus seating controversy, it hardly belongs in a book that focuses on violence against women. Nobody has ever been killed or physically injured in a bus seating dispute in Israel. And Israeli law, unlike that of the Palestinian Authority, does not ensure light sentences for men who otherwise harm women.

One would like to give a former president the benefit of the doubt. One would like to assume that, deep down, Jimmy Carter really does feel genuine sympathy for the plight of Palestinian women under the Palestinian Authority. But his silence over Palestinian honor killings, combined with his constant and harsh denunciations of Israel, suggests that Mr. Carter only cares about Palestinians when he can use them as a whip with which to lash the Jewish state. When Palestinians are the victims of other Palestinians -- sorry. They just don't serve his purpose.

[ Mr. Phillips is president of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia Chapter; Mr. Korn, the former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, is chairman of the RZA-Philadelphia /]

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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