Don't be fooled by Gilad Erdan's UN stunt, Israel doesn’t care about Iranian women

Don't be fooled by Gilad Erdan's UN stunt, Israel doesn’t care about Iranian women
5 min read
25 Sep, 2023
Israel’s UN representative, Gilad Erdan, who staged a one-man protest supposedly defending Iranian women’s rights at the UN, only reinforced the colonial state’s hypocrisy as tortures, imprisons & kills Palestinian women, argues Farrah Koutteineh.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan holds up a sign seconds after Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi began addressing world leaders during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on September 19, 2023 in New York City. [GETTY]

Last week, I and other Palestinian women watched in utter disbelief as Gilad Erdan, Israel’s UN representative, staged a one-man protest over women’s rights during the United Nations 78th General Assembly. A somewhat confusing charade considering he’s representing an occupying entity that forces Palestinian women to give birth at checkpoints, tortures female Palestinian political prisoners, blackmails Palestinian women with their own bodies, all whilst routinely murdering female Palestinian nurses, journalists and activists.

This time last week, Erdan held up a considerably sanctimonious sign stating ‘Iranian women deserve freedom’ whilst walking towards Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi as he was giving his annual presidential address at the UN. Erdan was swiftly ejected by UN security out of the building and jumped straight onto his social media, claiming to be a diehard advocate of Iranian women’s rights and referring to Raisi, as the ‘butcher of Tehran’.

The issue with the actions of Erdan are not at all with the just cause for Iranian women’s rights, but with the inherently misogynistic government that he represents, supporting said cause. As for just one example of his hypocrisy, it is nothing short of a fallacy to proclaim to support Iranian women in their movement against the country’s strict dress codes, all whilst having your own country’s armed forces routinely raid Palestinian homes and strip Palestinian women naked.

''Erdan’s one-man protest is also so far detached from the reality of the multifaceted misogyny his government ruthlessly deploys against Palestinian women as an essential component of Israeli settler-colonial domination.''

Despite raids like this being frequent, Israeli human rights group B’tselem published a particularly shocking report of an Israeli raid of a Palestinian family home that took place just a fortnight ago. Dozens of heavily armed Israeli soldiers broke into house at 1:30am, forced the female members of the family to strip naked in front of their young children whilst threatening to unleash the soldiers' dogs on them.

The deafening double standards of Israel, an occupying entity currently in violation of over 77 UN resolutions, to even try and attempt to condemn Iran or indeed any other country for its human rights record, is absurdity.

Erdan’s one-man protest is also so far detached from the reality of the multifaceted misogyny his government ruthlessly deploys against Palestinian women as an essential component of Israeli settler-colonial domination.

It is reported that from 2000-2005 alone, 67 Palestinian women were forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints, resulting in the death of over 36 newborns. More recently, in 2020, the Palestinian ministry of health declared a public health crisis due to alarming rates of maternal and newborn deaths at Israeli checkpoints.

Further evidence of Israel misogyny is seen in the plight of female Palestinian political prisoners. Incarcerated in Israeli colonial jails, the women experience torture at every conceivable capacity at the hands of prison guards, and are often tortured psychologically, physically and sexually.

For decades Israel has gotten away with its torture of female political Palestinian prisoners, not only due to complete disregard by the international community, but also because Israeli prison guards rely on exploiting orientalist patriarchal notions of ‘honour’ and ‘virginity’ to ensure the longevity of its torture methods.

Furthermore, Israeli prison guards will often use extensive means of sexual torture and rape, in order to extract false confessions. As for many Palestinian women, the consequence of confessing to a crime they haven’t committed would societally cost less than the ‘shame’ of revealing the sexual torture endured. Israel knows this and preys on Palestinian women because of it.

The harrowing experiences of female Palestinian prisoners like Naila Ayesh and Rasmea Odeh exemplify the brutality faced in the darkness of Israeli colonial jail cells. Whilst pregnant, Ayesh, was arrested for being a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). She recalls how her torture was so severe it resulted in her having a miscarriage, with prison guards then trying to coerce her into a false confession in exchange for medical attention when she bleed heavily as she miscarried her baby.

Odeh, arrested for being a member for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), has spent decades seeking justice for the inconceivable torture she endured at the hands of Israeli forces. Upon her arrest, for weeks on end she was beaten, raped and Israeli forces even arrested her father and tortured him in front of her. Odeh said she had to falsely confess as she feared her father would have a heart attack as Israeli forces gave him the ultimatum of having to watch his daughter endure their torture, or force him to do it himself.

Last year the release of Palestinian film Huda’s Salon (2021) sent shockwaves through the international community, for depicting how Israel relentlessly weaponises Palestinian women’s bodies and sexualities. The film, which was based on real life testimonies, illustrates the stories of Palestinian women who have been blackmailed by Israel’s secret service ‘shabak’, with nude photos of them in order to coerce them into becoming informants and collaborators.

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A reality very far removed from the theatre show put on by Erdan at the UN that attempts to present Israel as advocating for women’s rights.

Whilst Israel is happy to have one of its officials bare a banner with the image of Mahsa Amini, whose killing a year ago led to mass protests in Iran, images of Palestinian Nurse Razan Al Najjar, or of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, or even of American pro-Palestine activist Rachel Corrie, all of whom were brutally murdered by Israeli forces, are neither mentioned nor seen in the settler-colonial state’s defence of women.

Israel is no advocate of Iranian women’s rights whilst it continues to wage a 75 year war on the rights of Palestinian women, weaponising their reproductive systems, their bodies, their sexuality, torturing them, and murdering them with absolute impunity.

Farrah Koutteineh is founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.4 million Palestinian refugees. Koutteineh is also a political activist focusing on intersectional activism including, the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous people's rights, anti-establishment movement, women's rights and climate justice.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @key48return

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.