Monday, December 3, 2007

Honor Killings in Israel

Yes, there are such things. I honestly don't know enough about Arab society to say how honor killings of Arab women are regarded by various groups, and I'm willing to assume that most Arabs regard them with as much horror as the rest of us do. Still, you can't change the fact that honor killings do exist in Arab societies, while they don't exist in other societies. The case of the Arabs in Israel is interesting, since they're a minority, and the majority society around them totally condemns the practice, which means that there is no chance that the police and courts might be convinced not to investigate, as - you'll pardon my saying - could conceivably be the case in, say, Saudi Arabia or Sudan. Minority or not, there are Arab Israeli men willing to murder their sisters or cousins if they feel the sisters have defiled their honor.

The honor of the men, mind you. The way they see it, they're the victims. That's the mechanism.

The most famous case in recent years has been the serial murder of the women of the Abu Ghanem (pronounced Abu-Ranem, with a deep R) clan of the violent neighborhood of Jouarish, in Ramle (not Ramallah. Ramle is in Israel, about ten minutes from the Ben Gurion airport). After the eighth murder, in January this year, some of the women of the family broke the rules, went to the police, and told everything they know. Which means that a mother and her daughters and nieces testified to put the son/brother/cousin into jail for the next 20-25 years. And then their fears overcame some of them, and they began backtracking; one of them hasn't been seen for quite a while and may already be dead. Yesterday, however, the mother and a cousin testified before the courts. It is now irrevocable.

Yet to be seen is if this case will manage to prove a significant turning point in eradicating the entire phenomenon among Israel's Arabs, or merely an isolated case, or perhaps even less than that. Clearly it's an extremely dramatic case, about love, hate, tradition vs. law, fear, violence, heroism. No doubt it's only a matter of time before Hollywood makes a major film out of it.

No? Hollywood won't?


Lydia McGrew said...

"I'm willing to assume that most Arabs regard them with as much horror as the rest of us do."

Hmmm. Well, that is plausibly too charitable.

But hey--in _Italy_ the judiciary recently ruled that parents who tied their 19-year-old daughter to a chair and beat her severely could not be charged with the ordinary crimes they would otherwise be charged with under Italian law, because it was "part of their culture" and she was considered to have "dishonored" the family by having a boyfriend. In _Germany_ a judge refused a Moroccan woman an early divorce when she was afraid of beatings by her husband, because (said the judge) the Koran says you can beat your wife, so this was part of his "culture." In _Norway_, there is a prosecutor or former prosecutor who argues in interviews that "honor killings" by men of Muslim cultural background should receive lesser sentences, because their "culture" must be taken into account.

So at least Israel is holding the line on this one.

Query: Is FGM practiced among Palestinian and/or Israeli Arabs? Do Israeli authorities have to cope with preventing that in Israel? (They're having trouble with it in the UK and many other European countries, particularly among their Somali immigrant populations.)

Yaacov said...

No FGM that I've ever heard of either in Israel OR in the Palestinian areas. Tho I've been told it's done in Egypt, so it's not only the depths of Africa.

I honestly don't know anough to say how deeply rooted the honor-killing thing is in Arab OR Muslim culture or Sharia or whatever. I tend to think that in modern Arab societies it's actually not particularly common. In Israel and in the Palestinian areas controlled by Israel it's rare enough to get into the news when it happens, but common enough that you hear about too many cases. I also think it's limited to Muslim Arabs, and can't recollect ever having heard of the custum among Christian Arabs (of whom there are anyway ever fewer in the MidEast).

If I'm right on this, then all those Europeans you cited are even more idiotic then you think, or perhaps, they're twice idiots. Once for their willingness to sanction murder in the name of culture, and twice becasue the culture doesn't even say what they think it does, only the loudmouthed fanatics say it does. Sheesh!

Lydia McGrew said...

Well, in Jordanian law you get only six months for an honor killing, and the Jordanian Parliament (or whatever it is called) has repeatedly refused to change that. So it must be pretty well accepted in Jordan. And that's getting close, geographically, to y'all.