palestinan woman 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
A Palestinian Legislative Council member sparked an angry reaction at Na'amat's International Women's Day conference on Wednesday after telling those gathered that Israel's occupation of Palestine was the biggest cause of suffering for Palestinian women.
Speaking at the Tel Aviv conference, Jihad Abu Zneid, a representative of the Fatah party, told more than 600 women - Jews, Druse, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians - that Palestinian women were the group hardest hit by the social and economic hardships caused by Israel's occupation of Palestine.
Her harsh criticism of Israel was met with great hostility, prompting Na'amat chairwomen Talya Livni to take the microphone and ask the protesters to be quiet.
"We are not asking you to agree with what is being said here but it is imperative that we listen to each other," said Livni.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post after leaving the podium, Abu Zneid said that she was used to the negative reaction by Israeli audiences to her message.
"As women we can make a change but we have to be honest with ourselves," she said. "It is difficult for Israelis to accept criticism but if we can end the occupation then we can live in peace and build a brighter future for all of our children."
In her speech, Abu Zneid, one of 17 female politicians recently elected to the Palestinian parliament, also told those present not to fear Hamas's rise to power but to stay focused and vote for peace.
"As Palestinian women we are telling you that we know it is a difficult time but we are asking you to stay focused on peace," she said, adding that she hoped Israeli women would take a bigger role in the coming election.
The theme of the conference was "Women in Politics" and most of those speaking at the conference agreed that women needed to take a greater role in politics.
MK Collette Avital (Labor) pointed out that Israel was a disappointing 70th in the world for the number of female representatives in parliament. She also said that only 15 percent of MKs in the last Knesset were women.
"There needs to be a bigger representation of women in Israeli politics," said Avital.
MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) told the conference "women needed to be equal partners to men in politics and in bringing peace." However, she also said that women were much more prominent in politics than ever before.
"Women have stopped sitting in the back chairs," she said, using the example of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a woman at the forefront of world politics.
"It is not Amir Peretz, Binyamin Netanyahu or Ehud Olmert who control strategy in the Middle East but a black woman from the United States," said Tamir.