|Do they know or care about honour killings of Arab women?
Under the existing penal code, drawn up in 1960 during Jordan's jurisdiction (1948-67) over the West Bank, the maximum custodial sentence for "honour killings" is six months.
Wrote Harriet Sherwood in the Guardian last year following the brutal killing in 2010 of Hebron University student Aya Baradiya,
"Reliable statistics are hard to come by, but it is thought there are around 20 such crimes in the West Bank and Gaza each year. Women who have been raped or molested, or are victims of incest, are considered to have stained a family's reputation. Such acts of violation are rarely admitted by the victim's family."But such was the outcry over Aya Baradiya's gruesome fate that in 2010 Mr Abbas (who had earlier received an unrelated petition signed by 8000 Palestinian women for a get-tough policy on "honour killings") promised to amend the penal code in order to guarantee the stiffest punishment for such a crime.
What he actually did was to suspend an article in the penal code of 1960 that stipulated pardon for any wife murderer who had committed his crime on finding the wife in bed with another man.
This was in effect an empty gesture, since the article had never been had never once been acted upon.
In 2009 Abbas had ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, but sharia prevents its full implementation.
To quote from Harriet Sherwood's article again:
'In Surif, Yasmine Alheeh, 29, minding a clothes shop, says she approves of the legal change [to the article in the penal code]. "There are a lot of things that are hard for a woman to do [in Palestinian society]. A woman has no personal freedom. It's OK to work, but you can't make personal choices."
Nearby, in a vegetable shop, Jalal Danah, 25, says women's actions are limited by Islam. "Our religion does not allow a woman to go out and practise her life without restriction. This would lead to corruption," he says.'And a current report, by Soraya al-Ghussein and Hannah Patchett for the Ma'an News Agency, quotes Abbas's legal advisersa Hassan al-Ouri as explaining that the UN Convention will only be implemented "so long as it doesn’t contravene Islamic code".
There are no plans to outlaw "honour killings," al-Ouri told Ma'an:.
"Why change it [the law]? This would cause serious problems.... What we need is a new culture.
.... Look, we are for total equality but if there is a basic tenet of Islamic code that we would be forced to change under [the UN Convention], then people would revolt and brand us as non-believers."Says Interior Ministry official Haitham Arrar (who heads the PA Interior Ministry's democracy and human rights unit) of existing legislation:
"It encourages some people to commit crimes against women, which will go [as far as] killing them."Laments Palestinian feminist Soraida Hussein, who believes that Abbas is fearful of confronting "conservative forces":
"[O]ur lives – in law and in practice – are seen as less than men's....
[The president should issue a decree that] "anybody killing anyone else will be sentenced to the highest sentence possible, whether it is a woman or a boy.
The minute the law is changed and applied, the minute people will think twice. It's simple and it's not done."This is a cause that the "pro-Palestinian" western sisterhood should be embracing with gusto.
But for reasons known only to themselves, bashing the Zionist Entity (where rights for women are guaranteed) is far more fun.