Hillel Neuer
International human rights lawyer, writer & activist

UN: Israel to blame for Palestinian men beating their wives

The chair of today’s UN Human Rights Council debate, council vice-president Amr Ahmed Ramadan of Egypt, broke with parliamentary protocol and refused to me after I challenged a new report that blames Israel for when Palestinian men commit violence against women, and after I asked why Islamic preachers of wife-beating were ignored.

The U.N. expert — who slammed Israeli counter-terrorism measures for their “gendered impact” on Palestinian women yet failed to cite Palestinian stabbings or rocket attacks for their “gendered impact” on Israeli women — failed to answer my question about the source of her data for blaming Israel for Palestinian violence against women. See transcript below.


My testimony before the U.N. Human Rights Council, June 12, 2017.

Mr. Chairman, today’s report on Israel and the Palestinian territories provides important information on women targeted by violence.

Regrettably, however, the report is undermined by its subservience to one recurring unproven assumption. As highlighted by the rapporteur, that is the “clear linkage between the prolonged occupation and violence against women.”

Ms. Simonovic, in other words, what you are saying is as follows: “When Palestinian men beat their wives, it’s Israel’s fault.”

In this regard, I wish to pose some questions:

First: how do you know there is a “clear linkage”? Where is the data? I don’t see it anywhere in the report, not in Addendum 1 or 2.

Is it right to continue infantilizing Palestinians, such that when a man in Ramallah beats his wife, we encourage him to say ‘Israel made me do it’?

Your report speak of Israeli actions that create pressure. Well, maybe. Yet there may be a myriad of other influences. How do you know which is significant?

It would be interesting, for example, to examine comparable populations in in Lebanon, Jordan, Sinai and Egypt, and to see if there are differences in the rate of violence against women. Ms. Simonovic, why have you not done so? Where is the data?

Second: You make a passing reference to the influence of “tradition and culture.” Do you mean Palestinian, Arab or Muslim tradition? You don’t say which, and don’t seem to be interested in this key factor in the Middle East.

Why did you fail to mention that official Palestinian TV regularly broadcasts Islamic preachers who tell the people how to beat their wives?

On February 8, 2016, for example, Hassan al-Laham, the Mufti of Gaza, quoting the Koran and the Hadith, advised husbands on how to beat their wives, recommending: “Hitting that does not make her ugly; in other words, not hitting that will bring the police… The hitting will be like a joke.  The hitting is a kind of reminder that the love and friendship that Allah commanded is still found between the couple.”

Ms. Simonovic, while you find numerous indirect ways to blame Israel, how could you omit these forms of direct incitement? Why do you not mention terrorism against Israeli women?

Chair of Session, UNHRC Vice-President Amr Ahmed Ramadan:

“I would like to say thank you, but I can’t—because I think that you need to respect this Council more in the next days.”

Response of Dubravka Šimonovic, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women:

But maybe just one sentence before closing. A question from NGO with respect to situation when Palestinian man is beating his wife and is it then the responsibility of Israel.

Here I would like to respond that in each and every country, any man who is beating his wife is responsible – he is perpetrator of violence. But when we are speaking about human rights responsibility and due diligence responsibility, then we are at a different level, because states have due diligence responsibility to prevent violence against women and to establish measures to prevent such violence; to punish perpetrators of violence and to provide compensation to victims.Of course, each case should be analyzed as a specific case and we have to determine who is responsible for what, but it is not possible to have such generalization, as was done by that NGO representative.

Text of the Reports

Here is how the two reports presented today before the UNHRC by Dubravka Šimonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, argue that Israel is to blame for Palestinian violence against women.

Mission to Israel Report:

  • “the Rapporteur highlights the clear linkage between the prolonged occupation and violence against women” (par. 10)

Mission to the State of Palestine:

  • “the mandate holder highlights the clear linkage between the prolonged occupation and violence against women” (par. 11)
  • “The Special Rapporteur noted that violence against women occurs both in private and public spheres, women suffering multiple sources of discrimination and violence: they suffer the violence of the Israeli occupation, whether directly or indirectly…” (pars. 23, repeated at par. 90)
  • “the economic situation, the level of unemployment and the pressure of the occupation have a greater impact on
    women’s and children’s lives, making them more vulnerable to domestic violence, in particular in Gaza, due to the constant pressure felt by the blockade and the recurring cycles of conflict, and the overcrowding that limits their mobility and privacy. It was noted, in particular in relation to the situation in Gaza that the political situation also serves as “mitigating circumstance” that makes violence against women more acceptable…” (par. 32)
  • There is also an increased pressure for girls to get married where in the context of the occupation, marriage being seen as a coping strategy but also to cover up rape and incest. (par. 39)
  • “the occupation is a real obstacle to the State [of Palestine]’s due diligence obligation to prevent violence against women in areas where it does not have full jurisdiction…” (par. 47)
  • Decades of Israeli occupation in parallel with the continuation of patriarchal attitude in Palestinian society expose women to subordination and continuing violence” (par. 54)
About the Author
Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland. An international lawyer, Neuer has been described by the Tribune de Genève as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. Israel's Ma’ariv newspaper ranked Neuer as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.” Hillel Neuer is a renowned speaker who has published widely, testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, and appeared on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago adopted a resolution declaring “Hillel Neuer Day” in recognition of his work as “one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates.” In June 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, citing his work as “an innovator” in “creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice."