The killing of women and children is horrific—but in the reiteration of these disturbing facts there is something missing: the public mourning of Palestinian men killed by Israel’s war machine. In 1990 Cynthia Enloe coined the term “womenandchildren” in order to think about the operationalization of gendered discourses to justify the first Gulf War. Today, we should be aware of how the trope of “womenandchildren” is circulating in relation to Gaza and to Palestine more broadly. This trope accomplishes many discursive feats, two of which are most prominent: The massifying of women and children into an undistinguishable group brought together by the “sameness” of gender and sex, and the reproduction of the male Palestinian body (and the male Arab body more generally) as always already dangerous. Thus the status of male Palestinians (a designation that includes boys aged fifteen and up, and sometimes boys as young as thirteen) as “civilians” is always circumspect.
This gendering of Israel’s war on Gaza is conversant with discourses of the War on Terror and, as Laleh Khalili has argued persuasively, counter-insurgency strategy and war-making more broadly. In this framework, the killing of women and girls and pre-teen and under boys is to be marked, but boys and men are presumed guilty of what they might do if allowed to live their lives. Furthermore, these boys and men are potentially dangerous not only to the militaries that occupy them, but to those womenandchildren who actually are civilians. The young boys, after all, may grow up to be violent extremists. Thus, kill the flesh—extinguish the potential.
The Israeli war machine, much like the US war machine in Afghanistan or Iraq, does not protect Palestinian queers and women and children. It kills them, maims them, and dispossesses them alongside their loved ones—for the simple reason that they are Palestinian, and thus able to be killed with impunity while the world watches. Today, the difference between Palestinian womenandchildren and Palestinian men is not in the production of corpses, but rather in the circulation of those corpses within dominant and mainstream discursive frames that determine who can be publicly mourned as true “victims” of Israel’s war machine. Thus the sheer number of womenandchildren dead are enough to mobilize the US president and the UN to make statements “condemning” the violence—but the killing, imprisonment, and maiming of Palestinian men and boys in times of war and ceasefire goes uncited. In Israel men, settlers, and even soldiers are framed as victims of Palestinian terrorism and aggression. All are publicly mourned. In an almost direct reversal, while Palestinian boys and men have been the primary target of Israel, as evidenced by the population of political prisoners and targeted assassinations, are not seen by western based mainstream media as victims of Israeli terrorism and aggression. Palestinians are put in the self-defeating position of having to fight to be recognized as human, to be recognized in death and in life as victims of Israeli policies and actions.
Maya Mikdashi, Can Palestinian Men be Victims? Gendering Israel’s War on Gaza (via globalwarmist)