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23 November 2017

No more blaming the victim

By: Daoud Kuttab
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We are once again going through the ridiculous situation of leaders and people blaming the victim rather than taking responsibility.
 
In Washington, the Trump administration decided (obviously with the collusion with Israel and AIPAC) to close the PLO mission because Palestinians are seeking justice through the international court.
 
Where else should Palestinians go for justice?
 
They are not allowed to use violence, to incite violence, to demonstrate non-violently and if they even say in the UN that they are thinking of going to the ICC, Trump’s America will crush them.
 
Even former US secretary of state John Kerry admitted that “Palestinians have done an extraordinary job of remaining committed to non-violence”, yet the US continues to blame the victims.
 
Blaming the victim is also the name of the game when it comes to sexual harassment, that we are seeing being played out throughout the world.
 
While in many quarters the victimisers are being punished, fired from their jobs and so on, for the most part, they continue to get away with their acts as attempts are being made to blame the victims for how they dress or what they do.
 
The sexual harassment issue became local news when a former Jordanian member of parliament, Mahmoud Kharabsheh, was unable to fathom why a 21-year-old anonymous woman complained that she was harassed by a Jordanian police officer as she was trying to complain about sexual harassment.
 
Speaking in a town hall meeting setting with the German Deutche Welle Arabic service, Kharabsheh, a lawyer and former Jordanian member of parliament, screamed and shouted, saying that the complainer is hiding her identity because she is probably not Jordanian.
 
A Jordanian woman would not come to talk to the media, he argued. When the anchor tried to defend the female victim, Kharabsheh threatened the anchor on air and walked out.
 
Media reports say that Kharabsheh, who boasts of his career in the Jordanian intelligence services, plans to sue the Lebanese German TV anchor, saying that Jordan’s reputation is very valuable.
 
Blaming the victim did not happen on only one foreign TV programme. Another Jordanian lawyer, Hussam Abu Rumman, speaking at an all-male forum on Roya TV, spewed again the same old ideas, blaming girls and women for the fact that men harass them.
 
In explaining why women in Jordan do not complain to the police, the lawyer said that some like to be sexually harassed and again made the claim that they are harassed because of how they are dressed, claiming that women wearing the religious dress are not harassed.
 
It is hard to accept that in the 21st century, educated individuals, including lawyers and former members of parliament, continue to make such absurd claims without even feeling ashamed of what they are saying.
 
Blaming the victim is a phenomenon that must be rooted out of society and of political discourse.
 
It is not enough to write about it or to discuss it in a talk show. Serious efforts, including passing laws with teeth, must be enacted to ensure that acts of harassment are not allowed to exist in any society.
 
The same must be implemented in political issues as well. Countries that daily oppress people, armies that occupy and policemen who torture should not be allowed to get away with their crimes under any guise.
 
The world has attempted to create international mechanisms to uphold the rule of law and to protect humanity from the flagrant violations of universal human rights passed by the world community in 1948, but is daily violated by the very same governments that signed up to them.
 
But while the need to deal with the phenomenon of blaming the victim requires laws and regulations, there is much that the public at large can do.
 
Individuals, communities and civil society have a responsibility to at least speak out and challenge the bigots, the misogynists and the occupiers by not allowing them to get away with their attempt to shift attention to the victims.
 
It is time for all humanity to speak out for justice and in defence of victims, putting the blame where it needs to be put: on the perpetrators of crimes, whether in occupied territories or in reactionary societies.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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