Schools in Gaza separate

Starting in September 2013, schools in the Gaza Strip will join many of their Middle Eastern neighbors by requiring that boys and girls work separately in schools after age nine. The policy comes as part of new regulations imposed by Hamas, the Islamist governing party that has controlled Gaza since 2007.

Some proponents of the new law, such as the education ministry’s legal adviser Waleed Mezher, say that it coincides with traditionalist Palestinian values. Others who are against the new restrictions, however, argue that Hamas worked alone in legislating the policy. The party is using its own agenda to “impose its values on Gaza residents,” said to Zeinab Al-Ghoneimi, a women’s right activist in Gaza to the Huffington Post.

“Instead of hiding behind traditions, why don’t they say clearly they are Islamists and they want to Islamise the community,” Al-Ghoneimi said.

And while the education ministry’s legal advisor denies trying to enforce Islam but rather argues that Hamas is “[honoring] the traditions and culture of the society,” it appears that, in this case, they are one in the same.

Unfortunately, Hamas decided to pass this law without consulting any of the other Palestinian representatives. With all the laws imposed by Hamas since they took power in ’07, Palestinian society is being “[taken] back to ancient times when there was no respect for women’s rights and women were eliminated from public life,” said the Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consulting, the only legal aid group for women in Gaza, according to Yahoo! News.

Regardless of differences between Western and Middle Eastern cultures, no country in the 21st century should have laws that segregate women from men. Beyond segregation in schools, women are forced to cover up in long robes and headscarves, are forbidden from smoking water pipes publically, cannot ride on the back of motorcycles and cannot get their hair done by male stylists — all blurring the lines between church and state.

Back in the 1600s, when theocracy became a huge problem, rebels such as Roger Williams demanded a separation of church and state. How different is this modern-day scenario, in which Hamas is creating laws based off of Islamic ideals? Not only is Gaza pushing itself back decades by revoking women’s rights, but it is also setting itself back decades by maintaining its own form of theocracy.

These new laws are to be enforced not only in public schools, but private schools as well, including the Christian private schools in Gaza. Saying it’s best for a Christian private school to follow traditional Islamic customs is an example of religious persecution, and the increasingly Islamatized Gaza state is only setting itself back socially with such policies.

Ignoring the fact that Hamas is becoming increasingly violent, the fact the group is they are gaining more control and removing the rights of more Palestinians shows that a push toward Palestinian sovereignty, an end to the tensions with Israel and better relations with the rest of the world are far from imminent.

Soon, people are going to find it more and more difficult to live peacefully with this forceful government. When a government continually fails to represent what the majority stands for, then it is impossible to say that they are doing what’s best for the community.

Though Hamas believes that its decision reflects that of the people, its push towards dictatorship says otherwise.


Morgan Greenwald is a freshman majoring in neuroscience.


20 replies
  1. AM
    AM says:

    This article is problematic for a few reasons.

    Firstly, the writer presents a confusing argument about the relationship between religion and culture in Gaza. It appears that Ms. Greenwald has falsely dichotomized the two. Furthermore, she has privileged culture over religion: what is problematic to her is that laws in Gaza are made by appealing to Islam, not by appealing to culture. This presumption is problematic because it reflects an intense anti-religious sentiment, pervasive in the discourse of this country.

    Next it becomes apparent that Ms. Greenwald does not fully understand many of the terms she uses: “theocracy,” “separation of church and state,” and “Islamatized [sic.],” to name a few.

    Ms. Greenwald says, “Regardless of differences between Western and Middle Eastern cultures, no country in the 21st century should have laws that segregate women from men.” What is ironic about this sentence is that the purported universal value (i.e. women should not be segregated from men) is in fact culturally specific one, of the West. Ms. Greenwald wants to impose her cultural values onto the people of Gaza under the guise of a universal principle. Clearly, the principle isn’t universal if there are so many people around the world who would disagree. On what basis, then, is Ms. Greenwald arguing that segregation of genders should be prohibited–their values or her values?

    The argument could be convincingly made in the US that segregation of genders should be prohibited based on our specific cultural values, but do export these values and impose them in the false name of a universal value is abhorrent. It is not Hamas which is imposing laws and values, but rather Ms. Greenwald.

    Lastly, Ms. Greenwald has falsely idealized the “separation of church and state.” So what if laws are based on values that are religiously sanctioned? Why should culturally sanctioned values be more legitimate than religiously sanctioned ones? Ms. Greenwald talks about the Christians in Gaza (who, by the way, are less than 1% of the population), saying that it is unfair to impose the Islamically-coloured law onto the Christians. This might be true, but what happens if I am a cultural dissenter–should I also have a right to be exempt from culturally-coloured laws? The problem is that religion, to Ms. Greenwald, is necessarily the enemy–any hint of religion in the public sphere, for her, is grounds for illegitimacy.

  2. J. Alexander
    J. Alexander says:

    Is this an issue?

    The USA has NON MUSLIM single gender classes at secondary schools across the country; some of these people sound Islamphobic.
    In the 2011-2012 school year, at least 506 public schools in the United States offered single-sex educational opportunities.

    Not to mention single gender colleges in the USA; go protest them. GET A LIFE.

  3. King Pong
    King Pong says:

    Doug –
    Are you married? Does your wife use birth control pills?
    If she does, you are FORCING STERILAZATION. Please report at once to the nearest police station.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    It is a major conflict of interest for someone so pro-Israel to be writing an article like this. Don’t speak about cultures you know nothing about.

    • Arafat
      Arafat says:

      Anonymous – But can you speak about cultures you know nothing about too? Or is this order just limited to Jews? Why don’t you expand on your command and tell us why you feel this way? Would this mean an end to the field of sociology in your humble opinion?

      • F.R.
        F.R. says:

        Arafat, save yourself some embarrassment! I don’t always read articles on DT, but I have happened to notice that you are a war monger who constantly spews hate about Palestine and Islam on here. No one here takes you and your one sided b.s. stories seriously. Get a life.

  5. jay
    jay says:


    Oh, these Israeli extremists account for 25% of the population of Israel. Oh, and these extremist do not have to work, they simply collect welfare while they patrol their illegal settlements wreaking terror upon their muslim neighbors by burning them out of their fields and homes. All under the watchful eyes of the Israeli government.

    • Arafat
      Arafat says:

      Jay – Your insinuations and exaggerations do nothing to further the discussion. Yours are like the words of an angry eight-year-old child not those of a college student. You should probably calm down and take a nap if you are unable to discuss this as an adult.

    • Jared
      Jared says:

      25%? Cite your sources, otherwise you can’t expect to be taken seriously. You can’t compare the policies of closed communities to those of the government in Gaza. It is a choice to be a member of the former and mandatory to obey the laws of the latter.

  6. cale
    cale says:




    You have more than enough internal problems Israel without throwing stones at your neighbors.

    • Arafat
      Arafat says:

      cale – you and Jay must have been separated at birth.

      Israel just held an election a month ago. Muslims won seats in Israel’s parliament. Liberals won seats too as did conservatives. It took the rival factions two weeks to form coalitions such that they could govern the nations and this required give-and-take on all sides. Sounds like a democracy at work to me, no?

      In SHAPR contrast to this the head of Fatah (Abbas) canceled future elections and he did this in 2009. Since then he has ruled Fatah pretty much as an unelected official, and pretty much as a dictator.

      Cale, you sure you have your head screwed on right?

  7. Doug
    Doug says:


    WOW, what a democracy.

  8. Dee
    Dee says:

    This is all on Israel.

    Gaza would not be in the hands of Hamas if Israel had not completely destroyed the lives of those living in Gaza to the point where they had to choose a terrorist organization over a legit government just to get food and medicine.

    Don’t back away from your baby Israelis, Gaza is all yours. For that matter so the the entire Middle East as the US has allowed Israel to write our M.E. policy for the last 50 years–getting us to this point of utter human disgrace that is the policy of Israel towards it neighbors.

    • Arafat
      Arafat says:

      Dee – Do you also blame all of this on Israel too?
      The official media narrative is that these differences are the results of eons of oppression,
      checkpoints and blockades. Fair enough. But then why does the IMF put Israel’s
      GDP Per Capita well ahead of the oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

      Saudi Arabia has no Israeli checkpoints, no Israeli soldiers or planes flying
      overhead. It has wealth literally pouring out of the ground with a fifth of the
      world’s petroleum reserves. And yet the IMF puts it 13 places behind Israel and
      the World Bank puts it 8 places behind Israel. The only Muslim countries with a
      better GDP Per Capita rating than Israel are small monarchies drowning in oil.

      The non-oil Muslim countries who are closest to Israel are Malaysia and
      Lebanon, 32 and 33 places behind Israel. Both countries also have sizable
      non-Muslim populations. Muslims make up only 50 percent of Lebanon and only 60
      percent of Malaysia.

      38 places below Israel is Turkey, which until recently was a secular country
      and actually has a statistically significant atheist population. And that’s it.
      Below that we fall off a cliff into places like Belarus, South Africa and
      Grenada; all of whom still have better GDP Per Capita rates. No Muslim country
      without oil has a better GDP Per Capita than a Muslim country that has sizable
      Christian or Buddhist minorities.

    • Arafat
      Arafat says:

      Dee would have you believe all of Islam’s problems are not of Islam’s doing but are someone else’s fault.

      She would have us believe the simmering war in southern Thailand – a war in which 5,000 Buddhists have been killed in cold blood by Islamists – is not Islam’s inherently aggressive doing.

      Whe would have us believe that the current mas refugee problem and gang-rape problem in Mali is not of Islma’s doing, but I suppose it is the fault of the French in her twisted mind.

      She would have us believe that the thorough ethnic cleansing in Pakistan – a country once home to tens of millions of Hindus, and now almost “Hindu-free” – is not Islam’s doing but someone else’s fault.

      She would have us believe that the genocide of Armenian Christians in Turkey in 1915 or the genocide of Hindus in Bangaldesh in 1971 or the genocide of Sudanese Animists in the 1990s was not Islam’s fault even though Muslims committed the crimes.

      Dee, it is clear you will rationalize anything to save Muslims from being found guilty of committing crimes against humanity. It is clear that even though Muslims pull the triggers, gang-rape the women, force the villagers into refugees camps, you excuse them their barbarity and blame some other people (Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists or imperialists or colonialists) instead.

      I find that amazing. Even though in the past week Muslims killed 15 people and wounded 53 yesterday in Damascus dod everyone know they’re not guilty of this crime?

      Even though yesterday in Wardak Afghanistan Muslims killed 9 people and injured 22 others that the persons who committed the crime were mere puppets doing something they had not control over doing and it was really America’s fault these Muslims killed fellow Muslims.

      You understand. Muslims are never guilty. At least this is so in Dee’s twisted view of reality.

  9. anne
    anne says:

    Buses in Israel are seperate, Palestinians cannot ride with Jews.

    This is not due to anything cultural it is simple aparteid, Israeli style.

    • David Latter
      David Latter says:

      There are 8 million Israeli Arabs/Jews, Christians, Druze etc who can ride around safely in unsegregated buses/trains. However “mehadrin” bus lines mostly run in and/or between cities where rigid religious rules observed by some ultra-Orthodox Jews are applied. In January 2011, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that gender segregation was unlawful and abolished the “mehadrin” public buses, but some do still exist.

      In the West Bank many Jews do not feel safe in buses together with their Arab neighbours. For that you can thank the Arab suicide bombers who unfortunately took both their lives and those of innocent passengers.

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