SwatDoulas Statement of Solidarity with SJP BDS

We, SwatDoulas, formally express our support for the BDS campaign launched this semester by Swarthmore Students for Justice in Palestine. As the only student group explicitly committed to Reproductive Justice and Birth Justice advocacy, our commitment to the BDS movement is catalyzed by our concern for reproductive injustice in Palestine, recognizing that Palestinian women face unique oppression under Israeli Apartheid at the intersections of race, ethnicity, class and gender.

Israeli Apartheid poses an immense threat to reproductive autonomy, and Palestinian parents are doubly affected by the spatial and psychosocial realities of life under Occupation. Just as Black, Native, and other Brown pregnant bodies in the United States have been historically violated and exploited by the state, pregnant indigenous Palestinians have faced special brutality under Israeli settler-colonialism and military occupation.

A study conducted among pregnant women in Occupied East Jerusalem found a statistically significant relationship between miscarriage and “exposure to political violence during pregnancy,” such as tear gas inhalation and being forced to stand for long hours in extreme weather conditions at military checkpoints (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2015). According to this 2018 report, 21 of women interviewed reported exposure to “beatings or tear gas at Israeli checkpoints while they were pregnant, and 4 percent reported that they aborted or gave birth at Israeli checkpoints.” In general, restrictions on Palestinian movement imposed by the Occupation closely inform Palestinian women’s experiences of childbearing. Because Palestinian infants born outside of Jerusalem are denied residency status and a Jerusalem ID, Palestinian mothers in Jerusalem are “forced to restrict their own movement during the nine months of pregnancy” in order to avoid being separated from their children by the Israeli government (Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2015). According to the World Health Organization, between 2000 and 2007 sixty-nine Palestinian women were forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints, 39 of whom died and 5 of whom lost their infants as a result of this barrier to medical care. Furthermore, pregnant Palestinian political prisoners detained in Israeli occupation jails are forced to labor and give birth in extremely harsh and traumatic circumstances (not unlike those of incarcerated people in the United States), often shackled to hospital beds and in some cases even forced to give birth in their cells (WHO, 2008).

In Gaza, too, Israel’s ongoing siege has had devastating consequences for pregnant Palestinians. During the 2014 assault on Gaza, the rates of miscarriage, premature births, and child mortality increased, according to this report. In addition, as described by the Norwegian Refugee Council, “more than 45,000 pregnant women were deprived of access to basic reproductive health services, and around 5,000 deliveries took place in extremely poor conditions.”

Reproductive and birth injustice under Israeli Apartheid, however, is not limited to the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In 2013 it was revealed that Israeli health providers had coerced swaths of Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish population into receiving contraceptive injections without informed consent. Like the coerced sterilization of women of color in the United States, the practice was clear evidence of the eugenics tied to the state’s settler colonial project. In this way, we acknowledge the ways in which Israeli Apartheid is embedded in white supremacy broadly and thus affects other populations of color in Palestine, even as Palestinians bear the unique burden of the Occupation.

By investing in the seven companies targeted by the BDS campaign, Swarthmore funds Israeli Apartheid and hinders reproductive freedom in Palestine. By providing the biometric and surveillance technology used by the Israeli Defense Force to control Palestinian movement under Israeli Apartheid, Hewlett-Packard, Inc. is complicit in the deaths of laboring Palestinian women and newborns at checkpoints and the broader barriers to care wrought by the militarization of the Occupied Territories. Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, which as mentioned constituted an especial assault on Palestinian reproductive freedom, was carried out through airstrikes using Lockheed Martin’s F-16 warplanes, Boeing’s Apache helicopters, and Elbit’s drones. The demolition of Palestinian homes by Caterpillar and Hyundai bulldozers further constitutes an assault on Palestinian families and their right to self-determination.

Broadly, international support for the Israeli Apartheid state constitutes an assault on Reproductive Justice and freedom. The Reproductive Justice framework as envisioned by Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective upholds “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” We recognize the incompatibility of Israeli Apartheid with this vision. Therefore, as Black and Native women in the U.S. continue to die in childbirth at higher rates than white women, and as women of color broadly face particular abuse in the medical-industrial complex, we acknowledge similar threats to Palestinians living under occupation as well as Jews of color under Israeli Apartheid. We recognize our common struggle for Reproductive Justice in similar contexts of settler colonialism and white supremacy. Thus, we commit to ending our complicity in Israeli Apartheid, and particularly in the reproductive injustices committed by the Israeli state, by devoting time and energy to SJP’s BDS campaign.