My main theoretical and research interest has focused on the study of the power of formal and informal laws, political regulation, and socio-cultural codes to act as tools of oppression and/or tools for emancipation to vulnerable groups in society. The thrust of my research has been to demonstrate that victimization of women, and the social reaction to it, is better understood if analyzed within culturally and politically sensitive contexts (Doctoral Dissertation, 1994; International Review of Victimology, 1999; Child abuse and Neglect, 1999). Pursuant to this line of research, I studied the efficacy of the existing Israeli Law Against Family Violence, and social reaction (formal and informal social control agents) to victimization of women in Israel and the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority (Women's Studies International Forum, 1999; Law and Policy, 1999; Plilim, 1998; Arab Studies Quarterly, 1997). Furthermore, and while using critical race perspective and post-colonial and neo-colonial theoreticians, I challenged the common assumptions underlying criminological and victimological theories and related to the abuse of women, asserting that feminist theories should be built on the voices of women whose voices have been muted for years and not the knowledge of hegemonic power holders. Consequently, my recent research not only studied the crime of femicide, but also challenged the existing definition of femicide, and elaborated on the grave abuses, which arise from such a restricted definition (UNIFEM, 2000; SIGNS, 2003). An additional and most recent line of study used critical theories, focuses on militarization and the invisibility of abuses inflicted upon women in conflict area. I believe that Militarized policy tend to construct masculinized social institutions that are characterized by gender blindness that in turn preserve by the patriarchal institutions of both conflicting parties in war zones (WSIF, 2003; Social Service Review, 2005 ; Social Identities, 2004 ; Violence Against Women, 2006). This line of research will be discussed extensively in a forthcoming book on Militarization, and Violence Against Women in the Middle East: The Palestinian Case-study, and will be published by Cambridge University Press.
My previous, current, and planned research activities can be summarized under the following major categories:
A. Critical Perspective on Women, Law and the Human Right Discourse
Pursuant to my research on the applicability of the Israeli Law Against family Violence
to Palestinians living in Israel (Israel Social Science Research, 1997, Law and Policy, 1999; International Review of Victimology), I was funded by the UNIFEM with the support of the WCLAC (Women's Center for legal Aid and Counseling- Palestine) to study this phenomenon in Jordan and Palestine, particularly how the Jordanian and Palestinian law deals with what is termed as crimes of honor. The main aim of pursuing this line of research is to understand the existing cognitive perception (mentality) of professionals within the criminal justice system, especially the manner in which it is reflected in court decisions and documentation and the way it is tied to race, class, and gender issues. My research is combined with activism such as training judges on issues related to victim's rights, fair trial, gender sensitive legal analyses and more such as the workshop on :" Fair Trial: The child's voice in the legal system " funded by the Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (CIMEL), University of London and INTERIGHTS that was held in Amman, Jordan to both Jordanian and Palestinian judges.
An additional and more recent line of research and activism focuses on an epistemological examination of the law and human right discourses when applied to women in the South. This line of research was reflected in two book chapters and will soon be extensively examined in a book by Cambridge University Press.
B. Women and Social Control: Between Victimization and Agency
This topic was addressed in a recent research conducted in collaboration with Professor Edna Erez (Kent State University, USA) in which we examined the perception and reaction of Israeli police officers towards the abuse of women within Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Israel. This research was conducted to determine whether the perception and reaction of Israeli police officers differs from that which I have identified in a previous research project (Law and Policy, 1999; International Review of Victimology, 1997). Another research (UNIFEM, 2000) has also examined the perception of these and other social control agents such as the Attorney General, and tribal notables in the West Bank. Moreover, the direction and focus of my most recent research have revolved around examining the perception of women towards their painful abusive situations. This was reflected in two recent articles: one that dealt with dilemmas that face rape and sexual abuse victims, and the other which discussed the politics of disclosing sexual abuse in a traditional and transitional society (Child Abuse and Neglect, 1999). A similar study was conducted in Nazareth with the co-operation and help of WAV (Women Against Violence- Nazareth). The main aim of this action-oriented study is to dialogue with those young women who were abused sexually, but whose abuse was muted by the social, cultural and political reaction (Violence Against Women, 2006).
My most recent research studied the Israeli policy of house demolitions from a critical race perspective and is about to be published in three languages, in Hebrew in a new edited book by Israeli feminist legal scholars, in Arabic by the Jerusalem Center for Women, and in English in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy. It was also presented at the American Society of Criminology, November, 2006 and under publication in a law and society review.
C. Mental Health of Vulnerable Groups.
I carried out one of the first studies that examined how fear of crime affects the elderly (Crime Prevention Studies, 1995). This study was accomplished while examining traumatized elderly Armenian citizens living in the old city of Jerusalem (Masters Thesis, 1990). The study was followed by my initiative to establish various help services to aid traumatized women and children during the Intifada and which culminated in the publication of three co-authored (Journal of Traumatic Stress 1995; Depression and Anxiety, 1998; Clinical Psychology Review, 1999) and one single authored book article on the double victimization of female children (Children's Rights and Traditional Values, 1998). Following my initiative to establish the first hot-line service in the Middle East to aid distressed Arab females, I became interested in developing intervention models that are both culturally and politically sensitive. This effort led to the development of a culturally sensitive mode of intervention that was termed as: Blocking her exclusion model (Social Service Review, 2000). In addition a model called "The Dialogue Tent" was developed to help women in voicing out their experiences, and support them in searching for coping strategies (Social Service Review, 2001). My interest in developing prevention strategies has led me to collaborate with a colleague from Birzeit University in order to develop an analytical model that would provide a better understanding of mental health in collective societies (Clinical Psychology Review, 1999). The most recent studies that looked at mental health and political traumas examined the juxtaposition of women victimization and agency (Social Service Review, 2004, American Behavioral Scientists Journal, 2006).
D. Women, Militarization and Violence:
Silencing violence against women in militarized societies and conflict areas- became an integral part of the national security doctrine, while excluding women suffering from the social/national and political concerns. One pioneering study that examined the crime of Femicide showed among other the importance of acknowledging the effect of the Intifada on violence against women and as an important factors in the Palestinian state building period (Law and Society Review, 2003). In addition, my work in the Palestinian Authority area, mainly the West Bank, focused on the effect of political violence and militarization on women victimization. I examined the way social institutions (legal, health, religious and welfare) react to abuses inflicted against young girls and women during the first and second Intifada while examining the imposition of virginity testing from a critical race and gender perspective ( see Social Science and Medicine, 2004). Moreover, I studied narratives and perceptions of Palestinian mothers of martyrs towards martyrdom (Women's Studies International Forum, 2003; Palestinian Mothering and the Political Conflict). I also conducted a study that is based on voice therapy with women while coping with political imprisonment (Social Service Review, 2005- Voice Therapy for Women Aligned with Political Prisoners: A Case-Study of Trauma Within Palestinian Women in the Second Intifada). The effect of the militarized society was not limited to the narrow political victimization, but was reflected in the way health and legal personnel dealt with cases of sexual abuses (Social Science and Medicine, 2004 Imposition of Virginity testing: A Life Saver or a License to kill). I also completed an extensive study – through the center for Women Studies- Jerusalem- that revolves around the psycho-social effect of the second Intifada on Palestinian women coping mechanisms and survival strategies in Jenin, Nablus and Bethlehem ( with Dr. Khawla Abu Baker). In addition, a study was concluded on the effect of the Israeli occupation on Jerusalemite women (with Prof. Nahla Abdo), and an extensive study on the effect of the Israeli Separation wall on young children ( AmericanBehavioral Scientist Journal, 2006). Currently, I am working on a book project on militarization and violence against women by Cambridge University Press.