Kayali’s take is less optimist and more substantial in linking fresh fieldwork research to theoretical debates around violence, gender and political participation. Her analysis, in fact, does not only examine the forces restricting opportunities for mobilisation from the outside of the national liberation movement, but also considers those dynamics internal to the movement which have a negative effect and disempower specific groups of Palestinians, like women.
By focusing on unaffiliated Palestinian women (meaning those who are politically aware and savvy but are not typically identified as activists—see p. 3), Kayali successfully challenges the narrative about their political apathy. Resistance, she argues, has moved in a different sphere than traditional parties’ rallies or well-known organisations’ initiatives. Kayali explains that, rather than being weary of activism itself, these women are weary of prevailing forms of activism and existing social and political organisations, which they perceive as not fully ethical and legitimate (chapters four and five). However, rather than turning their back on politics and activism altogether, these “ordinary women” enact alternative strategies of resistance in their everyday life (chapter six).
In a larger context characterised by growing institutional violence and military occupation, the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is severely questioned by increasing numbers of Palestinians. The Oslo agreements, in fact, have made the PA co-responsible of Israel’s security, meaning that Palestinian activists and movements are under the Israeli and PA’s often repressive control. The gendered implication of this general securitisation of Palestinian politics and activism is women’s marginalisation. In chapters three to five, Kayali offers a thick engagement with and contribution to the scholarship on gender, conflict and violence, masterfully weaving the analysis of the obstacles that Palestinian women encounter when mobilising, together with a solid examination of the strengthening of patriarchal gender norms and expectations, when movements are more exposed to violence and repression.
The book concludes by foregrounding the notion of political cynicism to describe Palestinian women’s attitude towards resistance (p. 215), a condition which captures their continuous endeavour of critiquing the existing and searching for something better. Political cynicism is a different way of pushing the boundaries, something Kayali’s research participants are steadily committed to.
The research participants in Kayali’s book represent a significant force within Palestinian society, and they are able to take the lead of nation-wide and transnational processes of political contention and mobilisation, resulting in innovative movements such as the 2019 mobilisations and the Intifada of the Unity. However, the recourse on everyday forms of resistance signals structural weaknesses, from the absence of a solid political structure and leadership, to the lack of a long-term strategy to conquer power. This leaves the movements vulnerable to violence and divide et impera, making the project for national liberation fragile.