The history of Palestinian women’s involvement in the resistance movement dates back to the aftermath of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which supported the Zionist state in Arab lands. Since then, Palestinian women have been at the forefront of various struggles, demonstrating resilience and leadership in the face of adversity.
In 1929, around 300 women from different regions of Palestine convened for the first national conference, marking a significant step in organized resistance. Zulaykha Al-Shihabi established the first labor union in 1921, and five years later, Sadhij Nassar launched a women’s newspaper addressing social issues and gender equality. Nassar played a crucial role in urging Palestinian women to resist discrimination and participate in the political arena against the British-Zionist colonial forces.
Following the Nakba in 1948, Palestinian women, as refugees in Lebanon, continued their activism. Sadhij published articles highlighting the Palestinian tragedy and degradation in the Al-Youm newspaper. Guerrilla resistance emerged in Palestinian cities and villages during this period, with women in villages supporting logistical preparations for the forces in the mountains.
After the massive exodus to neighboring countries, many Palestinian women joined resistance organizations in Egypt and Syria. Their active involvement and leadership played a pivotal role in developing the movement. The interest of Palestinian women in political engagement grew significantly after the Six-Day War in 1967.
Shadia Abu Ghazaleh, born on January 8, 1949, emerged as a prominent figure during this period. While not as widely known as Leila Khaled, she is considered the first martyr of the Palestinian people post-Nakba. Shadia’s passion for literature, especially poetry, developed during her time at Ain Shams University in Cairo, where she studied sociology and psychology.
Born into a well-off, religious, and patriotic family in Nablus, Shadia’s early life was marked by tragedy with the loss of her mother when she was just three months old. Raised by her older sister, Hayam Abu Ghazaleh, Shadia pursued education in Nablus and Cairo. In 1964, she joined the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM), later transforming into the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) under George Habash’s leadership.
Shadia’s commitment to education and resistance became evident as she balanced her studies with clandestine involvement in armed struggle. She emphasized the integration of political struggle, education, and military resistance, challenging stereotypes about Palestinian women.
After receiving training in revolutionary camps in Jordan, Shadia returned to Nablus, where she became a catalyst for political awareness among Palestinian women. She led armed resistance operations against Zionist occupation forces and trained women in revolutionary camps. Shadia’s organizational skills and dedication to internal democracy within the PFLP earned her recognition as a reliable leader.
On November 21, 1968, Shadia was involved in planning and executing the bombing of an Israeli bus in Tel Aviv. A week later, while preparing for another operation, a mishap occurred, resulting in an accidental explosion that claimed her life. Shadia Abu Ghazaleh’s tragic death was a significant loss for the PFLP, leaving a void in the leadership of women’s resistance.
Shadia’s legacy lives on through the schools established in her honor in Gaza and Jabaliya. Her impact on Palestinian women’s political consciousness and fight for rights and freedom is immeasurable. According to Maryam Al-Kharusi, Shadia served as an inspiration for iconic Palestinian activist Leila Khaled. Shadia Abu Ghazaleh remains a symbol of unwavering resistance and a martyr in the enduring struggle for Palestinian rights.