Back in the year 1989, you would have seen a group of young women surrounded by tables working an assembly line in one of the houses in the village of Sa’ir, north of
This was the Sa’ir cooperative project, which was formed in the first Intifada at the initiative of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. It was inspired by 25 young women from the union and their friends who were politically, economically and socially active in the struggle. It was one of the cooperatives that spread throughout the occupied territories during the Intifada, as a productive mechanism that reflected a strategy of economic resistance that aimed to strengthen resilience and self-sufficiency.
In her oral testimony, Ms. Lamya Shalalda recalls her experience in the Sa’ir cooperative, narrating the intersection of national struggle, production, and feminism.
With modest funding, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees organized these ideas in women’s cooperatives. The village women assisted in providing raw materials for the manufacture of whatever was needed in the village.
“Production was adjusted according to the agricultural season,” Shalalda says. “During the grape season, the committee’s work was based on the production of homemade grape products. During the plum season, we would produce jam. In the winter season, we worked on citrus products, such as concentrated natural juices. And although the methods were crude, these citrus fruits were manufactured or used in the jam industry.”
These experiments combined popular experience in food processing on the one hand, and the scientific basis for forming sustainable products with a longer shelf-life on the other.
“This was a true fusion of modernity and originality,” says Shalalda.
The process began with renting a place that was fitted with simple tools, from barrels to utensils to hand juicers. The main factor was manual labor. The provision of sugar was very important as well, in addition to gas cookers, which were bought from the area. The Union of Women’s Committees provided the raw materials for the cooperative, since women were not financially capable of purchasing these materials. The work was disorganized at first, so the women had to coordinate with the Union, which was paying them per working hours and marketing their products.
According to Shalalda, this activity was multi-dimensional, as “there was a sense that this cooperative was part of the Palestinian national struggle”. This was reinforced by the village’s embrace of cooperatives so that the cooperatives’ headquarters became a selling point for the village and the whole area.
Yet the missing link, as relayed by Shalalda, was the extent to which women working in the cooperatives were involved in decision-making. It was the supervisory authority that exercised the role of planning on behalf of the working women, who were the most active people in the cooperative.
In addition to this cooperative, the Aboud,
Despite all these attempts, the availability of products remained well below the abundance of the pre-Intifada years. This necessitated a significant change in consumption patterns, such as the abandonment of luxuries and the adaptation to locally available produce. Prior to the Intifada, the enemy worked on deepening Palestinian consumerism, aiming to prevent the saving of money so that it could be absorbed into the Israeli economy. The advent of the Intifada caused the reversal, albeit gradually, of that equation, decreasing the amount of consumerism, avoiding certain aspects of luxury, and boycotting Israeli products when local or international alternatives existed. The results were a decrease in the purchase of beauty products, clothes, shoes, carpets, and furniture. Restaurants, decorators, photographers and tailors all scaled down production, and wedding celebrations were kept to a minimum.2
- 1. A group of researchers. Al-Intifada Mubadara Sha’biyya: Dirasa li Adwar al-Qiwa al-Ijtima’iyya [The Intifada as a Popular Initiative: A study of the role of social forces], 1990, pp. 182-187.
- 2. Shannar, Hazem. “Al-Awda’ al-Iqtisadiyya wa al-Ijtimayiaa’ fi Dhil al-Intifada [Economic and Social Conditions In Light of the Uprising].” Majallat al-Dirasat al-Fialstiniyya, 1.2, 1990, p. 40.
As street confrontations fluctuated between 1990 and 1989, and with the diminishing influence of local committees in the suburbs, trade strikes remained the most visible signs of disobedience.1
- 1. Tamari, Salim. “Makhatir al-Rataba: al-‘Isyan al-Mahdud wa al-Mujtama’ al-Madani [Risks of Monotony: Limited Rebellion and Civil Society].” Majallat al-Dirasat al-Fialstiniyya, 3, 1990, p. 6.