Below are two excellent posts from Richard Silverstein on the
attacks by Zionist feminists and Emily Shire in particular on Rasmea
Odeh, a Palestinian woman who was tortured, raped and otherwise abused by Israeli
security forces for being a ‘terrorist’.
Richard shows how Zionist feminism operates within its own
intersectionality. Loyalty to kith and
kin, the colonial definition of what it means to be Jewish trumps any loyalty
to Palestinian women.
Of course feminism has often been the route by which many Jewish women
came to an anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian stance. But others, usually from the radical feminist
wing, see their loyalty to the western imperial consensus, of which Israel is
an integral part, as being more important than to any abstract notion of women’s
Part of the problem lies with the whole concept of feminism,
the idea of a solid women’s block against patriarchy or men. It ignores that women too are divided by
class or race. That for most women in Israel,
feminist demands mean in practice the demand for equality as an oppressor. We can see
this in the demand that women be allowed to serve in front-line units.
In western society feminism often means an identification
with the oppressor rather than the oppressed and often the seeing of
underdeveloped societies as being inherently patriarchal. One can see this racist feminism as being
represented by far-right movements such as Gert Wilders in The Netherlands or
Marine Le Pen in France.
In Britain this Zionist feminist current came out into the
open in the wake of Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 1982 when 20,000 people were
killed and 70,000 were injured. It
resulted in a major split in the magazine of the feminist movement Spare Rib when one of
the collective Linda Bellos resigned claiming that her sense of Jewishness
(although she was also Black) was offended by an article supporting Palestinian
women. Before long there was a massive
split in the editorial collective between women of colour and the one Irish
woman and the white women.
It was in this atmosphere that Outwrite
a paper of Women of Colour was formed which was explicitly anti-racist and
anti-imperialist unlike the rather comfortable, middle class feminism of the
all-white Spare Rib.
In the United States the Zionist feminist wing has been
particularly strong. It is well
represented by people like Emily Shire, who has articulated her politics in a
recent op-Ed in the New York Times Does
Feminism Have Room for Zionists?
This article deserves attention because it displays, in all its
sickening hypocrisy the position of Zionist feminism, which in some ways, is
similar to a Zionist socialism which was built on the exclusion of Arabs from
their ‘socialist kibbutzim’.
Shire writes that she is:
troubled by the portion of the
International Women’s Strike platform that calls for a “decolonization of
Palestine” as part of “the beating heart of this new feminist movement.” The
platform also states: “We want to dismantle all walls, from prison walls to
border walls, from Mexico to Palestine.”
It says a lot for this racist that the idea of dismantling
the Apartheid Wall which confiscates Palestinian land behind the rubric of ‘security’
and which creates ghettos such as Bethlehem, disturbs her. Perhaps she might recollect one or two Jewish
ghettos in the Europe of the past. Or
maybe it is the decolonisation bit which disturbs her. The idea of no longer demolishing Arab
villages or confiscating their land or just attacking peaceful farmers or
fishermen which worries her?
Shire launches an attack on Rasmea
Yousef Odeh. She writes that Ms. Odeh, an immigrants’ and women’s rights
activist, ‘was convicted for her
involvement in a 1969 bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket that killed two Hebrew
University students and an attempted bombing of the British consulate.’ Perhaps she was, but the context is one of
occupation and Ms Shire is a supporter of Israeli colonisation by her own
admission. What Ms Odeh was convicted
of, in a colonial court, was an act of resistance.
Rasmea Odeh in 2015. Credit Paul Sancya/Associated Press
acknowledges that ‘the fairness of Ms.
Odeh’s conviction is debated, the fact that she was a member of the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was categorized as a terrorist
organization by the State Department, is not. The Anti-Defamation League
referred to Ms. Odeh as a terrorist and raised concern that in recent years,
“activism has been a tool for the legitimization of Rasmea Odeh, despite her
criminal record in Israel.”
you see, in all its naked glory, the ‘feminism’ of Shire. He accepts the right of the State Department to
label someone as a ‘terrorist’ without question. The fact that anyone opposing the US invasion
of Iraq was labelled a terrorist doesn’t seem to disturb this little ‘feminist’
Zionist. As for being a member of the PFLP,
it is a Marxist group in Palestine and should be the object of support by
socialists in this country and the USA, but this little racist prefers to rely
on the ADL and the State Department.
it is not only Shire. Other white privileged American Jewesses, unless they are able to break
out from their conditioning, exhibit the same political manifestations under
the label of Zionist feminism. Another
such is Phoebe Maltz
Bovy writing in the Forward. Her articleZionist
Feminist: Not An Oxymoron is another protest at the idea that the
liberation of women can be achieved by trampling over the rights of Palestinian
Bovy writes about what she perceives as ‘an intersectional obstacle to
feminist activism’. In other words, she
wants to fight for her own liberation by ignoring the oppression of
others. Which is Zionist Feminism summed
up in a nutshell.
Deir Yassin published yesterday here got me to thinking further about this
issue. I researched Rasmea’s case and the torture she endured. My
view is this is precisely the sort of case and individual any women’s movement should
embrace. Here is a summary of the facts of the case. In 1969, a
cell of the PFLP planted bombs at a Jerusalem Super-Sol. They exploded,
killing two Hebrew University students.
Demonstration by B’Tselem of forms of Shabak torture
security forces arrested Odeh and jailed her without charges or access to
counsel. She was tortured, by her account, for 45 days. Here is how
she described her treatment in
testimony to a UN commission on torture in Geneva:
beat me with sticks, plastic sticks, and with a metal bar. They beat me on the
head and I fainted as a result of these beatings. They woke me up several times
by throwing cold water in my face and then started all over again.”
addition to this physical torture, Odeh also faced sexual torture. Her father,
a U.S. citizen, was also arrested and beaten, “and once they brought in my
father and tried to force him under blows to take off his clothes and have
sexual relations with me.” Later, interrogators “tore my clothes off me while
my hands were still tied behind my back. They threw me to the ground completely
naked and the room was full of a dozen or so interrogators and soldiers who
looked at me and laughed sarcastically as if they were looking at a comedy or a
film. Obviously they started touching my body.” In her father’s presence,
interrogators threatened to “violate me” and “tried to introduce a stick to
break my maidenhead [hymen].” Shackled naked from the ceiling, interrogators
“tied my legs, which were spread-eagled, and they started to beat me with their
hands and also with cudgels.”
method described in her account is known from previous descriptions of the
treatment of Arab terror suspects. We know, for example, that Doron Zahavi,
an IDF AMAN officer, raped
Mustafa Dirani in Prison 504. The beatings and positions she
describes are also previously described in testimony
by the Public Committee to Prevent Torture in Israel. Therefore, it’s not
just conceivable that Rasmea endured the treatment she claims, it’s
almost a certainty. Especially given that two Israelis were killed
in the bombing.
summary, the Shin Bet tried to force her father to rape her. The
interrogators themselves raped her and further degraded her sexually. And
her father was tortured as a means of compelling her to confess. If this
isn’t a perfect portrait of a cause that all feminists should embrace, I don’t
know what is. So when Shire claims that Palestine is the farthest thing
from what Women’s Strike Day’s mission should be, she’s engaging in willful
blindness to the plight of another woman. A woman who happens to be
was tried and convicted in an Israeli military court, which features military
judges and prosecutors using rules that favor the prosecution and shackle the
hands of the defense. It can rule any evidence secret and so prevent the
defense from seeing it, let alone rebutting it. Such a conviction could
never withstand scrutiny under U.S. criminal procedures or even Israeli
Shire justifies her denunciation of Odeh by noting that Israel denies torturing
Rasmea. So you have an Israeli security apparatus which is well-known for
lying when evidence against it is damning. And you have Rasmea’s
testimony, supported by scores of accounts by other security prisoners as to
their treatment under similar circumstances. It reminds me of the story
of the husband who returns home to find his wife in bed with another man.
The man jumps out of bed and says: “Hey, this isn’t what this looks like.
Nothing happened. I swear it. Who are you going to believe?
Me, or your lyin’ eyes?” Emily Shire prefers to believe the agency
that lies to her with a straight face. In doing so, she shows that she is
a Zionist first and foremost; and a feminist second, if at all.
the citizenship application infractions which the Justice Department is
exploiting in order to expel her from the U.S.: she had been tortured once by
Israel. Her decision to hide her previous conviction was surely founded
on a fear that she might be deported once again back to Israel or Jordan (where
Israel had sent her after her release from prison). The Jordanian
security apparatus collaborates
closely with Israeli intelligence. The former is quite handy with
torture itself. Further, the U.S. judge in her first trial prohibited her
attorney from raising torture as part of her defense. Her second trial
will explicitly permit such testimony. Though I’m not privy to the
defense strategy, I hope it will demand that a Shabak officer who participated
in her interrogation testify at trial. And if his testimony diverges from
the truth, I hope there is means to document this and hold him accountable.
It would be one of the first times such an agent would be held
accountable legally either inside or outside Israel.
attacks against Rasmea, it’s certainly reasonable to bring up her participation
in an act of terrorism: as long as you also examine the entire case against
her. She admitted participation in the attack. But she denied
placing the bomb in the supermarket. Despite her denial, this was the
crime for which she was convicted. Further, Rasmea was released after
serving ten years as part of a prisoner exchange. If Israel saw fit to
release her, what is the point of using her alleged past crime against her
her membership in a terror organization, she has long since left the militant
movement. Her civic activism is solely non-violent these days.
Further, virtually every leader of Israel for the first few decades of
its existence either participated directly in, or ordered acts of terror
against either British or Palestinian targets. Why do we grant to Israel
what we deny to Palestinians?
It may be
no accident that two days before Shire’s broadside against the U.S. feminist
movement (and Rasmea) in the NY Times, the Chicago Tribune published
another hit-piece against her. The latter was credited to a retired
Chicago professor. Her bio neglected to mention that she is also a
Breitbart contributor who is the local coördinator for StandWithUs. This
sin of omission attests either to editorial slacking or a deliberate attempt to
conceal relevant biographical details which would permit readers to judge the
content of the op-ed in proper context.
Tribune op-ed denounces Jewish Voice for Peace’s invitation to Rasmea to
address its annual conference in Chicago later this month. As I wrote in
last night’s post, what truly irks the Israel Lobby is the growing sense of
solidarity among feminist, Jewish, Palestinian, Black and LGBT human rights
organizations. Its response is to divide by sowing fear, doubt and lies
in the media. The two op-eds in the Times and Tribute are stellar
examples of the genre and indicate a coordinated campaign against what they
deride as intersectionality.
past few weeks, a storm has been brewing between women who call themselves
“Zionist feminists” and the organizers of the U.S.-affiliate of the
International Women’s Strike. It began with a NY
Times op-ed by Emily Shire, described as the political editor of a
women’s website, Bustle. She decried the supposed lack of inclusivity in
the platform for U.S.
Women’s Strike because it contained statements hostile to Israel.
Here is the “offending” passage:
Antiracist and Anti-imperialist Feminism
the open white supremacists in the current government and the far right and
anti-Semites they have given confidence to, we stand for an uncompromising
anti-racist and anti-colonial feminism. This means that movements such as Black
Lives Matter, the struggle against police brutality and mass incarceration, the
demand for open borders and for immigrant rights and for the decolonization
of Palestine are for us the beating heart of this new feminist movement. We
want to dismantle all walls, from prison walls to border walls, from Mexico to
Emily Shire, valiant defender of Zion against ravages of feminism and intersectionality
also objects to the inclusion amongst the organizers of the project, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a
Palestinian-American activist convicted by an Israeli court of a 41 year-old
bombing which killed several Israelis. The Palestinian activist’s ancient
affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine serves as
evidence to support the claim: once a terrorist, always a terrorist.
seems oblivious to the fact that Israel has had two prime ministers guilty of
mounting terror attacks against Palestinians, which killed far more people than
the bombing which Odeh is purported to have carried out.
a larger strategy behind Shire’s op-ed. It is part of the Israel Lobby’s
attempt to divide the U.S. progressive movement so that hostility toward
Israeli policies is rendered treif. In that way, the Lobby
believes it can deprive the anti-Occupation movement of support from Black
Lives Matters and the LGBT rights community, among others. That’s why
human rights activists, in turn, fight so hard against hasbara efforts like pinkwashing, Blackwashing, greenwashing,
attempts to render the Woman’s Day program treif by painting herself as both a
liberal feminist and liberal Zionist:
I hope for a two-state solution and am critical of certain Israeli government
policies, I identify as a Zionist because I support Israel’s right to exist as
a Jewish state. Increasingly, I worry that my support for Israel will bar me
from the feminist movement that, in aiming to be inclusive, has come to insist
that feminism is connected to a wide variety of political causes.
happy to debate Middle East politics or listen to critiques of Israeli
policies. But why should criticism of Israel be key to feminism in 2017?
indeed? Because many, if not most feminists believe it to be so.
Just as the Black Lives Matter has declared solidarity with the
Palestinian struggle. It’s the height of chutzpah that a privileged
white Jewish woman tells all of America’s feminists that the cause of
Palestinian women shouldn’t be their business.
objects to the feminist movement dividing its energy by embracing causes not
central to issues facing women. This is the same argument that
African-American men made when African-American women embraced
the feminist movement in the early 1970s. They argued that Black
women were diluting the power of the civil rights struggle by diverging from
the purity of its original agenda.
Martin Luther King was assaulted with
similar arguments when he first announced his opposition to the Vietnam War.
Eventually, all the naysayers were proven wrong. All such movements
need to be broad-based and inclusive. If you cut yourself off from
surrounding political struggles, you deprive your own movement of new energy
arguing that Palestine isn’t central to the feminist movement, Shire appears to
be wearing a thick set of Zio-blinders: Palestinian women certainly wouldn’t
see the Palestinian cause as peripheral to their own struggle as women living
under Israeli Occupation. Further, she appears to believe that by
supporting a two-state solution and being critical of “certain” Israeli
policies she’s established her bona fides as a truly liberal individual.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. When Donald Trump and Bibi
Netanyahu can both claim to support a two-state solution while supporting the
building of settlements and continuation of Occupation, the term has lost any
passage, Shire further illustrates her moral obtuseness:
that mass incarceration is analogous to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and
that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is analogous to Donald Trump’s desire to
build a wall along the Mexican border is simplistic at best.
the suffering of Gaza under siege if not “mass incarceration? What is
Israel’s apartheid wall if not an apt equivalent to Trump’s border wall?
Simplistic? Not at all.
can’t even seem to spare a single kind word for her Palestinian sisters.
Instead, she heaps them with scorn and derision. Rasmea is little
more than a terrorist, which makes the Women’s Day organizers little more than
accessories to her alleged crimes.
acknowledges Odeh’s claim that her confession was elicited under torture, which
she then dismisses, noting a perfunctory Israeli denial of torture. She
neglects to mention that Israel’s secret police are well-known for their extensive
use of torture in eliciting confessions. Further, intelligence of any
sort gained through torture is notoriously unreliable, as would be her
Shabak have even murdered terror suspects after they were captured and
neutralized. So why is it such a surprise to think Odeh might be innocent
and her confession obtained under duress? Could it be that Shire’s
Zionism trumps her sisterly solidarity with Odeh? If so, it seems a
betrayal of the very feminist values she claims to hold dear.
Shire manages to drag BDS into the debate, even though it isn’t mentioned in
the Women’s Strike statement:
strange to see academic groups supporting the B.D.S. movement, which stifles
the free flow of knowledge. But regardless of your opinion on the B.D.S. issue,
it has nothing to do with feminism.
stifling the free flow of knowledge? Israel. It prevents
Palestinian graduate students from leaving their homes to study abroad.
It threatens activists who support BDS with deportation if they try to
enter Israel. It offers legal penalties against those who mention the
Palestinian Nakba. Its security forces even prevent Israeli academic
conferences from hosting talks by Israeli
professors who are deemed “hostile” to the security state. As for
whether BDS has anything to do with feminism: as I mentioned the Women’s Strike
made no reference to BDS, so Shire is engaging with a chimera. But if it
did, why wouldn’t the suffering of Palestinian women be a legitimate subject
both for BDS and the Women’s Strike? In fact, Israeli wars against
Palestinians unduly impact the women who are often left vulnerable in their
homes as they seek to protect their children. The numbers of dead are
always much higher for women and children than men, under Israeli military
Sarsour, another leader of the Women’s Strike, added her own critique of
Shire’s piece with an interview
in The Nation.
closing, Shire posits a tired, cliche-ridden version of Zionism. She even
proudly notes in her Twitter profile that her high
school yearbook featured prominently quotes from Golda Meir and Carrie Bradshaw
(!). In this post, I am criticizing this nostalgic, retro-Zionism.
But not a more progressive form of Zionism which can embrace the principles of BDS and
transforming Israel into a state for all its citizens.