Prof. Phyllis CheslerThe writer, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum and recipient of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, is the author of sixteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has written four studies about honor killing, Her latest books are An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) and Living History: On The Front Lines for Israel and the Jews.Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com
As someone who has long been on record as both a feminist and a Zionist, I know how hard it is to maintain both loyalties. Increasingly, what passes for both left-liberal “feminism” and “Zionism,” has been taken over by poisonous, pro-Palestinian propaganda and by a suicidal alliance with Jew-haters, Jew-killers, and barbaric misogynists.
I chose not to write about the faux-feminist Women’s Marches of 2017, but I did give two interviews about the issues involved. I experienced some immediate blowback—all on the same day and within hours of each other.
A feminist artist sent round a spirited defense of convicted Palestinian terrorist, Rasmea Odeh, who joined Linda Sarsour as a feminist leader (!) on International Women’s Day. Based on “false news” at Snopes, she and other left feminists are happily persuaded that the Israelis sexually tortured this woman and her father for 45 days before Odeh issued a false confession. To them, Odeh is a hero of the Resistance.
The idea that feminists might believe that the Israelis did something like this was sickening, but even more so, due to their relative silence about the tortures perpetrated by ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban on women.
Almost immediately after my interviews appeared, a liberal feminist activist sent me photos of women in severe hijab and niqab (face masks) who were demonstrating in Washington D.C. on International Women’s Day. She asked me not to share these photos and to never attribute them to her. Why in God’s name is she so afraid of being associated with portraying a visible truth, objective reality?
Then, another liberal feminist retired activist sent me an anxious and challenging email. The interview I had given to The Algemeiner had raised no hackles but my interview in Breitbart must mean that I am an “alt-righter anti-Semite." She was genuinely confused because she believes with all her heart that the Trump Administration and Breitbart are both anti-Semitic and “alt-right.” Please, could I explain myself? This senior citizen was genuinely distraught; other feminists had called this to her attention.
These three episodes all took place on the same day within hours of each other.
But the best was yet to come. I am referring to Peter Beinart’s March 8th and Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s March 9th articles about Israel’s new travel ban on those who view Israel as an "apartheid" state; oppose the Israeli “settlement” of the Jewish homeland; and fight to isolate and de-legitimize Israel by boycotting Israeli academics, speakers, leaders, and products.
On Beinart’s and Pogrebin’s behalf: I know. American Jews have a special relationship to the one and only Jewish state. It is core to our identity and serves as a “refuge” if and when it is needed, geographically, militarily, or psychologically. American Jews have sent funding for many Israel-based projects and have lobbied the American government on behalf of—and against--Israeli interests.
This has emboldened many liberal-left American Jews in the belief that they have the right and the money-power to dictate Israel’s foreign and domestic policy, the right to demand that Israel behave as if it were a country located in a large city on either the east or west coast of America.
Oh yes, Jews are different, really “special,” but not always in a good way. Thus, one would have to search far and wide for the American non-Jewish descendants of immigrants from Ireland, England, Germany, Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, and Poland, whose core identity resides in the constant attempt to exert similar pressure on a sovereign country where they do not live, vote, pay taxes, or serve in the army—but where their ancestors once lived.
Actually, few American Jews have ancestors who lived in Israel—at least, not since Biblical times. Ironically, understandably, Ashkenazi Jews do not demand that Germany, Holland, France, Italy, or Poland continue to answer to them in terms of contemporary foreign or domestic policy simply because their ancestors once lived there, however happily or unhappily, and from whence they fled.
It is my impression that American Jews, (Sephardi or Mizrachi), who fled Arab and Muslim countries are much quieter about globally criticizing Israel; they tend to support whatever government is in power. Perhaps they understand something about how Muslim regimes and countries have treated Jews that the American descendants of European Jews absolutely refuse to comprehend, namely, that as Jews, we are hated; that Muslim religious leaders, armies, politicians, police officers, journalists and civilians hate Israel simply because it is a Jewish state; that no amount of appeasement will work given the history of the last 1,400 years and the profound anti-Jewish indoctrination that still continues today.
Finally, many American left-liberal Jews believe that Israel only deserves to exist, i.e. that they remain willing to argue the case for Israel to Jew-haters, but only if Israel serves as a “light unto the nations;” is kind to the strangers in their midst; is ethically perfect, more so than any other nation on earth, and is willing to risk certain death for the sake of its principles. The corollary: If Israel is not perfect, it has no right to exist.
Thus, Beinart and Pogrebin are in favor of “ethnically cleansing” the 'West Bank' (Yehuda and Shomron) of Jews—of rendering it “judenrein,” just as the rest of the Arab and Muslim world already is. They are also condemning Arab Palestinians and/or a minority of Jews to live under the corrupt and increasingly Islamist tyranny of either Hamas or The Palestinian Authority.
To protest Israel’s travel ban against clear and present danger, against those who plot against her, both Beinart and Pogrebin begin by trotting out their credentials as Jews and as the children of Zionists. They are indignant that their brand of “tough love”--for Israel’s own good--has suddenly been called into question.
Isn’t their version of Zionism: Criticizing Israel first and Israel-only their parental duty and ethical obligation as Jews? How can this be wrong, not to mention dangerous to Israel’s survival?
In this century of existential peril for Israel, Beinart and Pogrebin represent the kind of American Jew who thinks he or she know what’s best for their favorite foreign country—the country they most love to criticize.
Despite all objective evidence to the contrary, Beinart continues to view Israel as an “apartheid” nation state. His parents decided to leave South Africa because “although they love South Africa they opposed apartheid…and when the tension between their lives and their principles grew too great, they chose the latter.”
Beinart presents his support for a boycott of “settlements” as a principled act, and himself as a hero. He will not be visiting Israel anytime soon (although he’ll send his young children). “In my family, we have a tradition. We lose countries but we keep our self-respect.”
He presents himself as a Good Son, a traditionalist.
Pogrebin also sees herself as a hero because not only were her parents and grandparents Jews and Zionists but because she herself has connected to a left-feminist Israel that holds the same views held by Manhattan’s Upper West Side Jews. She has also written “critical articles and signed Open Letters protesting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and decrying the settlement enterprise.” As a proud member of "Americans for Peace Now, and a supporter of B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, ACRI, and the New Israel Fund," she believes that precisely such alliances will shame any border officer who turns her away from Israel as her “guaranteed refuge,” and her “second home.”
In Pogrebin's view, she has been strengthening Israel by criticizing and defaming it, even after Arafat turned down the Oslo Accords; even after he unleashed a savage Intifida against Israel that blew up Israeli civilians in their beds, on their streets, in their buses, and synagogues; even as the entire world began to call for Jewish and Israeli blood; even as the rockets fell on Sderot; even as Western campuses became increasingly dangerous for Jewish and/or for pro-Israel students; even after Obama’s terrible deal with Iran and his UN Resolution 2334; even after a “spike” in anti-Semitism in Europe and North America; even as Israel is now in easy rocket range of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran.
I have no doubt that Beinart and Pogrebin believe they only want to save Israel’s soul; that they believe that such salvation will lead to real peace; and that they alone know how to bring this about.
But what if they are wrong—and more Israelis are blown up, kidnapped-and-tortured, stabbed, rammed? What if such continued efforts to boycott Israel “for its own good,” leads to continued disaster? What if left-liberal American Jews are missing the geo-political alignment that is underway between Israel, Egypt, the Gulf States, and India—an alliance which may render America less important to Israel’s survival? And the existence and identity of American Jews more tenuous?
Indeed, what if.