Daily Israel Report

MK Shamalov-Berkowitz: Feminism Turned into 'Jihad'

Despite criticism from extremist feminists, MK Shamalov-Berkowitz continues her stand for family values at a Knesset conference.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/16/2011, 3:30 PM / Last Update: 2/16/2011, 4:00 PM

Knesset Photo

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkowitz of the Kadima party continues to criticize Israel's extremist feminist leaders in her stand for family values. Shalamov-Berkowitz told attendees at the Knesset Conference for Gender Equality on Wednesday, "Enlightened feminism has been hijacked by radical feminists. We call it 'the Feminist Jihad.'"

Shamalov-Berkowitz, who recently accused extremist feminist leaders of exaggerating claims of sexual harassment, and of hurting families by uncritically supporting programs for single mothers, said, "radical feminism pressures the 'enlightened' to fund organizations that harm the family."

"The State of Israel is founded on the values of community and unity, but funds activities of organizations working to split the family and enshrine individualism," Shamalov-Berkowitz said, adding she thought the Jewish State should legislate to strengthen the organic family, including state subsidies for counseling. "Today only a family with means can go for marital counseling, but on the other hand, the cost of a divorce can run up to NIS 100,000 for each side. There is a huge money industry on the backs [of divorcing families]."

Shamalov-Berkowitz recommended providing new parents with parenting courses for free, allowing maternity leave for men independent of their wife's maternity leave, and a longer school day "to ensure the safety of children in a safe environment." Causing a media firestorm last month, Shamalov-Berkowitz attacked the trend of women intentionally becoming a single mother and seeking benefits. "Its kind of a bon ton to be one [a single mother] - to make a baby outside the family and seek benefits from the state."

She also spoke out against what she said were exaggerated depictions of sexual harassment, specifically citing Dr. Orly Innes's complaints against police Commander Uri Bar-Lev. "What interests the women's organizations? Sexual harassment," said Shamalov-Berkowitz. "Why? It [makes for] yellow [journalism]! Of course I oppose the vile acts of sexual harassment and rape. People who perpetrate these acts are destined to rot in jail. But maybe it's about education."

Shamalov-Berkowtiz said parents should begin to give their children boundaries and let them experience their childhood. "They should be children, they can not be adults at age six. We must restore sanity."

The conference was attended by over 120 people, half of them women, who expressed anger at the anti-male trend in contemporary Israeli society. One speaker, a man in his 50s named Oded, described the agony of having to meet his three-year-old daughter for 90 minutes a week in a strictly supervised "visitation center," simply because of unfounded allegations filed against him by his ex-wife. Another speaker, retired educator Eti Avraham, mother to a divorced father, spoke of the pain of being unable to see her granchildren regularly because the court granted her son limited parenting time.

Researcher Dr. Eli Rohn presented research by noted expert Murray Straus showing that Israeli women were more violent than men in some categories of intimate partner violence.

Sexologist Iris Brown explained, "there are studies indicating the tendency to homosexuality and lesbianism is genetic, but it also stems from a lack of a father figure. We should reinforce male relationships in the family."

Familism Chairman Gil Ronen called the conference "our Tahrir Square," in a reference to the epicenter of the revolution in Egypt. "The genuine revolution starts here," he added. Also represented at the conference were fathers' rights groups Two Parents and Hakshava, which demand equal parenting rights for divorced parents of both sexes.  

Pro-family activists hailed the conference as a breakthrough and explained that while criticism of the excesses of feminism has been stifled by the press for decades, Shamalov-Berkovich's courage and conviction have broken the media silence on the issue.