Pro-Equality Rep Pulls Out of Feminist Bar Ilan Conference

A representative of a group that advocates parental equality in divorce says she refuses to be 'fig leaf' in biased event.

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A representative of a group that advocates for parental equality in divorce has pulled out of a militant feminist conference that will be held Tuesday at Bar Ilan University's Rackman Center.

The representative, Ruthy Daniel, is an activist in "Horut Shava" (Equal Parenting), a group that advocates abolition of the Tender Years Clause that gives women automatic custody over children under six in divorce. In a letter to Rackman Center head Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kadari, she cited concern that she was being used as a "fig leaf" to grant legitimacy to a conference that she sees as biased.

Daniel expressed her disappointment at what she defined as "narrow mindedness and avoidance of a fair, genuine and fruitful debate."

Daniel represented Horut Shava in the Schnitt Committee, a government-appointed committee that deliberated for almost seven years about possible alternatives to the Tender Years Clause. The committee's recommendations were handed in to the Justice Minister this week. They call for the abolition of the Tender Years Clause and for its replacement with an approach that replaces the word "custody" with the term "parental arrangements" and seeks to make both parents equal partners in post-divorce parenting.

The conference at Bar Ilan is the ninth annual conference on "Women, Law and Family in Israel." Among the scheduled speakers in the second part of the conference are Prof. Dan Schnitt, who headed the Schnitt committee and who favors abolishing the Tender Years Clause. However, the first part of the conference is a closed-doors session intended only for social workers. All three speakers in that conference will be militant feminists who are avowed opponents of the abolition of the Clause. 

Pro-family and fathers' rights activists see the conference as a ploy intended to empty the Schnitt Committee's recommendations of all content. According to a spokesman for the Family Lobby, "the militant feminist organizers are in effect telling the social workers – ignore the Schnitt Committee's recommendations." Social workers' opinions, he notes, are crucial in deciding issues of parenting arrangements in divorce proceedings.

The Family Lobby noted that one of the key speakers at the conference is Dr. Dafna Hacker, who also represented the academia in the Schnitt Committee. Hacker is a co-founder of Itach-Maaki, an extremist feminist group that is one of the New Israel Fund's flagship organizations. Among the group's controversial actions was a request to join the legal defense for Erica Orbush Fridkin, a woman who  murdered her boyfriend whom she suspected of cheating on her, in 2003.

Besides the anti-male and anti-family bias of Bar Ilan's gender studies program, a radical political bent has also come under criticism, in a religious Zionist university that originally represented a sector associated with social conservatism and centrist-nationalist political views. 

The spokesman for Bar Ilan University told Arutz Sheva: "The conference is academically based and all views will be heard in it. The first part is a meeting intended for social workers and will be followed by an open panel whose participants represent varied opinions regarding child custody."