Anger in Jewish Home: Women’s Day for Arabs only?

Jewish Home activists walk out of Knesset event when they discover they had been duped into a radical leftist-Arab conference.

Gil Ronen ,

Muslim women (illustration)
Muslim women (illustration)
Flash 90

Female activists in the Jewish Home who came to the Knesset Tuesday at the behest of MK Shuli Mualem to take part in the International Women’s Day events were sorely disappointed to discover they had been duped.

The activists realized, too late, that the day was primarily devoted to the Left’s perception of the plight of Arab women in eastern Jerusalem, whereas Jewish majority perspectives on women’s issues were not addressed at all.

An angry summary of the day’s events was posted by the administrators on the Hebrew Facebook page of the Secular HQ in the Jewish Home.

Female activists from the Secular HQ said that they had been looking forward to the Women’s Day event and were happy to meet other female activists from the Jewish Home along with MK Mualem. This enthusiasm soured when they sat down at the main event, to which all of the women had been invited. The administrators wrote:

“One could see that the women who were present at the event did not represent the female population of Israel. The feeling was that women from the Arab sector, which is a minority in the general population, were an absolute majority in the audience (did someone make sure to organize transportation?). In the course of the event, a presentation was shown that delved into the inequality experienced by Israeli women. The focus was on Arab women whose situation is intrinsically different from that of the general female population, and thus the goal was achieved.”

One participant, Dafna Etzion, said that she shared her feelings with MK Mualem. “I am sitting in the Knesset Auditorium in honor of International Women’s Day,” she wrote the MK: 

“How wonderful. In the Knesset – so I thought – we will bridge the differences in the approaches of Left and Right, young women and older ones. Because we are all women. And we are in favor of equal rights for women. We will hear how women in Israel can be advanced to more senior positions, to equality in wages. How to prevent gender-based harassment. And mainly, we will hear how women’s feeling of security in Israel can be reinforced. I did not imagine, at that point, that the main threat to women to be discussed would be the state’s institutions…”

“The first panel, on the promising subject of women’s feeling of security, dealt mostly with the threat and fear that (Arab) women feel from the state institutions, and Arab women’s fear that their homes would be razed (hmm, I wonder why the state of Israel would want to raze their homes). After this, a promising panel of female MKs was made up only of women from the leftist side of the political map, and I would not raise this if the subject had really been women and their advancement. But no. In this panel, too, the main topic was advancement of Arab women, and there was some mention of homosexual reservist men (whose connection to Women’s Day is unclear).”

Etzion wondered: “”How is it possible that the Committee for Advancement of Women initiates such an event, and a sizable part of the committee’s members do not take part in the event? And how can it be that women from all of Israel, and all parts of the political spectrum, are invited, yet they leave in the middle because of lack of interest and relevance? How did Women’s Day turn into a political tool of the Left and the Arabs? Most of the time I felt ashamed for the state of Israel in its present predicament. I stayed until 1:30 PM, only so I could voice my opinion, so that for two minutes, at least, there would be representation for the opinions of most of Israel’s women. Too bad.”

Later on Wednesday, Etzion quoted MK Mualem’s response:

“Regrettably,” wrote the MK, “in contravention of any form of proper behavior – and it is proper that International Women’s Day should touch all women in Israeli society (the Arab ones are also a part of it) – the committee chairwoman chose to take this day to a completely political realm.

“I regret this very much and I realize that the behavior that we all experienced at the committee overtakes everything,” she added. “I spoke to her yesterday (the reference is to Committee Chairwoman MK Aida Touma Sliman of the Arab Joint List – ed.) and expressed my sorrow and disappointment. From my perspective, this really was an invitation to a meaningful day for women in the Knesset.”

“Next time,” she promised, “I will check carefully not only what the subjects are but also who the speakers are.”

Another participant, Galit Giuili, added: “I, too, was there with that feeling… The truth is that I felt one thing – that my intelligence and ability to understand things were being insulted… It was clear that the Left and the Arabs, once again, had advanced their agenda on this day, which should have been one of liberation and beauty.”

Arutz Sheva notes that MK Mualem was approached by then-MK Moshe Feiglin in the 19th Knesset, to co-chair a Family Values Caucus. She refused. When asked how she agrees to cooperate with the gender movement, when it is largely funded and controlled by the radical New Israel Fund (NIF), her response was: "if the NIF didn't fund this, who would?"

The caucus foundered because no MK would join it.