Feminism, Zionism, Advocacy: Without Mutual Exclusion

Feminism has always been my thing. Sadly, I didn’t go to a high school that highly promoted equality; thus, I have always been known as the feminist. If people had questions about women’s issues they would asked me. Somehow at 15, I needed to know every nuanced argument about abortion, equal pay and anything else that affected women.   Therefore, this international women’s day was very exciting because I am surrounded by like minded people here at Penn.  In my life, it was always that my feminism was a dirty word and not my Zionism.

At Penn, I have never felt that being a Zionist or pro-Israel is ever an issue. In today’s modern society, some of the ideals I hold most dear seem to contradict one another in liberal causes. The most important thing to understand is that you can be both a Zionist and a feminist.

About a week ago was International Women’s Day which was celebrated across the globe. This year it was extra personal because of the current political climate. Thus the Women’s March on Washington decided to call the day, “A Day Without A Woman”. They encouraged women to stay home from work if it was financially feasible and to wear red that day in solidarity.

I agree wholeheartedly with the movement. As a die-hard feminist, I believe that inequalities in the workforce and in every aspect of life must be spoken about in order to end them. We must fight for our rights in order to create equality.

The issue I have with many of these movements is that they get corrupted and put off track. For example, a Day Without A Woman was signed by a terrorist Rasmea Yousef Odeh. Here is a little background on Rasmea Yousef Odeh. She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which is a U.S. designated terrorist organization. In 1969, she participated in the bombing of a supermarket in Jerusalem, Israel which subsequently murdered two innocent Israelis. She was found guilty to have participated in two terrorist attacks in Israel and was sentenced to a life in prison. During a prisoner swap, she was released and moved to Jordan. From there, she applied for U.S. citizenship and was granted it until she was convicted of immigration fraud. How can a movement based in such great ideals have a terrorist help lead the movement? How is this a woman to promote equality when she clearly does not care for the lives of Israelis? We cannot glorify a signer of a Day Without A Woman when she is a terrorist.

Another movement I align myself with is The Black Lives Matter Movement. I agree that black people in this country and across the world are not treated equally and are the subject of immense racism. It is absolutely despicable and we must change the current state of America. But again this movement has been corrupted by anti Israel rhetoric. In their platform, they discuss the “genocide” that the Israelis are inflicting on the Palestinians. First of all, how does Israel have anything to do with their movement and how does discussing Israel enhance their movement? The only country they call out is Israel. They do not call out Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, North Korea and I can continue listing many countries with immense human rights violations. In their platform they go on for paragraphs about how the United States should stop giving aid to Israel. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, therefore when the U.S. sends military aid over they are creating stability in the region.

Secondly, it is completely unfair to either call Israel the perpetrators of genocide or an apartheid state. All citizens of Israel have full equal rights. Arabs have 17 seats in the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, and occupy top positions in the Israeli police force. All women, including Muslims, Christians, Palestinians, and Jews, are granted the right to vote. According to Freedom House, a U.S. Government funded non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, stated that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is free while the West Bank and Gaza who are ruled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are completely not free. The injustices in Gaza are perpetrated by Hamas, a terrorist organization and not Israel.

These movements are completely undermining the existence of the State of Israel.  You can be a feminist, a promoter of equality and a Zionist at the same time. Being a Zionist means that you believe in the development and protection of the Jewish State in Israel. When people undermine the only country in the world that is home to the Jews, it is bordering on anti-Semitism.

Both Jews and Israel have been pioneers in the fight for equality. Jews have deep roots in the Civil Rights Movement in America by helping create the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and were an integral part to marching alongside Martin Luther King Jr. My own cousin helped register African Americans to vote in Mississippi and Alabama in 1962.

Israel had a female Prime Minister in 1969. Can we say the same thing about that in America?

I am not saying people cannot criticize Israel because every country does wrong. I just do not believe that it is fair that every liberal cause takes a negative stance on Israel and undermines its existence. If anything there is no reason to comment on Israel in their platforms because it takes away from the core issue.

As a self identifying liberal, I ask these causes to not alienate me because of my stance on Israel.

  

3 comments on “Feminism, Zionism, Advocacy: Without Mutual Exclusion”

  1. Krishnan Reply

    Caroline, you’d do well to educate yourself further on some of the issues you address before taking a stand that denies the intersectionality of the problems that you outline here. To begin with, you smear Rasmea Yousef Odeh as a ‘terrorist’ but fail to acknowledge that her confession was obtained through torture and rape at the hands of Israeli authorities. If the humiliation, torture, and rape of a woman for political reasons at the hands of the government isn’t evidence of the connection between feminism and the Palestinian womens’ struggle, I don’t know what is. You advance a one-sided narrative to dismiss that connection.

    Furthermore, with respect to Black Lives Matter, I find it impossible to believe that you can’t see the connection between the gunning down of black people by the heavily militarized American police to the gunning down of young Palestinians by occupation forces. I’m sure you consider yourself somebody who believes in fairness, so how can you say with a straight face that the “West Bank [is] … ruled by the Palestinian Authority” when huge swaths are under Israeli civil and military control and there are new settlements built to swallow up more land and make peace untenable. Stating that Israel grants full freedoms to its Arab citizens ignores the terror it unleashes upon the Palestinians it governs without their consent or voice through the occupation.

    The connections between Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian Liberation cause are more than theoretical – they are concrete. When tear gas was employed against protesters in Ferguson, who was it that sent them instructions on how best to mitigate the effects? Palestinian activists. Why? Because they recognized that the struggle for human dignity is universal and should be supported everywhere and acted accordingly.

    It’s easy to talk about singular examples like that of Golda Meir but it’s harder to talk about the structural similarities between American oppression of its black and brown people and the settler-colonial project being perpetuated against brown bodies in the Palestine. That difficulty is what makes such discussions necessary.

    I urge you to look past your bubble that permits you to not see the connections between these causes and instead to embrace the core tenets of solidarity and justice that we associate with liberalism and leftism. Anything less is hypocrisy and an intentional choice to stand on the side of oppression.

    • Stephen Miller Reply

      Krishnan, you’d also do well to educate yourself further on these issues before associating a pro-Palestinian stance as being synonymous with the “core tenets of solidarity and justice.” I apologize for the length of my response, but you indicated a desire to begin a conversation so I took the opportunity to do so.

      To start, you claim the author “smear[s]” Ms. Odeh by calling her a “‘terrorist.'” The plain fact is that a court found Ms. Odeh guilty of participating in a terrorist attack that led to the death of two and the injury of many. By using quotes on the word terrorist, are you implying that the court decision is invalid? If that is your reasoning, then are all Israeli court decisions invalid? While you may personally want to believe Ms. Odeh did not actually participate in the attack, you offer no proof of that claim. If it is true that she was sexually assaulted and tortured in an Israeli prison, that is despicable and the guilty parties should be punished. But to claim that “the humiliation, torture, and rape of a woman for political reasons at the hands of the government” is at best a theory (offered by her attorneys at the trial) since there is seemingly no evidence to back that claim. If Ms. Odeh’s accusations are true, then like I said that is despicable and those involved should be punished, but for now you are defending a convicted terrorist who was sentenced to a life in prison. It is not a “smear” to simply recount a fact. She is a convicted terrorist (and also seems to have lied about that to the US). If you do in fact think all Israeli judicial decisions are inherently biased and invalid, I will point out a famous Israeli commander, Ofek Buchris, was actually just convicted of sexual assault in a very high profile case. Lastly, I just have to say that from an Israeli perspective, the fact that the Palestinian authority still provides financial rewards to families of terrorists amounting to $300 million a year does not seem to put them on the moral high ground of convicting their own for illegal acts.

      Moving on to your BLM argument, I will agree that there are parallels between the US and Israel in that the police forces in both countries have used unnecessary force in dealing with civilians. However, you fail to mention why the police forces are acting in both situations. The BLM movement and Ferguson, as you specifically mention, in the US were largely sparked by a number of incidences in which unarmed, non-violent African Americans were subject to unnecessary deadly force by police officers. Israeli police officers, instead, are dealing with a population of Palestinian civilians that have a history of violence against Israeli police officers. If the Intifadas are too long ago to support this argument, one need only be reminded of the various stabbing attacks against Israeli soldiers that occurred in the latter part of 2016. Now, I won’t argue that Israeli police officers have never used unnecessary force when dealing with Palestinian civilians. No government or police force is perfect, especially in tense situations. But comparing an African American civilian in suburban America to a Palestinian civilian in the West Bank simply ignores the history of violence that Israeli soldiers are dealing with and American police officers are not. Much life ignoring the victims of Ms. Odehs terrorist attack, you again conveniently ignore the very reason why Israel sees it as necessary to have a wall on the border of the West Bank and soldiers in the area. This takes credibility away from your argument. Acknowledge the long history of violence perpetrated against Israel and its citizens and then we can start to have a debate on the balance between security and brutality.

      Now, you argue that Palestinians reached out to BLM activists on how to mitigate the effects of tear gas. Would you agree with the following point: it makes strategic sense for the Palestinian movement to link itself with the BLM movement because the BLM movement is sympathetic and the brutal police force is clearly in the wrong. Rather than recognize that the “struggle for human dignity is universal and should be supported everywhere,” it would seem to make a lot more sense that Palestinian advocates saw a chance to associate themselves with a sympathetic movement and jumped at the opportunity. Like I previously stated, the movements differ in a extremely significant way (the history of violence Israelis have dealt with that American police officers haven’t), but it was a great chance to start swaying the American public despite the dissimilar facts. Although admittedly cynical, this explanation seems to make much more sense than pursuing some greater moral goal.

      I will also point out that most Israelis are “brown” so the whole “being perpetuated against brown bodies in Palestine” argument doesn’t really make sense. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a religious conflict, not a race conflict.

      In wrapping this up, I’d also just like to get your viewpoint on the issue of the Israeli “occupation” as you put it. The British Mandate for Palestine was a fairly large area that the British divided up into what is now Israel, Jordan, and parts of Lebanon and Syria. My first question is – are Jordan, Lebanon and Syria consequently also occupying Palestinian land? Israel was attacked by 3 Arab countries in 1967 in what became known as the 6 day war. As victors of the war Israel seized land, mainly the Golan Heights from Syria, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, and part of the Sinai from Egypt. So my second set of questions – was Jordan illegally occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem prior to the 6 day war? If Israel were to release the West Bank should it not go back to Jordan? Lastly, if your country is attacked and you win the war and seize territory, are you then forever illegally occupying that land (I guess the US should give back Texas to Mexico!)?

      Thanks and I look forward to your response!

  2. Peter Fishkind Reply

    Hey Krishnan,

    Thank you for commenting earlier to let me know you posted this earlier. Message me if you’d like to grab coffee to discuss this further. I don’t think we’ll be able to dig into much of this via comment thread.

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