Sunday, 30 November 2003

A Good Opportunity Sadly Wasted

The conservative National Review Online published on November 25 an interview with the feminist, psychotherapist and women's studies professor Phyllis Chesler, professor emerita of psychology and women's studies at CUNY, headed "Liberal & Pro-Israel, Feminist Phyllis Chesler on "The New Anti-Semitism"", the latter being the title of her recent book.
Today, what's new about anti-Semitism is its extraordinary global reach. Jew hatred is being mass-produced. The Internet, films, and the media have the power to circulate these virulent opinions around the globe, 24/7. The most illiterate of peoples have "seen" the Israelis commit a "massacre" in Jenin, something Israelis did not do -- even the United Nations finally admitted this. But no matter: A false picture is more powerful than a thousand words.

What's new is that Jew-hatred has reached a surreal level in the Islamic world. The Arab Islamic Middle East is almost entirely judenrein (free of Jews), except for Israel, which remains under profound and almost permanent siege. Christians still remain endangered in Muslim lands. Historic Islamic and Koranic views portray Jews as "pigs and monkeys," to be segregated, impoverished, jailed, tortured, exiled, and massacred.

What's new is that these ideas and practices, which are native to Islam, gathered additional force over an 80-year period in which Arab Muslims collaborated -- literally -- with Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s, and with Stalinists from the 1950s until the fall of the Soviet Union. Islamic Jew-hatred, anti-Americanism, and totalitarianism now fuse both East and West.

What's new is that this hatred has, incredibly, been embraced and romanticized by Western liberals, public intellectuals, Nobel Prize winners, all manner of so-called progressives and activists and, to a great extent, by the presumably objective media. The educated elites claim that they do not in fact hate Jews. How can they -- the noblest among the "politically correct" -- be racists? They loathe racism -- except, of course, where Jews are concerned.

What's new is that Jew-hatred (disguised as anti-Zionism) has itself become "politically correct" among these so-called intellectuals. They have one standard for Israel: an impossibly high one. Meanwhile, they set a much lower standard for every other country, even for nations in which tyranny, torture, honor killings, genocide, and every other human rights abuse go unchallenged.

Today anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. Israel has increasingly come to represent the Jews of the world, and is treated as they have been treated for thousands of years. She is demonized, isolated, and attacked while the world either actively rejoices, or simply does nothing to stop it. Israel has also become the symbolic scapegoat for America and for Western values such as democracy, religious freedom, and individual and women's rights.

The intellectuals control the masses with linguistic distortions that would make George Orwell weep. The way language is being used to misrepresent both the truth and Jews is relatively new. The intelligentsia tell us that Israelis are the "new Nazis" and "worse than Nazis." This is a new form of Holocaust denial. It lets Europeans off the hook: they no longer must wrestle with their own formidable colonial pasts and their persecutory-collaborationist-bystander roles in the Holocaust.

The propagandists go further, calling Israel the apartheid state. This is a lie. Islam is the largest practitioner of both gender and religious apartheid in the world: It persecutes all non-Muslims. Jews cannot apply for citizenship in Jordan, for example, and yet no Western group has called for divestment campaigns there. Meanwhile, the Arab leadership continues to terrorize the last Jewish enclave in the Middle East.
[...]
...I am part of a landmark lawsuit on behalf of Jewish women's religious rights in Jerusalem, asking that women be allowed to pray in women-only groups in the Kotel, the strictly female section at the Western Wall. Our case has so far received three separate decisions in the Israeli Supreme Court. Had we tried to bring such a lawsuit in Iran, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, we would probably have been imprisoned and executed. While Israeli Arabs (i.e., Palestinians) are second-class citizens, their live birth rates, incomes, health care, and freedom of worship and expression are vastly greater in Israel than in any Arab country. In a sense, those Palestinians who might find themselves fenced in by Israel's self-defense might also, theoretically, become Israeli citizens, which would improve matters for them.

Two books ago, I wrote about woman's inhumanity to woman. That was the book's title. Like men, women are not necessarily compassionate or even fair towards other women -- especially if those other women are identified as "evil racist settlers" and the enemies of a beloved revolution. Feminists are no better but perhaps no worse than other women in this regard. Female concentration-camp guards in Nazi Germany were not known for their compassion, but rather for their cruelty towards their female prisoners. Female members of the Ku Klux Klan are not known for their sympathy for African-American women. Women on both sides of a number of hot political issues do not behave in "sisterly" fashions. Most women are human beings, have internalized misogyny just as men have, have a higher standard for female than for male behavior, and are more comfortable competing with other women than with men.

Actually, in romanticizing Muslim suicide bombers as "freedom fighters," Western feminists jeopardize Muslim women, Muslim feminists, and Muslim intellectuals whose fates are desperate and tragic under jihadic Islam.

No feminist worth her salt would ever say that simply because men of color may be unemployed or oppressed, that they therefore have the right to batter their wives and assault their children. Many feminists are not thundering against gender apartheid in the Islamic world (some have done so, but in restricted ways), but feminists are thundering against Israel as the apartheid state.

If we applied a single feminist standard to all humanity, we would loudly oppose Arabs stoning women accused of adultery, honor killings, polygamy, veiling, seclusion, sexual and domestic slavery, etc. Feminists have done so in limited ways, but have relaxed their attention to this matter when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Feminists and leftists have also opposed the American liberation of both Afghanistan and Iraq. But however difficult and imperfect these plans are, what other option do freedom-minded feminists have?

Many feminists who are quite principled on certain issues (equal pay for equal work, reproductive freedom, gay rights, sexual and domestic violence, childcare, etc.) unthinkingly believe that their critiques of patriarchy and of specific American policies can and must be transformed into a generalized hatred of America -- the very country in which they practice their dissent -- and transferred to the Middle East. Many feminists are totally blind to their own Jew hatred and are now more obsessed with the occupation of disputed lands in the Middle East than they are with the occupation of women's bodies worldwide.

In my view, certain feminists seem to have a deep and abiding respect for the so-called "freedom fighter" who is willing to die for the "revolution" and to kill the "colonial oppressor." The fact that Palestinian suicide bombers, and their fascist and misogynist Iranian and Saudi funders, are not stirring a democratic or feminist revolution is cause for irony and tears. Some feminists are still fighting against the Vietnam War and have confused it with American and Israeli wars of self-defense against al Qaeda.
[...]
I am also a hawk on abolishing the global sexual slavery of women and children -- which, increasingly, the Bush administration has taken on as a serious issue and which the liberal feminist movement has opposed.

I am a religious Jew and thus have the greatest respect for other people of faith. Atheists and secularists are extremely intolerant toward religion, and do not view freedom of worship -- even for women and gay people -- as an important issue.

As I write in my book, 9/11 was a direct attack on democracy, modernity, religious pluralism, and women's rights. When Islamo-fascist terrorists are attacking my country, my culture, and my people, I oppose them. While war is hell, self-defense is a duty.

If the fact I understand all this makes me a conservative, then so be it.
[...]
We must support Israel's right to exist, and to exist free from terrorist violence. Israelis have endured the equivalent of 9/11 almost every other week for the last three years. I am a psychologist and a pioneer of trauma and healing therapies, and even I cannot imagine the level of post-traumatic stress symptoms Israelis must be suffering -- they, who have lived through so many wars of self-defense and whose parents and grandparents endured Hitler's Final Solution, the gulags, Cossack pogroms, and persecution and exile from Arab and Muslim lands. We understand that Israel cannot afford to lose a single war, not even a single battle.

We must form Jewish-Christian alliances. Perhaps we must form alliances among all the dhimmi -- Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Assyrians, Zoroastrians, Kurds, Persians, etc. -- who are suffering under Islamic jihadic rule.

We must continue to oppose the liberal media on all these issues.
[...]
... the dark side of Jewish history is repeating itself; the world is again demonizing Jews and creating a situation in which another Holocaust might be possible. I want all people of good will to make sure this does not happen.
[...]
As imperfect as American democracy might be, what we have achieved here would constitute a revolution in any Islamic or Arab country. This is a quiet view, not an apocalyptic one. Perhaps that is why so many progressive Americans refuse to entertain it. It is true that America may have risen on the backs of others, but it is also true that Islamic countries have refused to enter the modern era.

I would like us to feel proud that we are Americans, and to understand that America is really trying to bring religious and individual freedom to a region in which they do not exist at all.
I read the book and I was disappointed. Chesler is an annoying woman, and that in more than one respect. A founding mother of second-wave feminism, she is not just a man-hater and sloppy researcher if it suits her agenda (in her 1986 book Mothers on Trial she stated that 70 percent of mothers in custody battles lost, which was based on an extremely non-random sample of 60 women, but frequently used as a feminist mantra) and, even worse, one of those irritating women who send their dignity, education and brain flying when they marry a Western-educated Muslim, followed him to his native country, find it -- surprise, surprise -- less than accomodating there and are then jumping on the victim-bandwagon.

Chesler doesn't mingle words when it comes to the hypocrisy of the left, but the overall hysterical pitch of the book gets seriously on my nerves and the thought that this is what one probably has to expect from a female, and feminist, author, is of little comfort. However, what really puts me off is that Chesler clearly misses the historical opportunity to settle her score with feminism, which would have made the book more than just another one among those who ex-leftists who saw the light recently. But she obviously didn't want to do that. As it is, it leaves the impression that the left, including feminism, are just suffering from a temporary moral and ethical blackout and not from a basic problem of legitimacy and lack of truthfulness.

Not to speak of Chesler's basic credibility problem. An "academic" who writes, as Chesler does in "Women and Madness", that "mother-women give up whatever ghost of a unique and human self they may have when they 'marry' and raise children" (inverted commas by the author!) has lost any right to have her say on any conservative cause. Correction: On ANYthing.

The above excerpts from the National Review Online interview say almost as much about her argument with feminism and the left as the entire book does. It's a annoying waste of a damn good opportunity and I'm even trying to be kind here.

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