PHYLLIS CHESLER’ S PREPARED REMARKS 1/15/08
(I will write up the press conference which took place at the American Jewish Congress later. )
You may also see the press conference on YouTube.
Recently, in the pages of the New York Times, Gloria Steinem wrote that we should not hold the only female Presidential candidate to a higher and different standard than we hold male politicians; when we do, Gloria explained, that’s sexism. From 1972 on, I have been explaining to Gloria and to other Ms. feminists that we should not hold the only Jewish state to a higher or different standard than we hold all other nations states; when we do, it is called racism or Jew-hatred or anti-Semitism.
Ms magazine, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority, which took over Ms magazine, and far too many Western feminists have, for a long time, been more concerned with the alleged “occupation” of a country that does not exist (Palestine) than they have been concerned with the occupation of women’s bodies world-wide, especially in Islamic countries.
Before I came here today I quickly looked through some issues of Ms online from 2000-2007. The editorial bias is blatantly and consistently anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. Apparemtly, Palestinians are the sacred victims who are pure and can do no wrong. Israelis are the Nazi-like aggressors and occupiers who can do nothing right.This is not the Ms I once knew so long ago. This is a Stalinized, post-colonial, anti-imperialist, multi-culturally relativist kind of Ms. This is a feminism that has been utterly Palestinianized.
This does not serve the cause of Palestinian women well–nor does it serve the cause of women anywhere. It is cowardly to desert the one democracy in the region and give a free pass to barbaric, totalitarian, and fascist regimes. This kind of feminism betrays the women and men in the Third World who need feminist support the most. I am not a cultural relativist. I believe in a feminism which is rational, universal, and meant for all people.
Israel is not perfect–what country is?–yet only Israel has been universally demonized. The United Nations specializes in this, it is the only thing they do well. They certainly don’t stop genocides in progress. Ms has learned its lessons well from the United Nations and from all the propaganda that has swirled through the western democracies for the last 40 years. For the UN to demonize Israel is ironic, since Israel is the country that absorbed its refugees (nearly 800,000 Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Arab Muslim countries) at its own expense. The Palestinian (terrorists) have been living high on the world public dole for five or more generations. The civilians are impoverished and at the mercy of their tyrannical leaders.
From the start, feminism has been unfairly, even viciously attacked. I do not want to do that here today. World events have made feminism more important but, to my sorrow, most Western feminists, including Ms magazine feminists, prefer to blame America and Israel for the indigenous barbarism of Third World countries . They are also, pro forma, very proud of their cultural relativism. They say they don’t want to “judge” anyone else’s culture or country. Unless, of course, that country is Jewish Israel.
Feminists slander Israel when they describe her as an apartheid state–when in fact, Islam is really the largest practitioner of both gender and religious apartheid not only in Muslim countries but also in the West. Western feminists won’t say this. They would lose their funding, their cozy lives, their positions in universities and their cachet in the media; their friends too. Perhaps even their lives.
When I say this on campuses, I need police officers to protect my right to speak.
Many Western feminists have not supported the ex-Muslim dissident and feminist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Some feminists have attacked her as too anti-Muslim and as too soft on American imperialism and western colonialism. Feminists have not praised the ex-Muslim feminists, Nonie Darwish or Wafa Sultan, who are both speaking strong truth to power–but who are not blaming America and Israel for anything.
Ms magazine has managed to praise individual feminist activists and women leaders who live in truly terrible countries–countries in which women are genitally mutilated, secluded, routinely beaten , veiled, not allowed to drive, forced into polygamous marriages, forced to marry their first cousins, publicly gang-raped as official government policy, stoned to death, and honor-murdered if they protest any of the above.
For example, Western feminists (Ms Magazine and the Feminist Majority) have praised and worked with Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist. She won the Noble Prize–but she also lives in a country ruled by Islamo-fascists who have kidnapped and murdered both American and Israeli civilians and who hold their own people hostage.
And yet, three women leaders who identify with the West cannot even buy their way into the pages of a Ms magazine. Let me say one thing about one of these women: Dorit Beinish, the President of the Israeli Supreme Court. In the matter of the Women of the Wall, (I was a name-plaintiff in this legendary lawsuit), to her eternal credit, Judge Beinish judged that Jewish women had the right to pray in a group in the women’s section at the Western Wall.
Ms magazine should give her a parade, not banish her from their pages.
Ms magazine has the right not to run an ad in which three major Israeli women leaders are featured. But they further reveal their hand, and have shown their true politics.
Let me congratulate the American Jewish Congress for having the courage to stand up to the Ms Empire “for the love of Zion,” and for the love of truth. It is my honor to stand with them.