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Posts Tagged ‘honor killings’

Why are Feminists Not Standing Up for Israel?

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

T.S. Eliot was wrong. March, not April, is the cruelest month. Certainly it is at New York University.  In the early days of the month a conference took place there on “Circuits of Influence: United State, Israel, and Palestine.”  The conference was organized by Lisa Duggan, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, whose academic fields at NYU are listed as lesbian and gay studies, and the history of gender and sexuality.

Professor Duggan is a gender scholar rather than a political scientist renowned for expertise in Middle East history and politics. She is presently president-elect of the American Studies Association (ASA) that on December 4, 2013 disgraced itself and the academic world by its ignorance, its bias, and its bigotry in calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The resolution of the ASA, by 66 per cent of voters, endorsed the Palestinian call for a boycott because of alleged denial of Palestinian basic rights by Israel. The resolution said nothing about the denial of women’s basic rights by Palestinians and other Arabs.

Professor Duggan’s invitation to the conference was ironic. It was sent only to selected recipients, and said, “Please do not post or circulate the flyer (about the conference). We are trying to avoid press, protestors, and publication.” It was ironic because the conference avoided confrontation by inviting only those who were not known for their pro-Israeli views.

The NYU meeting was not exactly secret, but it was a closed-door conference. To no great surprise, it coincided with the celebration of Israel Apartheid Week. It may perhaps have been described as a meeting discussing the Protocols of the Learned Leaders of the boycotters or the New York friends of the ASA.
It is not clear, though one can guess the reasons, why leaders of an association created to deal with American studies, and especially if they are most interested in women’s issues, make declarations on Middle Eastern affairs or why they are primarily or solely concerned with the State of Israel. One would have thought that Professor Duggan and other members of the ASA might be more properly concerned with the problems that women encounter in Arab Middle East societies, including that of Palestinian.

The nature of those problems is detailed in reports of NGO Monitor and various think tanks. Women in all the Middle East countries, except Israel, have few rights, and do not enjoy equality with men. The gender gap in those countries is among the highest in the world. Women are discriminated against in almost all relationships and activities, in marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. They are restricted in movement, expression, and work opportunities. Women suffer from being forced into child marriage, female genital mutilation, and “honor” crimes, which may be punished by death.

Professor Duggan and her ASA colleagues must know that there has been no significant improvement in women’s lives in spite of the “Arab spring.” In most Arab countries women are marginalized; in Islamic societies they are repressed. She should know that the lack of freedom for women in all Middle East countries, except Israel, is a major problem in the world today. Have she and her colleagues in the ASA, reported on this? Are they so concerned with their ideological attack on Israel that they have no time or thought for the political and social freedom of women? Even though they are supposedly interested in American studies, why do the members of ASA not state clearly and unequivocally that women in the Arab world including the Palestinians should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as women in Israel?

Let’s deliver a clear message from the 1993 UN Vienna Declaration to Duggan and the ignorant and biased boycotters of Israel.  The Declaration called for the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, at all levels, and eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex.

It may well be, as the UN Arab Human Development report of 2005 said, that it is beyond the power and resources of women’s movements to affect the condition of women in the Middle East. But perhaps Duggan, with the support of other women in the ASA, might have organized a conference on the subject. She might have addressed the problem of why the 2011 departure of dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya has not led to fundamental reforms for women.

The UN Arab Human Development Reports (AHDR), written by Arab scholars about conditions in the 22 member states of the Arab League, have recognized the major problem: the oppression of women. Women suffer from inequality with men and are vulnerable to discrimination in law and in practice.  The prevailing masculine culture and values view women as dependents of men.  Those AHDR reports clearly state the need for change: Arab societies must provide for the complete empowerment of Arab women. Specifically, they should deal with illiteracy (more than half of Arab women are illiterate), the low rate of education of women, maternal mortality, and the low participation of women in politics.

The statistics in the Global Gender Gap Index, compiled by the World Economic Forum, which measures gender-based disparities, confirms the AHDR conclusions. Of the 136 countries analyzed in terms of the access of women to education, political participation, economic opportunity, and health, the Arab countries come last. Political empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia and Qatar is listed as zero.

Gender-based discrimination exists in personal status laws which require permission of a male relative for marriage, favor husbands in divorce cases, give fathers the rights in child guardianship, restrict freedom of movement, make it difficult for women to get a passport, and deprive women of their proper inheritance. In the law courts the testimony of women is regarded as of less value than that of men in a number of countries. Dress codes for women are enforced by the religious police force.

Beyond all this legal and social inequality there is the matter of domestic violence against women. Rape is usually not seen as a criminal offense. Honor killings exist in many of the Arab societies, including that of the Palestinian Authority. It is legal for women to be beheaded, burnt alive, stoned, and tortured for “immoral” behavior such as adultery or having sexual relations with a non-Muslim man. They are also forbidden to marry non-Muslims. On the other hand, polygamy is legal in a number of Arab countries.

Given her scholarship on the history of sexuality, Professor Duggan must surely be familiar with the sad condition of women in all Middle East countries except Israel, where women have full social and political rights. Can we expect her as the leader of ASA, to organize a conference on that sad condition and to call for equality and justice for women in the Arab countries?  If not, she may be judged guilty of indifference to the problems of women.
Originally published at The American Thinker.

What Jonathan Kay Got Wrong

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I disagree with my colleague Jonathan Kay’s recent article “American super-hawks demand to know: ‘Are you Jew enough?’”

First, let me thank him for referring to me as “a feminist-turned anti-Islamist” and not as “anti-Muslim” or as an “Islamophobe.” However, in becoming an “anti-Islamist” I did not check my feminist credentials at the door; my work on honor-based violence, including honor killing among Muslims and Hindus (mainly in India) is pure feminist work. The victims are primarily women of color, and yes, in the West, they are primarily Muslims. I am championing their cause just as I have championed the cause of non-Muslim Western women. I work with Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents who share my Enlightenment values, a single universal standard of human rights, and who, like me, have taken a stand against the persecution of girls, women, homosexuals, free thinkers and pro-Israel advocates in the Muslim world.

Second, my good colleague Kay is wrong about the early demise of conspiracy theories and blood libels against the Jews. There are so many late 20th- and early 21st-century varieties: Zionism=Racism, the Mohammed al-Dura blood libel, the Jenin massacre libel, not to mention claims that Israelis are sterilizing the Palestinians, harvesting their organs for profit, and killing babies.

Many people in North America and Europe, as well as in the Muslim world, still believe that the forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a true and accurate picture of Jews. Twenty first century European surveys, media coverage, cartoons, and direct verbal and physical attacks upon European Jews, Jewish Centers, and synagogues all document a rising hatred towards Jews and towards the only Jewish state (which is seen as controlling the world and the media). And, in 2012, a survey in the United States, found that 35 million American adults (or 15% of the population) believe that “Jews have too much power in the United States” and are “more willing to use shady practices.” More than 70 million American adults believed that American Jews are “more loyal to Israel than to America.”

I don’t know of any surveys that poll Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, or Muslim-Americans on the dual loyalty question.

We also know that Canadian universities sponsor Israel Apartheid Week quite regularly and activists, students and professors call for boycott, sanctions, and divestment (BDS) from one country only: Israel. Not from Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or India where Muslim-on-Muslim, Muslim-on-Christian, and Muslim-on-Hindu violence and real gender and religious apartheid are epidemic. On Thursday, at Brooklyn College, in New York City, there was yet another hate fest, this time sponsored by an academic department and featuring Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, who are both strong supporters of BDS. There are no opposing views being presented. Hate speech and falsehoods are now being granted the protection of academic freedom and, in America, the protection of the First Amendment.

Thus, I am worried — and Jonathan Kay should share my concern. Like me, Kay is a feminist and a civil libertarian. However, unlike myself, he is unable and unwilling to see how much anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism (today the two are twinned), is emanating from left-liberals: Western intellectuals, academics, artists, and journalists whose “politically correct” racism i.e. anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism has made common cause with Islamist forces who very clearly desire the extermination of one state only: The Jewish state, and who are at war with women and with Western values.

I welcome the support of Christian Zionists, Evangelicals, and conservatives. I will not mock them merely because we disagree on some other subjects any more than I would mock feminists because we disagree on other burning issues.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I did not label the Shin Bet or the filmmaker of “The Gatekeepers” as “suicidal and traitorous.” I wrote this: “To the extent to which this film is accurate I salute it. To the extent to which it is false, defamatory, biased, exaggerated — I consider it suicidal and traitorous.”

By the way, Kay should know that these Shin Bet heads went public in 2003, not in 2012, and that they are the ones who urged Prime Minister Sharon to pull out of Gaza. Which he did. Israel now has Hamastan and constant rocket barrages on her border. Does Kay believe this is actually good for humanity and for the Jews?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/phyllis-chesler-what-jonathan-kay-got-wrong/2013/02/09/

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