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August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Phyllis Chesler’

American Jewish Bride Imprisoned in Afghani Harem

Monday, January 20th, 2014

One of the wonderful things about her receiving First Prize for memoir from the National Jewish Book Awards for her new book, “An American Bride in Kabul,” is that Phyllis Chesler’s reading audience will expand exponentially.  The competition was stiff, and all the winners are first rate scholars and world-renown authors, including Amos Oz, Martin Halbertal and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Chesler is in this league.

In each of her many chosen fields Chesler has excelled. A true daughter of Zion and now a student of Torah, Chesler was a molder and macher of the Feminist Movement when it actually broke new ground and opened up the world to women in so many fields.

She is also the author of  15 books, many about women, some about Israel, some about the unpleasant clash between the two, and still more about mental health.

Chesler has also written important articles, and supplied expert testimony in court cases, about the phenomenon of honor killing. This custom is found primarily in the Muslim world (and to a lesser extent, among Hindus and Sikhs) where a female member of a family is killed – either by a brother, a father, or even a mother – in order to restore the honor of that family – regardless of whether the woman killed has committed a grave, or even any, transgression.

But few who know of this prodigious woman realize there was a chapter of her life which appears to have been a complete rejection of all the others. Or perhaps the source of them all.

Phyllis Chesler – brave feminist iconoclast, defender of Israel in a time and in a peer group that attacks the Jewish State, and healer of tortured souls – left college at 20 to marry a Muslim fellow student from Afghanistan.

Not only did she leave school and her home, Chesler left her family, her faith and her country.

Her parents were peasants, Chesler’s beau said at the time. They were observant Jews, poor – Chesler went through school on full scholarships. In sharp contrast, when her boyfriend’s father visited New York, he stayed at the Plaza.

Chesler’s mother was a prodder. If Phyllis received a 98 on an exam, her mother responded, “So, it wasn’t a 100.”  Her mother also was disheartened by her feminism.

Many years later, after Chesler was an accomplished author and sought-after speaker, her mother was still not quite satisfied.

“Once my mother came to hear me speak,” Chesler confides. “Afterwards, she told me I didn’t really look well. Besides, she whispered in an aside, ‘who’s gonna marry you if you if you say these things?’”

Later, many years later, Phyllis learned that whenever her mother traveled she checked in every library to make sure it carried her daughter’s books.

“If only I had known that at the time,” Chesler remarks wistfully.

But her parents and her provincial life in Brooklyn is something Chesler left behind as soon as she possibly could.  With a brand new husband, an exotic foreigner whose father was among his country’s elite, Chesler embarked on what she thought would be a life of glamour and intrigue.

She thought they were going to help westernize Afghanistan.  Her husband was from a prominent family.  Her husband was educated in the West and loved theater and literature.  Her husband was going to bring modern theater to Afghanistan, and Chesler was “going to write the scripts, stories and novels upon which he’ll base his films.”

Chesler sailed off to Europe with her ever-attentive groom – oh how she loved to travel!  But the European tour was cut short by his father’s purse strings.  Instead of a Grand Tour, far too soon she found herself entering an Eastern world she had never closely examined. She was on her way with her groom to his home country.

‘Miral’: When Good Publicity Trumps Bad Reviews

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

“Miral” is a film that has garnered an inordinate amount of media attention. In interviews, the director, Julian Schnabel, defends his right to tell the Palestinian “narrative” for what he claims is the first time. He seems not to know that many others before him have specialized in this particular line of work.

Based on the lives of four Palestinian women, “Miral” begins with the period just before Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and ends just before the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.

The first woman is Miral’s mother, Nadia, who was battered and raped either by her uncle, husband, or boyfriend and then jailed by the Israelis for hitting an Israeli woman. Thereafter, Nadia commits suicide by walking into the sea. Miral’s father or stepfather puts her in an orphanage. (These facts are purposely vague, and therefore, presumably unimportant, certainly far less important in terms of trauma than the “Israeli occupation” or the all-powerful misery at the checkpoints.)

The second woman is Hind al-Husseini, (whose story is presented first), the founder of the Dar Al-Tifel home for Palestinian orphans; the third woman is Miral, raised in the orphanage and coming of age during the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993); the fourth woman, Fatima, is a female Palestinian terrorist who is serving three life sentences. Fatima blew up a movie theater somewhere in Israel but is presented as a sympathetic figure who worked as a nurse in a hospital for Arab soldiers injured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The stories of the four women are only loosely and awkwardly connected; the film is not really “about” anything other than the evil and inhumanity of the “Israeli military occupation” which each of the women has faced. Fatima says: “The occupation is a monster which eats your soul.”

To recap: Miral’s mother Nadia is an alcoholic and the victim of sexual violence; she commits suicide by drowning herself in the Mediterranean. Miral’s adoptive father then dumps Miral in an orphanage. But none of this is called on to explain Miral’s pain and anger. Instead, the film depicts the evil Israeli occupation as the cause of all of Miral’s suffering.

Actually, the film doesn’t show Miral suffering very much at all (until she gets involved with terrorism, at which point she is savagely beaten in an Israeli detention center). She has a doting father, a romantic and sexy boyfriend, a nurturing educational environment, and the freedom to roam the beautiful Palestinian countryside.

Miral’s hatred of Israelis and Jews seems totally contrived.

Scenes that depict Israeli life (e.g., classic footage from Israel’s declaration of independence and the celebrations that followed, etc.) are in black and white. All the scenes depicting Palestinian life of any era are presented in lush and living color. Israelis – soldiers and civilians alike – are depicted as despicable, including an Israeli buffoon who drunkenly accosts Miral’s mother in a bar and an Israeli woman who calls her an “Arab whore.” All of the Palestinian characters are warm and physically beautiful.

At the end of the film Miral asks: Why can’t Israel/Palestine be like New York City? And this is the point. The main characters are not Arab Palestinians. They are brown people who think and talk like Americans and are masquerading as Palestinians. It is impossible to learn anything about Palestinian culture by watching “Miral” because the film’s entire point is to make viewers think Palestinians are “just like us.” Only the Israelis are different.

Reviews of “Miral” have been almost uniformly negative. Expecting that bad reviews might dog the film’s progress, and given the film’s enormous potential as propaganda both in the West and in the Islamic world, Schnabel’s publicists worked overtime, at least in the New York City area.

Thus, on March 23, two days before the film opened, an interview with the director; his girlfriend-author, Rula Jebreal; and the film’s leading lady, Freida Pinto, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, appeared on the front page of The New York Times Arts section. The nearly 2,000-word piece was illustrated with three photos.

On March 24 Schnabel was again interviewed by the Times, this time on the front page of the paper’s Style section. The 1,296-word piece displayed three (different) photos – including one of the director standing with Vanessa Redgrave, the great actress and notorious pro-Palestinian activist, who had a cameo appearance in the film.

Our Daunting Task

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Our beloved, miraculous Jewish state is under siege.

It was assumed that the ceaseless persecution of the Jews in exile would cease once we again had our own sovereign homeland, our own army, navy, and air force.

Now, 62 years after its establishment, it is abundantly clear that Israel has become the “Jew” of the world: Defamed, demonized, shunned, shamed, accused of countless blood libels, refused the right to defend itself, blamed when it does.

Daily, hourly, Israel is cursed in all the world’s languages, scapegoated for the crimes and sins of the Arab and Muslim world.

Old-style anti-Semitism is still with us but now there’s a “new” anti-Semitism coming at us from the progressive left, the intelligentsia, the “good” people. It is also coming at us from the Arab and Islamic world, enhanced by the Internet, television, radio and films.

I have been challenging anti-Semitism among leftists and feminists since the early 1970s. I first began to document the “new” anti-Semitism in 2000, right after the Palestinians launched the Second Intifada that year.

At first, I was something of a lone voice. The organized Jewish world either denied or minimized the rise of anti-Semitism and the existential threat that Israel might face. By standing up for Israel, Jews and America, I sacrificed my reputation as a politically correct intellectual. I lost publishing opportunities and most of my former friends and allies.

Why? Because we live in a time when objective truth does not count anymore, when only Big Lies matter.

For example, Islam is the world’s largest practitioner of both religious and gender apartheid. Say this on most campuses, as I have, and you will be jeered, booed, possibly physically menaced, certainly demonized as a “racist” and “Islamophobe.”

The politically correct line is that Israel is a “Nazi apartheid state.” The brainwashing has worked. Sixty years’ worth of Arab League and Saudi funding has accomplished the unbelievable: Israel is not only the bad guy, it is the very worst bad guy in the entire universe.

This is no small victory given how very bad our world is in terms of real genocide and ethnic cleansing; in terms of real slavery; in terms repeated and very public gang-rapes of girls and women as a weapon, not a spoil, of war; in terms of the oppression, torture and murder of one’s own people.

Blame Israel first – that’s the mantra. Thus, when Arab countries persecute Palestinians by revoking their citizenship (as Jordan has done – and let’s not forget that Jordan massacred more Palestinians in 1970 than Israel has killed in countless wars of self-defense), or not allowing them to work in many professions (this is true in Lebanon), or making their travel throughout the Arab world exceedingly difficult (as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan do), you almost never read about this in your morning paper.

The United Nations does not condemn Arab governments for their mistreatment of Palestinians nor does it condemn Palestinians for jailing, torturing and murdering other Palestinians.

I am alarmed at how many Jews are in the forefront of anti-Israel and pro-Hamas activism. They are our internal enemies – their own worst enemies. Recently, an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace organized a campaign asking TIAA-CREF, one of the world’s largest financial services companies, to divest from companies it says “profit from the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

Caterpillar, Motorola, and Northrop Grumman are just a few of the companies Jewish Voice for Peace has targeted for divestment. Signatories to this campaign include many liberal American rabbis, activists, and academics.

Meanwhile, J Street, which bills itself the “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” has called upon the Treasury Department “to launch thorough investigations into whether or not the [American non-profit] organizations funding settlement activities on the West Bank have broken the law.”

Israel and the Jews cannot afford to lose. We must win this war of ideas, outwit and outrun the propaganda, hold our own militarily and survive as a people – only this time not as a mere “remnant.”

Alas, Jews can no longer afford to trust Jewish-American and Jewish-European organizations that are failing the needs of the people they claim to represent just as decades ago they failed to rescue European Jewry from the Holocaust.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/our-daunting-task/2010/08/11/

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