Monday, November 27, 2017

Yes, you can be a Feminist and a Zionist

Read the original article in the Forward by Miriam Barghouti here.

I'm sure I'm not the only woman in Israel and abroad who was upset by the headline alone of this piece by Miriam Barghouti.

Full disclosure: I am American born, live in Israel and my son is currently serving in the Israeli army. I have two daughters who will be joining the army in the next two years.

Barghouti states that "Being a Zionist today means giving support not just to the idea of a Jewish state and Jewish sovereignty, but also to Israel's actual policies as they are manifested on the ground."

I am a Zionist. I believe in a Jewish state and in Jewish sovereignty. I do not support the actual policies on the ground and I do not support our current government. I do not support the occupation. I don't willfully ignore anything. I make it very clear to my sons and daughters what I expect of them in their treatment of women, men, other religions and in general, the other. In fact, I moved here in order to specifically try and change Israeli society from within. To smash the patriarchy, to end the occupation, to recognize other expressions of Judaism as legitimate, to allow my gay daughter to marry and on and on.

What bothers me is the broad strokes about Israeli women or Zionism in the article. I don't agree with Barghouti's all or nothing idea of feminism. I do agree with her end goal, and I agree with statements by her and others that you must be anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-oppression. Unless your willing to go and live in a cave, your world, your nation, your society contains all of these elements. If you refuse to oppose those ideas from within, then you will never bring about change.

"The alternative I am suggesting to the Zionist feminist is to recognize and join the struggles against systematic oppression. Be brave enough, and stand against the many faces of subjugation and inequality, and embrace feminism as the all-encompassing and formidable force that it can be."

Here are a few examples of Zionist feminists doing just that:

Women Wage Peace: If you wish to be part of something big, Join Women Wage Peace!

Tens of thousands of women from all over the country, Jews, Arabs, religious and secular from the Right, the Centre and the Left – are all united in the demand for a political agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Yes it is possible! Difficult conflicts around the world have been resolved and we believe that it is possible to resolve the conflict in our region too.

I know at least two women involved in this group. One of whom has spent more than 20 years delivering Arab, Jewish, and Christian babies in Jerusalem. She helped all of these mothers bring their children in to this world with the love and joy all families deserve.

Machsom Watch: A volunteer organization of Israeli women who are peace activists from all sectors of society. We oppose the Israeli occupation in the area known as the West Bank, we oppose the appropriation of Palestinian land and the denial of Palestinian human rights. We support the right of Palestinians to move freely in their land and oppose the checkpoints which severely restrict Palestinian daily life. 

Breaking the Silence: an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life. Our work aims to bring an end to the occupation. 

These organizations aren't popular in Israel (or with Jews in other countries). They are demonized locally and abroad. Yet, they persist. They climb uphill against a society that is becoming more and more nationalistic. Against a government that is increasingly emboldened to openly embrace ideas that were once thought shameful. Call it the Trump effect or the Duterte effect or the Netanyahu effect. It affects every part of a nation, from civil rights to the behavior of soldiers in the army.

At this moment, there are many voices clamoring to be heard in every part of the world. Some come through m ore loudly than others like Black Live Matters and #Metoo in America. Some lie forgotten already, like in Syria or with the Rohyinga.

What would happen if everyone just stopped because because no one can ever reach the high bar we set for ourselves as feminists and as believers in our right to autonomy? I think you can check off boxes on your wish list out of order as long as you continue to work towards fulfilling the entire list.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Theodore Parker) It doesn't bend by itself and it doesn't bend without reaching over to clasp the hand of your ally and your enemy.

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