General Antisemitism

The History and Psychological Roots of Anti-Semitism Among Feminists


This is cross-posted at NewsRealBlog

By Phyllis Chesler


Yale University’s Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism hosted a major conference in which I was privileged to be a participant. “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity” was envisioned by Professor Charles Asher Small who founded the Initiative. The conference was also sponsored by the Issac and Jessie Kaplan Center for Jewish Studies and Research, University of Cape Town, in association with the Vidal Sasoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University; The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Indiana University; and the Rabin Chair Forum, George Washington University.

My plenary panel was the only panel which focused on women and anti-Semitism. It was chaired by Jerusalem based scholar, Jennifer Roskies. My co-panelists included Thyme Siegel, whose speech was titled: “Sisterhood was powerful and Global. Where Did it Go?” and Dr. Nora Gold whose speech was titled: “Fighting Anti-Semitism in the Feminist Community.”

We had the very best time when we met the previous afternoon. Thyme, Nora, and I go back, way back, to the 1960s in feminist America. These days, Thyme, an independent researcher and Women’s Studies teacher, is holding an Israeli flag at Berkeley when her former friends stand holding a Palestinian flag; she has come a long, long way from her matriarchal, lesbian separatist days in Eugene, Oregon. Dr. Nora Gold is using her Toronto-based research to educate feminists about racism against Jews. She is often successful. I look forward to working with them and with our very gracious Chair Jennifer, soon again.

Make no mistake. Others also enjoyed what we had to say and indeed, said the most complimentary things to us afterward. This is no small feat given the greats who were in attendance. I want to thank both Jennifer Roskies and Charles Small for this amazing opportunity.

The History and Psychological Roots of Anti-Semitism Among Feminists, Their Gradual Palestinianization and Stalinization

YALE AUGUST 25, 2010

By Phyllis Chesler

Four score and ten years ago women won the right to vote in the United States. And thirty years ago, in 1980, I stood with the Israeli delegation in Copenhagen at the United Nations conference on women—the true precursor of the anti-Zionist conference in Durban in 2001. Twenty-nine years ago, right here in Connecticut, at the University at Storrs, I convened a panel at the annual convention of the National Women’s Studies Association to challenge American feminists about both their anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

I had been doing this since the early 1970s but even I could not have predicted the rapid and extreme Stalinization and Palestinianization that would take place among academics and activists in general. I could never have imagined that the western intelligentsia, the “good” people, including feminists, would make so tragic an alliance with Islamic barbarism and misogyny.

I became a feminist leader in 1968-1969. I remain one. Most of the other feminists of my generation are no longer engaged in the historical moment.

Are women racists? We might as well ask: Are women human beings?

But are women also anti-Semites?

To do justice to this subject might require another conference. Women have internalized the same prejudices as men have. Like men, women are also sexists and racists. Women are also consummate bystanders at the crossroads where evil meets its prey. The majority feminist view has viewed women as “weak” or “innocent” non-actors, powerless to affect the destiny of nations. This is a fantasy and bears no relationship to reality.

Women are also consummate collaborators. Women try to choose powerful men as protectors. They do not ask them what they do at the office or at the concentration camp.

Are educated women, human right activists, feminists, lesbian feminists, Jewish lesbian feminists anti-Semites too?

Hell yes. Neither education, talent, ambition, privilege—nor vulnerability, pariah status, or a sense of grievance—seems to inoculate people against the virulent virus of anti-Semitism.

Thus, I have lived to see the day when feminists—most, but not all of whom, are women—seem to care more about the alleged “occupation” of a country which does not exist (Palestine) than they care about the real Islamist occupation of women in “Palestine.” American and European feminists are postcolonial, postmodern, anti-interventionists; in the name of “political correctness,” “cultural relativism,” and “cultural sensitivity,” they no longer believe in men and women’s universal human rights and no longer take a stand against apartheid—at least not when it is practiced by Muslims.

Instead, many feminists scapegoat Israel as an apartheid state and refuse to understand that Islam is the largest practitioner of gender and religious apartheid in the world.

Anti-racism, not anti-Semitism, is the feminist priority—except where Israel is concerned. To such feminists, Zionism still equals racism. They do not understand that precisely the opposite is true: Anti-Zionism equals racism. And that it is the new anti-Semitism—that and its Islamic version.

For the last decade, Jewish and non-Jewish feminists have marched in pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel rallies, signed newspaper ads and petitions to divest from and boycott Israel—yes, even gay and lesbian feminists who would be tortured to death in Muslim countries, did so. These professed “humanitarians”—who carry on about the recent Turkish assassination flotilla—do not take as strong a stand against stoning or forced face-veiling. Some feminists think it’s “liberating” or even the ultimate feminist choice. Most feminists do not take a stand against forced marriage, child marriage, first cousin marriage, polygamy, and honor-related violence, included honor killing. They fear that doing so might be seen as “racist” or as culturally insensitive.

Like Stalinists, they saved their fire to protest Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, former President George Bush, and American and Israeli military “occupation” of Muslim lands.

If challenged, they turn stone-faced and accuse their challenger of racism and of McCarthyism. Thereafter, they slander and shun you.

I have been battling feminist anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism since 1970.

In the early 1970s to mid-70s, together with Aviva Cantor and Cheryl Moch, I organized press conferences and major Jewish Feminist speakouts. I worked with a nascent feminist movement in Israel, brought American journalists, including feminists, to visit Israel, and spent hours soliciting celebrities and feminists to sign petitions against the infamous UN “Zionism equals Racism” resolution.

In 1980, while working at the United Nations, I stood with the Israeli delegation in Copenhagen. We experienced an early version of the Durban conference, an unbelievable verbal and psychological pogrom, organized by the Soviets, the Arab League, the PLO, the Iranians, (all in black coverings), and supported by left-oriented Europeans, including feminists.

In 1981, at Storrs, Connecticut, I convened a panel at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting. The subject was “Women, Feminism, and Anti-Semitism.”

In the summer of 2000, I learned that my friend and colleague, Israeli-American left feminist, Dr. Marilyn Safir, a Haifa-based academic psychologist, had been disinvited from an international feminist conference to be held in Turkey. The reason? The feminist organizers decided that the fact that Marilyn is a Jew, and an Israeli, “might” make the Arab and Muslim women uncomfortable. The conference, if it was held at all, was completely “judenrein.” It was either canceled—or held secretly.

I and others, including Israeli professor of Law, Frances Raday, wrote letters on Marilyn’s behalf. But most feminists did not see this disinvitation as an “anti-Semitic” and therefore as a “racist” act. Women, you see, cannot be accused of racism—unless, of course, they are Jewish women. Or white women. The racism of people of color is unmentionable, invisible.

In the last twenty to thirty years, many feminists misapplied hard-won feminist concepts in the service of demonizing Judaism and Israel. For example, in 1988, I persuaded my friend, famed anti-pornography and anti-prostitution activist, Andrea Dworkin, to join me on her first-ever trip to Israel.  In 1990, in her novel Mercy, she compared the Jewish God to a Nazi without mercy. And, in a 2002 work of non-fiction, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation, she compared the Jewish state to a “pimp” and a “John” and viewed the Palestinians as their “prostitutes.” Truly, I have no comment but, at the time, I did publish a short one in the Jewish media.

In 2002, at a feminist conference at the state university at New Paltz, Dr. Ruchama Marton, an Israeli Jewish psychiatrist, likened Israelis to “batterers” in a marriage. Guess who is the “battered wife?” None other than the Palestinians. Are the Israelis and Palestinians married? Is the feminist view of marriage that it is like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why was only Israel and Palestine discussed at a conference which was advertised as a conference about “Women, War, and Peace”?

The academic postcolonial literature is infected by an across-the-board view of Palestinians as the symbol of all things noble and the Jews and Israelis as symbols of evil.

Women’s Studies programs offer a steady stream of anti-Israel speakers. At the University of California, for example, moderate Muslims, ex-Muslims, anti-Islamist Muslims, and pro-Israel Muslims are never invited or funded, and Women’s Studies professors do not attend their very rare lectures.

From 1980 to 2010, feminist left organizations and leaders, both male and female, did not condemn the Palestinian Arab Muslim plane hijackings and homicidal bombings of Israeli civilians. Instead, they glamorized the terrorists, marched wearing kaffiyehs, signed petitions to boycott and divest in Israel. They did not offer to ride the buses in Israel in 2002 as “human shields.”

Instead, they signed ads published in the mainstream media condemning Israel for defending herself or which singled out Israel and America as Evil Empires. In 2003, communist feminist and California-based Women’s Studies professor, Angela Davis, former SDS member Bernardine Dohrn, actress and feminist Jane Fonda, and feminist playwright Eve Ensler all joined Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and many others in signing such an ad.

Feminist writers and activists persistently demonized Israel and glorified Palestinian terrorists. British journalist and feminist Jan Goodwin did so in her 1995 book Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil on the Islamic World, as did feminist activist, Ms. magazine editor and writer Robin Morgan in her 1989 book The Demon Lover, two books which the authors updated after 9/11. Both authors blamed the suffering of Palestinian women, children, and men on the Israeli occupation, not on Islamic misogyny or Arab tribal customs.

In June of 2004, I was the first pro-Israel and pro-democracy feminist guest on Pacifica’s KPFK radio station in Los Angeles. After years of on-air Jew-hatred and Israel bashing on KPFK, the program, “Feminist Magazine,” run by a feminist collective, had taken a principled position against this unacknowledged form of racism and had invited me to discuss my views on anti-Semitism, Israel, democracy, and Islamic gender apartheid.

Tricia Roth and Melissa Chiprin bravely interviewed me. I said the kinds of things that we are probably all saying here at this conference—and all hell broke loose. Even while we were still on air, the switchboard lit up with angry listeners, most of whom were Jewish left feminists. That was only the beginning. Feminist calls mounted for the censure and removal of “Feminist Magazine” from the air and for control of the feminist collective. An online protest petition was launched which characterized what I said as “racist,” and my views as “anti-feminist.”  The Los Angeles chapter of Women in Black made a bid to take over the collective.

Such accusations, coupled with potential and real physical violence, would happen to me many times on campuses. I would be accused of being a “racist” whenever I described Islamic gender apartheid and how it had penetrated the West. Eventually, I could only appear on campus with a bodyguard, sometimes with more than one.

I was also invited—and disinvited—by the Women’s Studies program at Cambridge. I was not allowed to speak at veteran feminist events. Left feminist attempts were made to have conferences that had invited me to disinvite me.

In October of 2004, a small group of San Francisco-based feminist activists, members of Women in Black and Brit Zedek, traveled to Duke University in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, to support the Palestine Solidarity Movement Conference that was taking place there. It would be one thing if such feminists had come to protest both the systemic Palestinian abuses against women as well as the war-related burdens that Israel, acting primarily in self-defense, has visited upon both Palestinian and Israeli civilians, especially women, children, and the elderly.

But, they did not have a balanced or particularly feminist agenda. Although many activists were lesbians or pro-gay, they had not come to protest the Palestinian persecution and torture of suspected homosexuals in Gaza or on the West Bank nor did they seem to know that Israel has granted political asylum to Palestinian homosexuals, including those who have literally been tortured and nearly killed by other Palestinians. Instead, these American feminists wore keffiyas, political buttons and tee-shirts that read “We are all Palestinians.”

The Betrayal of the Ideologues

The American and European Left and feminist and gay movements have made a marriage in Hell with Islamist terrorists. The same Left that has still never expressed any guilt over their devotion to communist dictators who murdered one hundred million of their own people in the service of a Great Idea, have now fatefully joined the world Jihadic chorus in calling for the end to “racist” Zionism and to the Jewish Apartheid and “Nazi” state.

These westerners share an extraordinary psychological rage which requires a scapegoat and cleaning messianic promises, a refusal to look within, an overwhelming need for group approval, an inability or refusal to think as independent individuals, an adolescent in-your-face rebelliousness towards certain authorities—coupled with an adolescent, slavish adoration of other authorities, a desire for cathartic violence, for the ecstasy of mob action, and the most uncanny and frightening ability to scapegoat Jews precisely because leftists have not been able to achieve their desired New World Order. If some ideal can’t be achieved, then the Jews must pay.

In 2007, a Jewish Israeli feminist researcher at Hebrew University, doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, blamed Israeli soldiers because they refused to rape Arab and Palestinian women; she claimed this constituted “racism” against Palestinians.

Earlier this year, 2010, a team of researchers led by a female Harvard social scientist blamed Israel in the pages of The Lancet, a British medical journal, for an increase in Palestinian wife-battering in Gaza and on the West Bank. The researchers did not even consider the role that radical Islamification might play in the oppression of women or the fact that Gaza is ruled by terrorist gangsters and this might cause an escalation of violence towards women. Honor killings (and a relevant, recent study actually existed) were not included in their measures of violence against Palestinian women. Why? Because that cannot be blamed on Israel or on the West. I published a letter challenging this study in the pages of The Lancet.

In the summer of 2010, Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and former spokesman for the PLO, a man who also happens to be a friend and former dinner companion of President Obama, signed an appeal for money to send yet another aid ship to Gaza named “The Audacity of Hope,” the title of Obama’s second autobiographical book. He publicly challenged the President, saying that “if the name [of the boat] is a problem for the administration, it can simply insist that Israel lift the siege: end of problem, end of embarrassment.” A number of so-called high-profile feminists have signed on to this new boat venture including Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of CODEPINK; Angela Y. Davis, for whom I once marched when she was jailed in New York City; Starhawk, a Jewish feminist Wiccan; and my old friend, the writer Alice Walker.

Closing Points

Some academics and activists are merely opportunists. Anti-Zionism (which is one of the things that is “new” about anti-Semitism, something I identified in 2002-2003—that plus the Islamification of anti-Semitism) is seen as a necessary ideology in order to succeed as professors, authors, journalists—and in a wide variety of other professions.

Some academics and activists are not capable of original thinking and simply follow the herd. They are dreadful conformists. They have literally been indoctrinated to believe that America and Israel are evil and are the cause of world suffering. They want to abolish world suffering by abolishing Israel.

Some academics and activists are nostalgic for the 1960s and are still so furious at America that they want the barbarians to bring down Wall Street in a way they themselves never could. They believe they alone will be spared as America and Europe goes down because they are “politically correct.” They do not believe the barbarians will come for them.

They are also slumming, erotically thrilled by contact with real outlaws, real killers, Really Bad Men. Look: Male serial killers have no end of fans, including marriage proposals after they have been jailed.

Some academics and activists—and here I am thinking of many Jews—are exercising their secular version of religious Judaism. They are “repairing the world” but not for Jews, mainly for non-Jews, the strangers at the gate, and for the enemies of America and Israel. Although such Jews may be secularists or atheists, they behave with a fundamentalist-style religious zeal. They truly believe that their work is what alone will save the world, fulfill the Jewish ethical mission, redeem, even justify Israel’s existence. Their work consists of criticizing Israel, partly because they feel that Israel’s existence must be justified. They believe that Israel must be better than other nations to justify its right to exist.

Some academics and activists—and here I am thinking especially about Jewish feminists and lesbians—believe that they will lose their pariah status if they scapegoat Jews, indeed, if they are the first to do so. This alone will allow them to live. This is what makes them tough and trendy “radicals.”

Such feminists, leftists, and gay liberationists have not thought through what their lives might be like under Islamic rule. In fact, they still deny that there’s a “problem” with Islam and insist that the main problem is with American and Israeli colonialism, imperialism, and militarism.

All these Israel-bashers may be far more terrified of Islamic Jihad than I am—and are assuming the position of dhimmi-appeasers long before it is necessary to do so.

I have not come here today to bash feminists. I am one. As I’ve said, I don’t understand what happened to the best minds of my Second Wave generation. However, our feminist work is certainly not worthless and was not done in vain. Today, I do my feminist work with Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists and dissidents. We work on Islamic gender apartheid. My vision of universal human rights has not changed. Feminism now provides a bridge in our collective fight to defend both Israel and the West. Such anti-Islamist Muslims are marginalized and need our support. We need to convince western governments to use them, listen to them. We need to unify and fight the war to delegitimize Israel. It is the key to preserving the West.

19 replies »

  1. I know I’ll open myself up to severe criticism from the feminine side for saying this, but it has always struck me that the shrillest voices in any protest march, the people most likely to grab the microphone and hurl abuse at whoever they disagree with, are politically involved females. Take Lauren Booth as the prime example, or Deborah Fink.

    I can’t help noticing that the pathetic male dodos at the Guardian are being ousted in favor of a a group of female harridans – Georgina Henry (interesting name in this context – almost a double male name), Katherine Viner, now Natalie Hanman, Rachel Shabi, Mya Guernieri, Harriet Sherwood, etc. Some of the most vociferous commenters have been ones like Teacup, that Somali woman who presumably has left Canada and gone off to join Al Shabab, etc.

  2. “a Jewish Israeli feminist researcher at Hebrew University, doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, blamed Israeli soldiers because they refused to rape Arab and Palestinian women; she claimed this constituted “racism” against Palestinians.”

    In a similar fashion, on CiF we had an astonishing article by Rosa Freedman (yes – one of those Freedmans) claiming women in Britain are being discriminated against by being denied their “right” to female genital mutilation (FGM) since men can be circumcised and the law does not prevent circumcision while it is intended to prevent FGM…

  3. Interesting read. Thanks.

    Most interesting to me was your point about Western liberals/progressives/GLBT attacking Western imperialism etc coupled with the thought of what their lives would be like under Sharia or something. That really made me stop and consider.

  4. Closing PointsSome academics and activists are merely opportunists. Anti-Zionism (which is one of the things that is “new” about anti-Semitism, something I identified in 2002-2003—that plus the Islamification of anti-Semitism) is seen as a necessary ideology in order to succeed as professors, authors, journalists—and in a wide variety of other professions.

    Can’t agree with that statement. Many of the most vociferous, effective and articulate critics of LEFT Antisemitism are themselves ‘lefties’. And they could write their own contracts in any ‘news’ media that they chose to join.

    So the above statement is misleading.

    However, it does apply to such cesspools as The Guardian and The Independent, both posing as newspapers. May also apply to The BBC but, having said that, not all the BBC is Looney Left. Just a large part. (And hopefully, they are on the way out).

    Otherwise, the article is spot-on.

    mr FantasticMost interesting to me was your point about Western liberals/progressives/GLBT attacking Western imperialism etc coupled with the thought of what their lives would be like under Sharia or something. That really made me stop and consider.

    The most vocal persons in those types of organisations tend to be rebels against ‘established society’ and often loose their way. A simple fact of life.

  5. Dr. Chesler, I have admired your work for years. Chazak ve-ematz, may you go from strength to strength.

    Shana tova to you and yours.

  6. JerusalemMite, lefties who are “the most vociferous, effective and articulate critics of LEFT Antisemitism”–such as Dr. Chesler (Nick Cohen also springs to mind)–are vilivied and shunned by their former comrades.

    If you’ve read Chesler’s “The Death of Fiminism” or Cohen’s “What’s Left” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

  7. Never mind that photo of a Hamas harpie in pretendy combat fatigues. Have an eye-full of this real IDF soldier supermodel Esti Ginzburg:

  8. And while you are about it, take a good look at these other Israeli soldiers and know who are the true new feminists:

  9. And, by the way, “Starhawk, a Jewish feminist Wiccan”. Oy va voy; do you have a photo of her in traditional Wiccan dress? What is her real name? Duvidl suggests in Hebrew and Yiddish it might be Cochav Fegele.

  10. Apologies. Duvidl has just googled Starhawk (real name Miriam Simos) on Wikipedia. There is a photo of this self-proclaimed witch, but she appears to be just a grey-haired old hag. Miriam is not wearing the traditional pointy hat or sitting on a broomstick with a cat. However, Duvidl lives in hope that Miri might one day add such a photo to her Wikipedia entry.

  11. ‘Never mind that photo of a Hamas harpie in pretendy combat fatigues.’

    Unnecessary. She is very attractive, I think.

  12. If the Hamas-loving tart in the photo wore that T-shirt in Gaza, she’d probably be lashed for displaying too much flesh.

    She probably wouldn’t be grinning quite as much afterwards.

  13. zkharia. “Unnecessary.” Very necessary. She is pretending to be a terrorist and is not in the same league or even on the same planet as the real soldiers pictured, like the gorgeous and wonderful Esti Ginzburg and every one of those brave soldier beauties in the IDF fighting to defend their country, both female and male.

  14. These westerners … the most uncanny and frightening ability to scapegoat Jews precisely because leftists have not been able to achieve their desired New World Order. If some ideal can’t be achieved, then the Jews must pay.

    Strong words. But the author does not provide a single example of the alleged anti-Semitism.