Israel’s modern-day feminists

This is why people organize themselves into small groups, such as family, tribe or community, rather than into a greater “humanity.”

By DAPHNE NETANYAHU
June 15, 2013 22:31
Palestinian women walking in J'lems Old City

Palestinian women walking in J'lems Old City 370. (photo credit: HAMZE AWAWDE)

As I turned a corner during a walk with my dog one morning, she suddenly stood on her hind legs and placed her paws lovingly on the chest of an elderly man before I could stop her.

“She just loves humanity!” I apologized, while pulling my dog off him. He looked at me without smiling, and said, in a heavy German-Jewish accent, “Oh, it’s very easy to love humanity; it’s loving people that’s difficult.”

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Exactly. This is why people organize themselves into small groups, such as family, tribe or community, rather than into a greater “humanity.”

The “nation” seems to be the widest circle individuals are able to belong to and identify with. As Jews, we sometimes have the sense that we are all one big family. For other peoples, questions such as, “Where are you from?” “Where did you go to school?” and “Where do you work?” mostly serve to assess social or economic status. For Jews, these questions are a means to discovering whether you have any mutual acquaintances connecting you to each other in a sort of “familial” tie.

I chose the word “familial” because family is our natural point of reference. Family is where we develop our ability to love, to give to and identify with others, to be compassionate and dedicated. It is the sense of family that is carried beyond into wider spheres, be they neighborhoods, communities, cities or nations.

AN ANTHROPOLOGIST once told me about research he was conducting on an African tribe suffering through war and severe deprivation. Its social fabric had all but disintegrated.

The anthropologist witnessed an incident in which tribe members were abusing and mocking a boy while others watched from the sidelines, laughing in delight, and even occasionally participating in the abuse. Among those watching was the boy’s mother, who not only did not come to his defense, but actually laughed heartily at his humiliation.

The anthropologist commented that when a society deteriorates to the point where there is a lack of compassion even between mother and child, it can no longer be saved, because, as he explained, the glue that keeps groups intact, those crucial emotional connections between close family members, is no longer there. These primary connections are the basis of one’s ability to feel commitment (to develop a conscience, if you will) toward others: first toward family, later towards close group members and eventually toward people outside these circles.

While people do create ties also to those with similar interests, be it sports, professional activities, volunteering or politics, such ties are usually not as deep or strong as those we have with family members and close friends.

In the 20th century, we witnessed communist regimes deliberately destroying the emotional and moral glue necessary for maintaining the group and allowing the individual to identify with it. The communists invested enormous effort in disassociating peoples from family, community and town, directing them to identify instead with the “working class” and the “Party.” As a result, we saw children informing on their parents, who were then summarily sent off to the Gulag and its “reeducation” camps, or citizens instigating the arrest of their brothers, teachers and neighbors and receiving apartments or higher paying jobs in return.

Fracturing the bonds between natural group members and replacing them with artificial connections such as political party or social class not only destroys society’s basic internal structure, but also impairs individuals’ capacity to feel love and compassion and develop a sense of morality.

In their stead, a blind willingness to obey the “ruler,” whether party, movement, or an elite group determining the public agenda, is advanced.

USING METHODS similar to those of the communists, contemporary “elite” groups in Israel attempt to govern our thinking, utilizing modern-day feminists, who, following communism’s fall from grace, now in large measure determine our current public discourse. Like the communists, modern feminist movements aim to unravel the natural bonds between family members, friends, colleagues, members of local communities and the citizens of the nation which binds society together.

They now seek to replace it not with a new “class” or party, but with the female gender as a whole. At the same time, feminism also exhorts us to disassociate ourselves from the members of the opposite sex. This deliberate effort at gender separation causes constant divisiveness, which feeds an ongoing struggle between the sexes, thus creating a permanent state of revolution.

In this way feminism, like communism before it, tries to undermine the sense of social identification and belonging to the fundamental, natural groups which are the building blocks of human compassion and morality. Unlike organizations or movements that promote women’s status within traditional frameworks, feminism expects that just because I’m a woman, I will identify more closely with some anonymous female in China than, let’s say, my employer, who had the misfortune of being born male and who happens to serve occasionally in the armed forces, protecting my life.

Additionally, feminism expects me to identify more strongly with a Palestinian woman who might send her son to kill her daughter for “desecrating” family honor than with my husband, who by definition is a chauvinist male. Similarly, it demands that I identify even with that same Palestinian woman’s female neighbor, who might encourage her sons and daughters to become “martyrs” by blowing themselves up and killing members of my own family, town, or nation.

This sort of identification with our gender “sisters” exacts a high moral cost, as by shifting our natural identification, we lose our ability to discern right from wrong, real from false, and just from unjust. The resulting confusion is fertile ground for feminist leaders to direct us to the “correct” solutions to life’s various dilemmas.

THUS, IF violence or a sexual offense is committed by a Jewish man against a woman, the feminists rightly demand that full justice be done. But there are exceptions to this feminist rule, such as when an Arab man attacks a woman because she’s Jewish. This sort of crime is automatically elevated to the realm of legitimate national struggle and, if the Jewish woman happens to be a settler, regarded as highly moral.

How else can we explain the deathly silence of women’s movements at such widespread criminal acts? Given the choice between national identification and gender identification, most professional feminists identify with the Palestinian national movement.

Yet the solutions they come up with can be most convoluted.

For example, if an Israeli soldier were to rape a Palestinian woman, the feminists’ approach is clear; we would hear about it endlessly, literally everywhere, under the rubric of gender solidarity. But what’s to be done about the fact that Israeli soldiers don’t rape Palestinian women? Well, it seems there is an ingenious feminist solution to this particular dilemma: Jewish racism, which, according to one Israeli feminist scholar who authored a research paper on the subject in 2007, makes Israeli soldiers see Arab women as too inferior to be worth raping.

Before the feminists succeed in confusing us completely and convincing us it is indeed easy to love humanity, or at least its feminine half, it’s worthwhile reminding ourselves that the men, who are all defined by feminism as potential chauvinist criminals, are our fathers, brothers and sons, and may well be risking their lives so that we can live here. To this we should say: feminism or not, identifying with our enemies, including its women, is not an option.

This article is based on a lecture that was given at the Nationalist Driven Sex Crimes Conference held at the Jabotinsky House in Tel Aviv on November 22, 2009. The writer is editor of the online Hebrew weekly magazine Maraah.(magazine.co.il)

Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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