Sunday, February 15, 2009

Zionism, feminism and fueling the fires of self determination.

Recent reports of the far left anti-Semitism are shocking but not surprising.

Feminist author Letty Cottin Pogrebin has written extensively on this phenomenon, detailing incidents of anti-Semitism, in of all places, the women’s movement. In her 1991 book, “ Deborah, Golda and me” she admits “Nothing has left me feeling quite as shocked and vulnerable as the discovery of anti-Semitism among feminists whom I had regarded as clear thinking allies and crusaders for social justice”

Pogrebin describes attending a conference in Mexico City in 1975, one of the first of 3 UN International Woman’s Decade conferences that passed a resolution effectively identifying all Jews as racists. Writing about the “Zionism is racism” resolution she points out the parallels in Zionism and feminism:

"I know Zionists who are racists just as I know racist feminists, but that doesn’t make Zionism racism any more than a few bigoted women make feminism racism. Moreover, one could say that Zionism is to Jews what feminism is to women. Zionism began as a national liberation movement and has become an ongoing struggle for Jewish solidarity, pride, and unity. Similarly, feminism, which began as a gender-liberation movement, has become an ongoing struggle for women’s solidarity, pride and unity. Just as feminism has been maligned and misunderstood by those who do not bother to understand it, so too has Zionism been maligned and misunderstood by its enemies....

Yet at the heart of the matter, Zionism and feminism are directly analogous in that both movements are fueled by the fires of self determination. Calling Zionism racism makes Jewish self-determination sound like an attack on non-Jews, which is comparable to calling feminism “anti-male”, as if female self-determination were an attack on men."

Pogrebin points out another similarity, “Traditionally, both women and Jews have been reluctant to confront our persecutors: women are afraid to rile the men in our lives: Jews to provoke the Gentile. We are good at self criticism. We are better at fighting for the rights of others- workers, children, central Americans, boat people, other minority groups- than standing up for our own."

Pogrebin understands identity politics much better than these folks
She knows, as do all truly progressive thinkers, that the way to elevate the Palestinian people is not through rhetoric that preaches hate or the destruction of Israel. The Palestinians cannot be supported by tearing Israel down, physically or rhetorically. The only way to support them is by empowering them to throw off the yoke of their oppressive leadership- the patriarchal, theocratic extremists, who are the real obstacle to a just and lasting peace in the region.

Pogrebin suggests this formula for elevating debate:
* not to argue about who deserves the land more, but to agree that both peoples deserve a homeland.
* not to argue about who has suffered more, but to agree that both people have experienced tragedy.
* Not to argue about who's to blame, but to agree that both people have made mistakes
* not to argue about who has more reason to distrust, but to agree that both sides need peace
* not to ague about who killed more, but to ensure there is no more killing

True progressives on all sides of the issue would serve the cause of peace well by agreeing to these simple rules