It has been a while since I entangled myself in the various -isms of political thought. From a staunch Marxist, I became a Socialist, an Eco-Centrist, a Post-Colonialist, couple other -ists and then I found my ideological home.
Feminist. Aha! An -ist I could actually belong to.
I mean, I would be stupid if I wasn’t on my own team. As a woman, I just had to be a Feminist. For the record, I still identify as one– except some of me is not welcome in the movement. The part of me that supports a home for the Jewish people is not welcome. According to this line of thought, I am a Hasbara activist, complicit in Israel’s brand of Homonationalism (painting itself as LGBT-friendly in order to justify its oppression of homophobic Palestine). But before I go any further, we need to address why I am discussing the Israel-Palestine issue in an article about Feminism.
Today’s Feminism is all about intersectionality. There is intersection between forms of oppression and that has to be understood, acknowledged, and accepted. For instance, if I am a woman of color, I face discrimination as a woman and as a person of color. The instances of discrimination may or may not always be overlapping. But they frequently do, which is why it is important to analyze my experiences with racism as a woman of color as opposed to just a person of color. The same is true for Black women, Muslim women, Transwomen, Queer women, and gender non-conforming persons. Their experiences under other systemic oppressions intersect with their oppression as women in a man-dominated society.
Thanks to this understanding and newfound sensitivity towards the interconnectedness of oppressive power systems, a large number of Feminist movements are also increasingly anti-Racism, anti-Islamophobia, and anti-Capitalism (the American version of it, anyway).
Needless to say, as liberal women on the side of the persecuted, it is our duty to speak truth to power. Fighting for the liberation of all women is necessary and we cannot exclude anyone.
It sounds so simple, so brilliant, so great. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such a movement?
Well, it is easy when narratives are discussed on the internet and in academic circles where intellectual masturbation is encouraged, rewarded, and praised.
The reality on ground is much uglier. It is messy and not easily compartmentalized into good and bad. And this is where I come back to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
But before we go any further, let me show you something. Linda Sarsour, a prominent Palestinian-American Feminist has made statements like these:-
I am no supporter of Trump but why is it not okay for him to grab women by the p*ussy while it is perfectly okay for Linda Sarsour to want to take away Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s vagina. For those who don’t know, Hirsi Ali is an ex-Muslim Feminist who was subjected to Female Genital Mutilation as a child.
THAT, to me, is a LOT creepier than Zionism, which is just the belief that the Jewish people deserve a homeland. And no, Zionism is not a monolith as Sarsour would have you believe. There are a very large number of Zionists who oppose Netanyahu and support the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. A very large number of liberal Zionists are working to improve relations between Palestinians and Israelis. They are also fighting for the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinian people. The only so-called caveat is that they are not calling for their own destruction in order to serve justice.
Also, to understand why anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic, we need to look at the history of Zionism. It was a movement born in the late 1800s as a response to the centuries of rampant anti-Semitism that existed in all of Europe that ultimately culminated into the Holocaust. Sure, the Zionists knew from the 1800s that the Jewish people would need a country of their own in order to be safe. But they did not orchestrate the Holocaust. They did not make it an “excuse” to push the Zionist agenda. Israel happened because millions of Jewish survivors liberated after months and years of captivity in Nazi concentration camps had nowhere to go. Six million Jews were murdered and the remaining three million had lost family members and pretty much all their material possessions. Refugees. Stateless. Traumatized beyond comprehension.
And as a part of its systematic decolonization, Britain divided Mandate Palestine between Jews and Palestinians in order to fulfil a promise to the Jewish people– a promise that was fulfilled too late. 60% of their numbers had already been exterminated by the Nazis. And do I need to point out that among the dead and the living, there were women, queer people, Jews of color, and others that would today be welcome in the intersectional framework of Third-Wave Feminism.
How is it that the biggest genocide in the history of humanity, a genocide that ended only 73 years ago is forgotten so easily. How are its survivors told that their desire for their own homeland is creepy, or worse, that it was a settler-colonial project that used the Holocaust as an excuse to fulfill a white supremacist agenda.
Worded like this, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But take a look at what INCITE (national organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and their communities through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing) has to say about Israel and Palestine–
- We follow the lead of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, San Francisco Chapter, who describe Zionism as a racist political, cultural, and economic project that works to remove and exclude indigenous Palestinians from their land.
- “Israel” was created through a process of colonization, massacre, and war by destroying Palestinian villages, taking away Palestinian land and encouraging Palestinians to migrate through the use of violence and fear.
- At every point of its development, and continuing today, the Zionist project was influenced and supported by 19th century European colonialism and its white supremacist racist way of thinking.
- “Israel” is committing genocide. It inflicts physical, economic and psychological violence on Palestinians daily.
- The “U.S.” benefits from supporting “Israel” because “Israel” serves as the “U.S.'” watchdog over the Middle East region and its resources, such as oil, labor, and other valuable resources.
- The Zionist movement and “Israel” are extremely powerful within the “U.S.” They play a major role in the “U.S.” media, education, travel, labor, non-profit industrial complex, etc.
- The Zionist movements and their friends in the “U.S.” government and “U.S.” corporations have hidden the true, racist nature of the “Israeli” state through a propaganda system that distorts history and blames the victims (the Palestinians) and celebrates the victimizer (“Israel”).
- We demand the right of return for the 5.5 million Palestinian refugees who have been displaced by “Israeli” invasion. We call for their safe return to their villages of origin and we demand that they be compensated for their losses.
- We put the words “Israel” and “U.S.” in quotes to question the legitimacy of these “states” and to call out that these “states” were created by colonizers who massacred indigenous people and stole their lands and resources.
Note how these vitriolic points co-opt known inflammatory anti-Semitic discourse (They play a major role in the “U.S.” media, education, travel, labor, non-profit industrial complex, etc.) AND completely ignore the events of the Second World War and the refugee crisis created by it.
They also fail to mention that there are 5.5 million Palestinian refugees because the UNRWA’s definition of refugees includes descendants of male Palestinian refugees and is solely applied to just Palestinians. The UNHCR and other refugee conventions do not grant refugee status to descendants of refugees.
The actual number of Palestinian refugees was 700,000 in 1948. And while that was a truly regrettable thing to have happened, many of the original refugees have died of old age or built their lives elsewhere. A mass return of 5.5 million people is an unreasonable demand to place on any state, let alone a tiny one already saddled with a resource crunch and an economy burdened by conflict. This will do nothing useful except for punishing the Israeli people collectively and plunging the region into another nightmare of civil conflict. Of course, if the intent is indeed to punish, then there is no use arguing this point.
However, I do support a fair financial compensation for the refugees and their heirs. It will not change what happened. It is far from ideal. But it is viable a way to move forward.
In another point, INCITE accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians without realizing the gravity of the word ‘Genocide.’
This is the definition of Genocide according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:- The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.
Interestingly, the population of Palestinians has been growing at a rate of 2.4% per year. The Palestinian birth rate is 33% higher than the Israeli birth rate. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the population of Palestinians was 6.08 million in 2014. According to these statistics, the Palestinians have one of the fastest growing populations in the world. On the other hand, Israel’s Jewish population is also around 6.5 million as of 2017. And only recently the global Jewish population has reached the mark of 13.4 million, a number somewhat close to what their population was before the Holocaust.
So no, even if I am biased, numbers don’t lie. The Israel-Palestine conflict is a lot of things. But genocide is not one of them.
However, when I point this out, I am automatically excluded from the Feminist movement– because as Linda Sarsour said, Zionism is not compatible with Feminism; never mind that as a Zionist, I support a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians can live and prosper peacefully alongside each other.
A criticism that would be leveled against this piece is that I equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.
That is true. I do equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism as I’ve said before– because when you say you’re against Zionism, that you don’t support a home for the Jewish people– you are also participating in and contributing to the erasure of history that you so despise. Generations of racial oppression is still seen as affecting the lives of people of color. Generations of colonial oppression is acknowledged and studied by Post-Colonial scholars. Anti-caste activists in India insist vehemently that caste as a multi-generational power structure continues to oppress Dalits.
But when the topic of anti-Semitism (and its centuries-long history) comes up, everyone either falls silent or says brazenly, “But what about Palestine…?” or “Israel is a colonial-settler project… because Jews are white people.”
Ha. Ha. Ha. Very Funny.
Jews come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Many of them are white-passing, not white. Because last I checked, race was NOT a biological category. And Jews come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds (Eg: Mizrachi Jews-Arab, Ashkenazi Jews- European, Sephardic Jews- Hispanic, Bene Israel- South Asian, Beta Israel- Black).
Any privilege accorded to white-passing Jews is cancelled out by the obvious and subtle anti-Semitism that is practiced by both, right-wing neo-Nazis and left-wing crusaders like INCITE.
Though I must admit, like good Left-Liberals, at least they do their lip service against neo-Nazis whenever things like Charlottesville happen. I have a lot more to say. But I will conclude here.
I am a Feminist. And I am disappointed in my own kind.