What exactly did Women’s March Co-Chair Tamika Mallory mean when she recently told The New York Times that “we’ve all learned a lot about how while white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy, ALL Jews are targeted by it.”?
Perhaps she meant to combine a lie with a truth. First, the false assertion that Jews — who were often the first and sometimes only allies of African Americans in their civil rights struggles — are enemies of nonwhite people. Second, the true observation that Robert Bowers, who allegedly murdered 11 Jews praying in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue on an October Sabbath morning, was a white supremacist and a genocidal Jew hater.
For many, whatever Mallory meant, her latest barb was the last straw. This week, organizers in Charlotte and New Orleans formally disassociated their marches from Mallory’s national organization. The organizers in New Orleans said they were having trouble maintaining sponsorships and recruiting volunteers while organizers in Charlotte minced no words in a statement that pointed to anti-Semitism as the reason for cancelling the march.
These are belated but encouraging signs. But it’s too early to tell how this all plays out.
A little history is in order. Various “liberation movements” act rarely in harmony. So too with Zionism, the movement by the Jewish people to re-achieve their homeland, and the Feminist movement for women’s rights.
Just as followers of Karl Marx assumed that Socialism would automatically liberate both men and women, so too many followers of Theodore Herzl assumed that Zionism would also liberate them both. The truth is that, no matter the “liberation” movement, women have had to fight for their rights every step of the way.
Michael Aviad’s Film, "Women Pioneers" (2013), explores what was in some ways the high point of the fusion of Zionism and feminism in pre-state Israel. It’s the collective biography of five European Zionist women who came to Israel to live in the northern Kibbutz of Ein Harod. One of them recalled: “I dreamed of building a new revolutionary society in Palestine . . . [where] women wouldn’t be oppressed for biological traits. I wanted to be part of a new society for women.” Though they were sometimes forced to assume the primary burden for “women’s work,” their dream made progress until gradually slowed by the necessities of military survival, starting with defense against the Arab riots of 1929, in which men took the lead. But the bottom line was clear: Zionism would have failed and there would have been no Jewish state without the blood, sweat, and tears of Zionist Women.
After Israel’s miraculous victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the newly empowered Jewish state quickly lost its status as an underdog David battling a multi-headed Goliath. Yesterday’s friends in the international left suddenly labeled Israel a colonialist and racist oppressor — even ludicrously charging the Jewish state was the Mideast and world’s “biggest oppressor of women”— an irony not lost on Israel’s Prime Minister-Golda Meir.
At the United Nations’ first World Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975, Soviet and Arab delegations rammed through a motion that linked the U.N.’s 10-Year Plan of Action for Women to the eradication of imperialism, neocolonialism, racism, apartheid, and Zionism. A few months later, with the Arab and Soviet Blocs in the lead, the U.N. General Assembly passed the infamous Resolution 3379 slandering Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination.”
Leah Rabin, the wife of the Israeli prime minister, was booed off stage at the Mexico City conference. Betty Friedan, the founder of modern feminism was also forced to leave early. She called it “one of the most painful experiences in my life.” Phyllis Chesler never forgot hypocrisy of “feminists” who denounced sexism in Israel while ignoring the much greater discrimination against women in Arab and Muslim states.
These developments occurred long before our internet age when Palestinian American Linda Sarsour, the Women’s March co-chair, convinced Tamika Mallory that somehow Sarsour’s goal of freeing the Mideast from Israel intersects with Mallory’s aspiration of freedom for women — especially women of color.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and Mao’s China claimed to be on the vanguard of women’s rights and duped Western feminists into giving a free pass to Arab and Muslim regimes that still held women in virtual bondage. America and Israel, which gave us Betty Friedan and Golda Meir respectively, were brazenly blamed for all ills.
It would be a tragedy if the 21st century backers of women’s rights would seek equality for all women — sans Jewish women for the ‘sin’ of being both proud feminists and Zionists!
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization. Abraham Cooper has been a longtime activist for Jewish and human rights causes. His extensive involvement in Soviet Jewry included visiting refuseniks, helping to open Moscow’s first Jewish Cultural Center, and lecturing at the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Sakharov Foundation. In 1977, he came to L.A. to help Rabbi Marvin Hier found the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and for three decades Rabbi Cooper has overseen the Wiesenthal Center’s international social action agenda including worldwide antisemitism and extremist groups, Nazi crimes, Interfaith Relations, the struggle to thwart the anti-Israel Divestment campaign, and worldwide promotion of tolerance education. Widely recognized as an international authority on issues related to digital hate and the Internet, Rabbi Cooper was listed in 2017 by Newsweek among the top most influential Rabbis in the United States. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
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