Feminist conversation about about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

I am always excited when I see a new post on Feministing about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I follow the news about Israel closely from a variety of sources, and I am confident that feminist writing possesses a unique opportunity to engage the ever-more upsetting news coming from the Middle East. The feminist perspective offers the ability to read the news differently, and helps me think about how issues of identity inform my own critical practice. This is especially important when discussing Israel/Palestine today, a conflict which is in desperate need for creative answers to the ongoing suffering experienced on both sides.

Yet, despite this opportunity for thoughtful analysis on Israel/Palestine from the various voices published on this blog, I often find myself disappointed by the one-sided perspective found here. After yesterday’s Feministing article about the recent UN vote, I felt compelled to insert my voice into the discussion broadcast on this blog. The “About” section of Feministing states: “Feministing’s Community blog exists to provide a platform for feminist and pro-feminist writing,” and “posts that contain no feminist lens or analysis… may also be held for moderation.” Yesterday’s article lacked the feminist context for the author’s argument and responded to the news without explaining how feminist values informed the author’s opinion.

I appreciate the feminist emphasis on raising consciousness on all human-rights offensives, no matter if they are obviously feminist or not. Yet I find the frequent knee-jerk inclination to demonize Israel within this line of thinking to be careless and even dangerous. Despite agreeing with the analysis offered regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disgusting response to Palestine’s non-member status, I’m left unsatisfied by the article because it does not provide the necessary context that unveils the complexities of this issue, and it does not offer the multi-layered examination that a feminist perspective lends to this issue. 

The connection between feminism and Zionism has been convoluted and corrupted by the ongoing conflict, the Pinkwashing debate, and the outcry against Israel from prominent feminist voices. If we continue to react to the political atrocities we read on the news without a nuanced understanding of feminism and Zionism, what is at stake? At their core, feminism and Zionism are fundamentally both liberation movements. Both seek safety, agency and self-determination for women and for Jews, respectively. Both movements are still working to fulfill their utmost potential. Forgetting this root aim of Zionism because of the ongoing suffering does not do justice to the complexity of the conflict. Moreover, for feminist Zionists like myself, articles like the one posted here yesterday isolate us, forcing us to choose between two movements that are both crucial to our identities.

For me, the beauty of being Zionist and of being feminist is the opportunity to embrace fluid identity boundaries. Both communities encourage critical thinking about who we are. The challenge for us, then, is to coalesce the values of both ideologies into a coherent identity, and to uphold loyalty to both movements even when they come into conflict with each other. I assume that this is a struggle to familiar to many feminists, no matter where their loyalties lie. So when feminist writing villainizes Israel without the self-reflection of either a) how their feminist values inform this opinion or, b) the appreciation of why this dynamic might be painful for some in the community, the conversation pushes me away.

A more compelling feminist analysis of the current political situation in Israel would acknowledge why Israel’s actions offend the writer’s feminist values. Or, perhaps, this blog would seek to include other ways of educating about Israel. For example, I’d be curious to hear an outcry about the institutionalized discrimination of women at Jewish holy sites, or to hear applause at the non-violent and progressive methods that Israeli women are using to combat this discrimination themselves. If there had been an English translation available, I would have loved to share with readers of this blog the recent PSA from the Israeli Ministry of Health that laughed at abstinence education and promoted contraception. Raising awareness of these events and engaging the intricacies of these struggles are crucial to a comprehensive feminist conversation about Israel.

In reading the news about Israel and leveraging our feminist imperatives when we believe that the Israeli government fails us, we face an immense challenge. Yet instead of using our affinity for the oppressed to cloud our analysis, let us rise to remember that our priorities cannot always co-exist or be actualized in a clear-cut way. With this difficulty admitted, we can posit a deeper understanding of the complexities of a feminist perspective on Israel. For me, my Zionist and Feminist identity comes from the same deep place inside me. They both emerge from a personal and emotional yearning for fulfillment for all parts of my identity; they both require a constantly changing intellectual negotiation; they both are still working to realize their full potential. A community that acknowledges people like me instead of isolating us, and voices that seek to thoughtfully engage this element of the struggle, is still possible. I hope to see this multi-faceted discussion on Feministing in the future.

 

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