Linda Sarsour would appear to be a rising star of feminist causes. She organizes rallies, cleans up cemeteries and protests at every conceivable opportunity. She is a veritable pin up for girl power. In the last few days, Sarsour has made sweeping comments that Zionism and feminism simply do not go together.
It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it,” Sarsour said.
Comments like this are fast alienating Jewish, Zionist women from participating in the growing feminist movement in the USA.
Feminism is very much a part of the fabric of Zionism and the story of the modern state of Israel and as a Zionist, feminist woman I am free to pretty much say what I want – unlike my Palestinian sisters.
Feminism predates the modern state of Israel and weaves through Jewish history with feminist heroines like Yael and Devorah and they have continued the tradition of strong, outspoken women in modern times. Zionists wrote the book on feminism. Literally! Have you read the bible? Some pretty strong women in there!
Zionist women are the ultimate feminist rebels, pioneers and trailblazers. Before the formal establishment of Israel, women were establishing the systems and institutions that would improve life for her citizens. While the men jaw jawed and talked politics, women were busy on the ground.
I am a proud volunteer member of WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation). WIZO was founded in 1920 and a little known fact is that the organization was at the forefront of the suffragette movement that took place in Europe at the time. The struggle for political suffrage for women is regarded as first wave of feminism.
Our history is proud and noble and our women have worked hard for the improvement of the status of women both in Israel and globally. We have representatives on various UN bodies that lobby for the rights of women and children and amongst our many achievements have been programmes that help women in minority communities, some who have even run for office. WIZO formed a party and ran for Knesset in Israel’s first elections in 1949, receiving 1.2% of the vote and winning one seat and represented by Rachel Cohen-Kagan, chairwoman of WIZO at the time and a signatory to our Declaration of Independence
Women’s rights in Israel are amongst the most progressive in the world and it would be remiss of me to not mention the iconic Golda Meir, one of the first female Prime Ministers in the world. A powerful leader and orator, Meir was one of the first to recognize how Israel can help impoverished countries in Africa and this was very much in line with the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl’s, vision that he wrote in his manifesto.
Zionist women are free to criticize any policy that we may disagree with because an Israel that stands up to the tenets of Zionism is what we strive for.
Israel is a vibrant and flawed democracy just like any other country and women are very much a part of the fabric that has and continues to build the country every day. We are pioneers in many fields. We are trailblazers in business, politics, volunteer organisations, the arts and sciences and so much more. We are religious and secular and everything in between. We are warriors and defenders of our country on land, sea, air and airwaves and we are homemakers, entrepreneurs and creative genii. We are changing the political landscape and we represent over 80 different ethnicities. We can vote, drive, and own property and business. We can make decisions that govern our bodies and our communities and if we want to, raise a little hell.
It is not just in Israel where Zionist women are trailblazers. It was a Zionist, feminist woman, Helen Suzman, who sat in parliament as the lone voice fighting against the Apartheid government in South Africa.
Well Linda, if you are really concerned about the rights of Palestinian women you would be holding the leadership accountable at every possible turn. You would be demonstrating your outrage about domestic violence and honour killings, gender Apartheid which prohibits women from owning property or businesses, driving, voting and pursuing careers of their choice. You would march against underage brides forced to marry men before they reach puberty. You would be outraged about genital mutilation, genocide of Christian women and the unspeakable torture women are enduring in the Middle East under ISIS.
Thank you Linda Sarsour for exposing what we know for sure – BDS is becoming more and more irrelevant as governments and institutions continue to pass legislation to block or ban them so they have to hijack other cause to remain relevant. This is known as “intersectionality”.
Well Ms Sarsour, we Zionist women are happy to meet you at any intersection. Standing up for the rights of women regardless of religion or political leanings is what feminism is all about.
Stop pointing your finger at Israel and Zionists and use your considerable platform to give a voice to our suffering sisters. Help those women who you accuse us of discriminating against. They are far more deserving of your attention than we are.