The question is whether Zionism can make room for a truly inclusive equality.
In a recent New York Times op-ed “Does Feminism have Room for Zionists?” Emily Shire, who identifies as a feminist and a Zionist, argues that her belief in “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” should not be at odds with her feminism.
According to Shire, women who seek to be included in the women’s protests against the current U.S. administration should not have to face a “critical of Israel” litmus test. She takes issue with the Strike’s platform, which specifically calls for the “decolonization of Palestine,” but which doesn’t mention the myriad other injustices inflicted on women across the world.
But Shire herself brings up her own Zionism. She states her relationship to Israel shouldn’t be a factor for the women’s protest, while simultaneously demanding a space for it — Zionism being a giant, pertinent caveat. In doing so, Shire is ironically subjecting women active in the movement to her own litmus test.
Shire is asking the wrong question. It is not whether feminism has room for Zionists, but whether Zionism has room for equal rights. Zionism’s manifestation as a political system operating for almost 69 years now has thus far proven it does not have that room. The State of Israel was founded as a safe haven for Jews and is premised on privileging Jews over all others. It is not a country for all its citizens — over 20 percent of whom are not Jewish at all — but for all Jewish people (and increasingly, only certain kinds of Jews to boot).
Shire gives the impression that she hasn’t sat down to consider how Palestinian women’s rights, in Israel and in the occupied territories, are systematically affected by Israel’s very raison d’être. (The fact that they are also trampled within Palestinian society does not absolve Israel of responsibility). Instead she insists on Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state.” But if one does not define what that should mean for Palestinians, one is evading the core issue. So far, it has de facto meant Israel has had the right to exist as a system of supremacy of one group over another.
I also support the right of Jews to self-determination. But as a Jewish ethno-nationalist state, Israel cannot uphold equal rights. That is a fact. So the question then, is, can a Jewish state exist that doesn’t systematically violate...Read More