December 15, 2018

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Zionism and Feminism have a great deal in common

I admit that when I saw the title of this Tablet piece by Einat Wilf, Anti-Feminism and Anti-Zionism, I expected a Zionist version of the flawed leftist intersectionality arguments that try to tie disparate themes together based on very little but with a clear political purpose.

I was wrong. This is really an excellent article that shows that feminism and Zionism have a great deal in common – not that one necessarily affects the other, as intersectionality theory insists, but that they have the same underlying philosophy of equal rights for historic victims of discrimination.


Feminism and Zionism are cut from the same cloth. Both movements emerged from the same intellectual and political origins, they both exhibited similar growth trajectories, becoming two of the most successful revolutions to sweep and survive through the 20th century, both continue to face ferocious backlash, and both remain vibrant and necessary in the 21st century. 

Feminism and Zionism are ongoing rebellions against millennia-long power structures that assigned women and Jews a “proper place” in society….They were both forms of refusal to accept the role that others have assigned to women and Jews. They were forms of self-assertion that cried out: I refuse to be seen how you wish to see me, I refuse to be that which you want me to be, I am not your inferior, I can be so much more than I am allowed to be, and I insist on being free to explore and make the most of my humanity.

 Feminism and Zionism developed as those claiming to espouse the ideals of equality and liberty and solidarity twisted themselves into ideological and religious knots to justify keeping women and Jews out of this new world. Feminism and Zionism came into their own as the logical trajectory of equality among human beings could not but be extended to those who could also lay legitimate claim to being human beings, even if somewhat different from the mold.

Alas, feminist women and Zionist Jews proved themselves ingrates. The more they attained, the more they wanted. Unable to celebrate what they were given, they exhibited an annoying tendency to not just care about being somewhat better off than before but to actually want true equality. It was a tendency that was often resisted by women and Jews themselves, who feared that the fragile achievements they already had would be endangered by movements that insisted on pressing ever forward. The “problem” with feminism and Zionism was that no matter how successful they were, what achievements they brought about for women and Jews, it never seemed to be enough….

That change was not always welcome. In fact, it was resisted at every turn, often violently, even ferociously. The more power—of various kinds—was amassed by women and Jews, the more their rise felt like an offense to the “proper order of things.” The challenge of feminism and Zionism to millennia-long power structures was never going to go over unchallenged. It is in the very nature of power that no-one, ever, gives it up willingly and easily. If women and Jews seemed unable to know “their proper place” and intent on demanding more, then they must be placed back in “their proper place,” and if needed, by force.

..[E]ntire cultures and civilizations were mobilized to drive a wedge between the “Good Woman” and the “Bad Feminist,” between the “Good Jew” and the “Bad Zionist.”
The difference between the Good and the Bad? Power. A “Good Woman” does not aspire to power; in fact, she feels uncomfortable with it and would be more than happy to forgo it. A “Good Jew” feels queasy with manifestations of Jewish power, and in the face of raw expressions of it rushes to declare his or her renunciation of Zionism. It is no accident that the forms of female and Jewish expressions that are most mocked, criticized, and denigrated are those that involve the expression of power. If the revolutions of feminism and Zionism are ever to be stalled, and even rolled back, women and Jews must come to feel uneasy with power.

This essay demolishes the pseudo-academic idea of intersectionalism and it shows that Zionism is a truly liberal idea and movement. It also neatly shows that those opposed to Zionism, for ostensibly liberal reasons, are really trying to keep Jews in their place.

And it also shows that opposition to Israeli policies is not necessarily anti-Zionism just as opposing some feminist tactics is not necessarily anti-feminist., But to oppose Zionism because of Israeli policies is just as dismissive of equal rights of Jews as opposing feminism is dismissive of equal rights for women.

This article is the best rejoinder for Linda Sarsour and her ilk who try to pretend that Zionism and feminism are incompatible.

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