This article was originally published on EverydayFeminsim.com and is republished with permission.
Co-written note from the editor and author: Since there has been a large number of Jewish folk who feel that this article is anti-Semitic, we wanted to clarify our position and intention. This article is critical of Zionism and the Israeli apartheid occupation of Palestine.
We distinguish this from anti-Semitism and also believe that our society needs to address and end anti-Semitism and protect Jewish lives, just not through the occupation of Palestine and at the cost of Palestinian lives.
However, we also understand that many folks believe being anti-Zionist and pro-Palestine is also being anti-Semitic and that this pro-Palestinian piece has caused pain and anger to those who believe that to be true. Many who feel this way are Jewish folks who have very real intergenerational trauma caused by over two thousand years of historical and current-day anti-Semitism.
This pain and anger was likely exacerbated by this piece very regrettably being published a day after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA, where neo-Nazis marched and rioted.
We deeply apologize for the oversight in the timing of the piece during a moment of heightened sensitivity around anti-Semitism for Jewish folk. Our articles are scheduled weeks in advance and, as a small staff, we didn’t catch this issue ahead of time — that was our mistake. Had we realized it, we would have scheduled it for a later publishing date.
However, while we deeply regret the timing, we do not believe this article to be an attack on Jewish folks.
We want to make this clear for our readers, particularly our Jewish readers. We are committed to protecting Jewish folks from anti-Semitism. We also believe that conversations around how to address anti-Semitism AND how to address the occupation of Palestine are both important conversations. It’s not an either-or scenario to us.
We are committed to protecting Jewish folks from anti-Semitism. We also believe that conversations around how to address anti-Semitism AND how to address the occupation of Palestine are both important conversations. It’s not an either-or scenario to us.
This article is critical of Zionism. We stand firm with fellow intersectional feminists, like Linda Sarsour, who argue that Zionism and feminism are just not compatible. We also stand with the national #BlackLivesMatter platform, The Movement For Black Lives, who call for the boycott and divestment of Israel.
Judaism is a religion whose followers should be protected from persecution. Zionism is a modern nationalist project that revives the religion to establish a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine, where native Arab and Muslim folks already lived and served self-determination. To be clear, Zionists come from all walks of life: Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Jewish, and more.
We believe conflating anti-Zionism and calls to the occupation of Palestine with being anti-Semitic serves to makes it more difficult to address anti-Semitism and silences — and even erases — Palestinian voices.
This not only takes away from the real and dangerous anti-Semitism that takes place in places like Charlottesville, but it also does not recognize Zionism for what it is: an ideology that is based on colonial occupation built on violence, displacement, and racism.
We also want to highlight that there is not a consensus amongst Jewish folk around this assertion. Many of the people who are fighting against Israeli’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and the rightful right of return for Palestinians are Jewish, such as Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now.
To learn more about Jewish folks refusing to let Zionism be perpetuated in the name of protecting Jewish folk, here’s an Everyday Feminism piece written by a Jewish activist on her own personal journey to becoming anti-Zionist and Jewschool’s posts on Israel.
To be clear, this article is meant to celebrate Palestinian activists and to recognize a feminism that stands on a foundation of intersectional justice — one that opposes injustice from anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, militarized occupations, racism, and all forms of systematic oppression.
And finally, this article is a celebration of women who are beautiful and resilient in the face of vilification and dismissal.
We understand that not everyone will agree with us and that this article can touch the deep intergenerational trauma for many Jewish folks, which we deeply wish wasn’t so. Despite this, we believe we need to elevate the voices of Palestinian activists and Jewish activists fighting anti-Semitism and the Palestinian occupation.
As such, we are working on publishing more articles addressing anti-Semitism. We acknowledge this has not been a focus in the past and we want to change that.
We hope that we can continue working together to find a way that can both end anti-Semitism and the Palestinian occupation in hopes of making the world safer for both Jewish people and Palestinians.
When Wonder Women was released earlier this summer, everyone seemed to be celebrating the strong, empowered female lead who was a great role model for women and girls.
Gal Gadot, the actress that played Wonder Woman, quickly became the poster woman for the feminist celebrity movement: a white, fierce, vocal advocate for equality. She graced the cover of every magazine — a glass-ceiling-breaking kind of chick.
What is particularly interesting, however, is that Gadot is proud former soldier who served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). She is an unabashed supporter of the Israeli military as well as the state of Israel. Her lived experiences seem to align with her tough on screen persona.
But Gadot’s alignment with the Israeli army is more problematic than one might think.
In 2014, she posted an Instagram post in which she was praying for the IDF with the hashtag,#weareright. For anyone who does not know what occurred in 2014, more than 1,922 Palestinians were killed during ground and air attacks in the Gaza Strip.
IDF soldiers shot and killed fleeing Palestinian civilians in what Human Rights Watch calls, “apparent violation of the laws of war.” This one incident of support can be linked to the larger history of human rights violation committed by the IDF and is why the article started with a rejection of Gal Gadot’s form of feminism.
Her empowerment as a soldier and strong woman is directly built on the backs and bodies of Palestinian women who have consistently, throughout history, been victims of the IDF’s brutality. Naming her in the article was meant to set an example of why feminism and Zionism are contradictory.
Israel has occupied Palestine for more than 50 years. The occupation has displaced millions of Palestinians, many of whom are unable to return to their homes to this day.
To add to that, Palestinians who are still residing in Israel are treated like second class citizens and commonly denied housing, jobs, and basic human rights.
Those still living in the Palestinian Territories are behind a LITERAL wall that isolates Palestinians from their villages, general roads, and access to employment and other general necessities. These checkpoints are horrendous and inhumane.
There are thousands of Palestinian prisoners who are spending their whole lives behind bars. They call it a ‘conflict’ but with one side heavily sponsored by U.S. funding, we know this occupation to be unequal.
For the sake of this article, I won’t speak about the violations committed by the state of Israel — the violations so many “feminists” have normalized and even supported. But I will note that I consider Zionism and feminism to be diametrically opposed.
Zionism claims that the rightful homeland of the Jewish people is in Palestine — a place millions of indigenous Palestinians have called home for centuries — and while it is normalized within some pockets of feminism, it contradicts the core values of the movement.
Feminism is built on the liberation of all women and their families and requires peace, dignity, and security for all — things which the Israeli occupation of Palestine goes directly against.
I, for one, refuse to celebrate Gadot’s Zionist “feminism.” It cannot take precedence over the voices and struggles of the Palestinian women who fight every day for their basic humanity.
But, while I’d love to discuss the many reasons why it is hypocritical to call yourself a feminist if you support the Zionist occupation of Palestine, we’ll leave that for another time.
For now, I’d rather make some space to discuss some badass women who exist and resist every day.
Here are five Palestinian women who have fought the world for their humanity — this is for them.
Zayid has appeared in New York’s top comedy clubs, touching on topics ranging from disability to religious and ethnic identity. She does not shy away from talking about Palestine and the Israeli occupation.
In 2003, along with other Arab comedians, Zayid founded the New York Arab American Comedy Festival that takes place annually, featuring Arab American comedians from around the United States.
Along with this amazing work of spreading of laughter — notably, with odds stacked against her as a Palestinian Muslim woman with cerebral palsy— Zayid spends half of the year volunteering at nonprofits for children with disabilities in Palestine.
One of my all time favorite novels, Mornings in Jenin, was written by Abulhawa. A Palestinian-American writer and activist, Abulhawa was born to Palestinian parents who became refugees after the 1967 occupation of Palestine.
Abulhawa earned a master’s degree in Neuroscience from USC’s School of Medicine. Her debut novel details one family’s multi-generational journey through their exile from Palestine in 1948, their lives in refugee camps, and their resettlement in the U.S.
The major success of the novel — it has been translated into more than twenty languages — was a significant accomplishment for Abulhawa as well as for Palestine. It gave Palestine a chance to tell its human story to an international audience.
The raw emotions explored in this story have resonated deeply with me. I remember crying for hours after my first reading of the novel.
Abulhawa is also a founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, a non-profit organization that brings playgrounds to children in Palestine and refugee camps.
The website states, “This project is an expression of solidarity with the plight of children. It is an affirmation of their right to childhood. It is minimal recognition of their humanity.”
A Palestinian-British spoken word poet, Ziadeh was born to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. She began performing spoken word in 2004, mixing music and poetry that focus on Palestine, exile, gender, and war.
She speaks of her experience as a refugee in an unwelcoming world and of memory and nationhood. Her poem, ‘We Teach Life, Sir’ and ‘Shades of Anger’ went viral days after being released on social media.
In 2009, Ziadeh released her first spoken word album titled, Hadeel, which she dedicated to “Palestinian youth, who still fly kites in the face of F16 bombers who still remember the names of their villages in Palestine and still hear the sound of Hadeel over Gaza.”
My favorite line of Ziadeh’s poetry is in the poem of Shades of Anger:
I am Arab woman of color, and we come in all shades of anger
So let me just tell you, this womb inside of me will only bring you your next rebel
She’ll have a rock in one hand and a Palestinian flag in the other.
Ziadeh’s reaffirmation of our right to anger is refreshing.
Instead of dismissing the reality and beauty of Arab women’s resistance, Ziadeh sings it loud. I remember when I first read the line, I repeated it over and over again.
I am an angry Arab woman and I am so glad that I am. I know how to love deeply, live freely, and fight passionately and this, too, is beautiful.
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Noura Erakat is a Palestinian-American human rights attorney and professor at George Mason University. Her work focuses on the fight for Palestine through the lens of International Law.
Erakat has written been featured in multiple journals, publishing articles and papers on refugee plight, humanitarian law, and social justice.
Erakat was one of the founders of Jadaliyya, which is an online magazine featuring Arab academics, artists, journalists, and activists.
Jadaliyya is used in many academic and social settings across the world and a vital tool for understanding and learning about a variety of crucial issues from around the MENA (The Middle East and North Africa) regions.
One of Erakat’s articles is written in defense of another courageous Palestinian woman, Rasmea Odeh, a former political prisoner in Israeli prisons who was accused of lying on her U.S citizenship application when she stated that she had not been arrested before.
As a result, Odeh spent years in court battling deportation and the threat of losing her U.S citizenship. Noura Erakat wrote a comprehensive piece titled, “When you Come for Rasmea Odeh, You Come For All of Us,” which explains the issue of Palestinian solidarity and our next celebrant.
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Rasmea Odeh’s story tells of a courageous freedom fighter in a world of censorship and dismissal.
A Palestinian woman, Odeh is an integral pillar of Chicago’s local Arab and Muslim communities where she is active in local organizations including the Arab American Action Network, which provides support in community battles for immigration and civil rights.
Odeh has been awarded the Outstanding Community Leader Award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance, for “dedicating over 40 years of her life to the empowerment of Arab women.”
A former political prisoner in Israel convicted of being complicit in a 1969 bombing, Odeh was forced to confess after being subjected to sexual torture and threats in prison, including having her father undressed in front of her and being threatened to have him forced upon her.
Based on the coercion she was under by the Israeli government to confess, we agree with other feminist leaders like Angela Davis and the organizers of the March 8 Women’s Strikewho are standing by her in this wrongful conviction by the Israeli government and during her recent deportation.
To be clear, we are highlighting her here to show how abusive the Israeli government is toward Palestinians – not to condone bombing Israelis, which we are against.
During her US citizenship application, she stated that she had no prior arrests. After 20 years of the application, Odeh was arrested by Homeland Security from her home in 2013 due to “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization.”
Her arrest and torture were not hidden. She was vocal about it and planned to speak about it in front of the United Nations after her arrival to the U.S.
Odeh was targeted, 20 years after the fact, because she is a Palestinian woman and is known for her rigorous work for Palestinian liberation, support of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions against Israel campaign, and her well-known activist status in the Chicago community.
A few months ago, after three and a half years in court and a few months in jail, Odeh accepted a plea deal in which she agreed to give up her U.S citizenship and leave the country. She entered and left court surrounded and celebrated by dozens of supporters.
Odeh is the embodiment of the strength and resilience of Palestinian women; she holds the ability to survive and thrive and continues to build empires out of the dust of violence and loss.
Odeh embodies Palestinian resistance. I hope that, by ending with her, you might better understand why it is so important to celebrate, recognize, and learn from the strength of Palestinian women — not only as feminists but also as human beings.
If you’re interested in bidding farewell to Odeh before she leaves the country, check out this event in Chicago on Aug.12, where keynote speaker Angela Davis will help give a proper send-off to this revolutionary woman.
[Feature Image: A photo of Susan Abulhawa wearing a black scarf on their head and eye glasses. She is wearing a light blue shirt and a scarf that is yello, blue, dark pink and black. Behind her is the Dome of the Rock. Source: PalFest]
I was disappointed to see this article posted on Rosh Hashannah, a Jewish holiday when many Jews are in the synagogue and observant Jews may refrain from using technology. I was more disappointed to see TNBAA, a site that I have loved and learned from for quite a long time, to re-post a piece that has a disclaimer dismissing concerns from Jews about antisemitism.
When I raised these concerns with TNBAA, I was told “…pro-Palestine and anti-Zionist people and writings are not inherently anti-Semitic.” I never claimed they are. That they are not inherently antiSemitic, does not mean antisemitism within the pro-Palestinian/Anti-Zionist movements does not exist.
I encourage anyone who cares about this issue to please assume good faith from Jews calling out antisemitism, just like you assume good faith from members of other marginalized groups calling out problematic speech and behavior. That did not happen here but I hope it can in the future.
P.S. – I see a lot of comments in social media conversations on antisemitism that deflect from the issue by noting that Jews are not the only Semites. Please note that “antisemitism” was a term created by Germans to support racialized discrimination of the Jewish people – it wasn’t selected by Jews to erase the narratives of other Semitic people.
I should mention that I appreciated the encouragement from the TNBAA team to post my concerns here!