An essay on “admitting Israel’s imperfections.”
Harassment and inhumane conduct sometimes practiced by members of the IDF towards Palestinians has been well documented. It should horrify us, and we should make no excuses for it.
On November 27, the Forward published an opinion piece by Palestinian activist and journalist Mariam Barghouti, who asserted that one cannot be both a feminist and a Zionist. Despite the fact that the Forward’s opinion section published, on the same day, an essay promoting the point of view of “Zioness,” a feminist Zionist organization, The Forward’s opinion editor, Batya Ungar-Sargon, was besieged by hate mail from Jewish writers, including a threat to “rape and behead” her, as well as one calling her a “demented scumbag kapo.”
Although I am proud to write for an outlet that is committed to a pluralism of opinions and that publishes Palestinian voices, I don’t agree with Barghouti’s fundamental thesis. I do think one can be a feminist and Zionist, though of course, as many commentators pointed out, it depends on how you define Zionism and how you define feminism. In her essay, Barghouti makes feminism synonymous with general humanism. As she writes, “Fundamentally speaking, feminism cannot support racism, supremacy and oppressive domination in any form.”
She makes it clear that she is concerned with Zionism as a historical entity, not just as a theory — with Zionism as it is practiced, not as it is preached. Speaking about the Zionist feminist in broad strokes, Barghouti writes that “She willfully ignores that Zionism has advanced itself through myriad human rights violations.”
Sadly, with regards to the “myriad human rights abuses,” Barghouti is, of course, right. The establishment of the state of Israel and the denial of the right of return to Palestinians who had fled, the creeping annexation of land outside of the green line after 1967, the legal and cultural discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel which is still real despite progress that has been made, and the often brutal military occupation, all have been consequences of the advancement and protection of the Zionist project.