by Steven Plaut
Well, it seems the Obama team lately was running short of things over which to bash Israel and so it decided that the treatment of women in Israel is something that needs condemnation. Led by Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration thinks that Israel does not treat its women nicely or respectfully enough. This is the same who never had much to say about the treatment of women in the Clinton White House. Other administration bashers of Israel joined the feeding frenzy.
This is the same Obama team that rarely has had anything to say about the treatment of women in the Muslim world, without a doubt the very worst such treatment that can be found on the planet. Hillary insisted that Israel’s treatment of women is as bad as that in Iran, although Obama people do not exactly speak out against the treatment of women in Iran before breakfast each day. Hillary also used the same opportunity to condemn Israel for considering the adoption of transparency laws that would require disclosure of foreign funding to political NGOs operating inside Israel, laws that are similar to what the United States and many other democratic countries already have. After all, how will those who desire Israel’s annihilation be able to finance picayune treasonous radical anti-Israel propaganda NGOs inside Israel if such transparency ever takes effect?
So when Hillary Clinton recently decided to speak out against the mistreatment of Middle Eastern women, she singled out Israel for condemnation, and then turned around to welcome a delegation of Saudi feudalists with cordiality. If Hillary considers Israel a force of anti-feminine darkness and repression, just imagine how awful she must regard Scandinavia. She compared Israel’s treatment of women with the racial segregation that once was so common in the American South. Israeli public figures, led by the secularist non-Orthodox Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz, denounced Hillary’s comments as absurd and incorrect. He was joined by numerous other secularist Israelis.
The Obama administration is largely silent when it comes to the plight of women in the Muslim world, but keeps condemning the only country in the Middle East that has a woman chief justice, plenty of women in its parliament, more women MDs and than men, countless women army officers and court judges, and which has had a woman as head of state, something the US has never had. Israel is also the only country in the world where a panel of judges, two of them women, put a former president in prison for alleged rape and sexual abuse of women. But perhaps that is what really has Bill Clinton’s wife so hostile to and suspicious of Israel.
Women university students in Israel have been the majority out of all undergraduate Israeli students since 1980, reaching 58% of students in 1999. That is without including teachers colleges in the computation, where women are a far larger share. Women students are the majority of students, not just in the fields of education and humanities, but also in such “non-traditional” fields for women as biological sciences and agriculture. Women are a majority of medical students, 48.3% of law students, and 39% of physics students, according to the latest survey. There are also oodles of women students in math, engineering, and computer sciences. Women students are also a small majority of those pursuing MA and PhD studies.
So just what got Hillary and the Obama team so upset? Well, it seems that Israel has been debating the behavior of some small ultra-religious Jewish sects, groups that believe in strict gender separation, especially in public spaces. Known as the chareidim, these are religious radicals, best known for their black clothing, long sidecurls, anti-modern life styles, and especially for their ideas about “modesty” for women. No Jew anywhere has to belong to such communities and women in those communities unhappy with the life style may leave at any time.
In some communities of these chareidim, there have been initiatives to introduce a small number of special bus lines in which women and men do not sit together. When a secularist Israeli woman rider challenged the initiative and sat in the “men’s section” of one such bus Israel’s ultra-secularist leftist media proclaimed her the Israeli Rosa Parks, and Hillary picked up the cue. In another incident, some religious soldiers requested not to be required to attend a concert in which women were singing, on grounds that according to their religious outlook such singing is erotic and immodest. And in yet other incidents, some signs were put up in the neighborhoods of chareidim asking women not to congregate on a street next to a synagogue, or calling on men and women in the name of modesty to walk on opposing sides of some streets in those neighborhoods.Of course Hillary and the secularist media never object to signs in mosques and churches in Israel and elsewhere that ask people not to enter in immodest dress. Hillary and her Obama colleagues have never condemned the Amish for their own pre-modern life styles and opinions and gender roles. The enlightened media regard the Amish as downright endearing, a charming tourist attraction. And you would never know it from reading Hillary’s statements, but one can find some neighborhoods and communities of chareidim inside the United States, mainly in Brooklyn and upstate New York, in which similar forms of gender separation in the name of “modesty” are practiced. No one seems to think this is grounds for a public outcry by politicians.
The enormous majority of Israelis reject the life style and opinions of the chareidim, much as the bulk of Americans have no interest in living the Amish life style. But the Amish generally are beneficiaries of a “live and let live” attitude on the part of the bulk of Americans. Most of the “conflicts” in Israel regarding the “gender separation” sought by the chareidim would go away with similar tolerance. The religious soldiers who asked to be excused from listening to women singing did not demand that the singing event be cancelled, and they were happy to do kitchen duty or guard duty instead of attending. But their officers and secularist politicians attempted to coerce them into attending to make a political point. The chareidim who were denounced for requesting bus lines with separate seating have now decided to finance their own independent small bus company without public funding, in whose busses they can sit in the manner they please. No one disturbed by those seating arrangements need use those private bus lines or minibuses.
And no one really needs to heed any of those signs on those few Israeli streets in chareidi neighborhoods that call upon people to behave in manners the chareidim consider “modest.” I have walked through such neighborhoods with my wife dressed in pants and otherwise “immodest” secularist dress and with my daughter wearing her army uniform, and not a single resident said a single word to us about it. Even when my daughter was not carrying her gun.
The Israeli media managed to uncover a tiny handful of cases in which local chareidi residents spoke disrespectfully to some women or girls. Well, I am a native Pennsylvanian and I have to tell you that I have seen a few Pennsylvania Dutch hotheads speak disrespectfully to other people. So what? Why is this news? The media rarely report cursing or disrespectful speech by radical secularists.
The Israeli chareidi attitudes towards women and gender separation are actually not any more “pre-modern” or feminist-challenged than are those among Israeli Moslems, Druse, and some other non-Jewish minority populations. It was rather curious that Hillary and the rest of the Obama team did not denounce Israeli Moslems and Druse for also practicing gender separation in public spaces in the name of “modesty.” Condemning non-Jews for gender segregation is just not politically correct.
In a sense, Hillary was just following the lead of numerous Bash-Israel leftist feminist organizations. Radical feminists and their organizations have never been able to identify any mistreatment of women in Arab countries beyond the supposed “suffering” of those women due to Israeli “occupation.” The feminists cannot conceive of a better way to promote the interests of Moslem women than annihilation of Israel and the accompanying genocide of Israel’s Jewish population. Feminist groups have rarely spoken out against Arab anti-Israel terrorism, even though many of the victims of that terrorism are themselves women. Even most of the feminist groups operating inside Israel are radically pro-“Palestinian,” pro-terror, anti-Israel, and some are fronts for the Israeli communist party. They do not seem to feel uncomfortable in the role of streetwalkers on behalf of Islamofascism.
The treatment of women in Arab and Moslem countries is so atrocious that space here would not allow for even a superficial survey. In the very same week that Iran announced that a woman convicted of adultery would be mercifully hanged to death instead of stoned to death, the Obama team could find nothing more deserving of condemnation than the treatment of women in the only country in the Middle East in which women are treated as humans deserving of equal rights.
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