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Hot Post: The History and Psychological Roots of Anti-Semitism Among Feminists, Their Gradual Palestinianization and Stalinization

Posted on September 5 2010 1:00 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

Yale University’s Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism hosted a major conference in which I was privileged to be a participant. “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity” was envisioned by Professor Charles Asher Small who founded the Initiative. The conference was also sponsored by the Issac and Jessie Kaplan Center for Jewish Studies and Research, University of Cape Town, in association with the Vidal Sasoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University; The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Indiana University; and the Rabin Chair Forum, George Washington University.

My plenary panel was the only panel which focused on women and anti-Semitism. It was chaired by Jerusalem based scholar, Jennifer Roskies. My co-panelists included Thyme Siegel, whose speech was titled: “Sisterhood was powerful and Global. Where Did it Go?” and Dr. Nora Gold whose speech was titled: “Fighting Anti-Semitism in the Feminist Community.”

We had the very best time when we met the previous afternoon. Thyme, Nora, and I go back, way back, to the 1960s in feminist America. These days, Thyme, an independent researcher and Women’s Studies teacher, is holding an Israeli flag at Berkeley when her former friends stand holding a Palestinian flag; she has come a long, long way from her matriarchal, lesbian separatist days in Eugene, Oregon. Dr. Nora Gold is using her Toronto-based research to educate feminists about racism against Jews. She is often successful. I look forward to working with them and with our very gracious Chair Jennifer, soon again.

Make no mistake. Others also enjoyed what we had to say and indeed, said the most complimentary things to us afterward. This is no small feat given the greats who were in attendance. I want to thank both Jennifer Roskies and Charles Small for this amazing opportunity.

The History and Psychological Roots of Anti-Semitism Among Feminists, Their Gradual Palestinianization and Stalinization

YALE AUGUST 25, 2010

By Phyllis Chesler

Four score and ten years ago women won the right to vote in the United States. And thirty years ago, in 1980, I stood with the Israeli delegation in Copenhagen at the United Nations conference on women—the true precursor of the anti-Zionist conference in Durban in 2001. Twenty-nine years ago, right here in Connecticut, at the University at Storrs, I convened a panel at the annual convention of the National Women’s Studies Association to challenge American feminists about both their anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

I had been doing this since the early 1970s but even I could not have predicted the rapid and extreme Stalinization and Palestinianization that would take place among academics and activists in general. I could never have imagined that the western intelligentsia, the “good” people, including feminists, would make so tragic an alliance with Islamic barbarism and misogyny.

I became a feminist leader in 1968-1969. I remain one. Most of the other feminists of my generation are no longer engaged in the historical moment.

Are women racists? We might as well ask: Are women human beings?

But are women also anti-Semites?

To do justice to this subject might require another conference. Women have internalized the same prejudices as men have. Like men, women are also sexists and racists. Women are also consummate bystanders at the crossroads where evil meets its prey. The majority feminist view has viewed women as “weak” or “innocent” non-actors, powerless to affect the destiny of nations. This is a fantasy and bears no relationship to reality.

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