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Ivy League Lesson Plan: Aspiring Intern Attempts to School Me on Her Third Worldist “Feelings”

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Posted on May 11 2011 5:00 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.

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Life is funny, life is great, but life is also strange, the way it all boils down to one’s views on only two or three subjects, namely Israel, Islam, and America.

Yesterday, I met with a potential intern sent my way by a local area college with whom I’ve happily worked before. She seemed alert, bright, interested, talented and ready to start her (unpaid) full-time summer internship almost immediately. I had already told her to visit my website and to read some of my articles and assumed that she knew my current subjects and views. She did. In fact, on the phone, she went out of her way to agree with me on my critique of the academic feminist view that the Islamic face veil and polygamy are “liberating” for women.

Just after we finished discussing hours and possible projects, she stopped, smiled smoothly, and said this:

“But I have to tell you that I take issue with your position on Israel.”

“Oh” said I. “Have you lived in Israel, do you know any Palestinians, have you read many books, written many articles, taken many courses about Israel and about the Middle East?”

“Well no,” she said, “but I feel strongly about it.”

And then I said: “So, based on your feelings and perhaps on some peer pressure, you are willing to give up an internship that you might otherwise want?”

I stressed that I had no problem with her holding a view different than my own. I asked her whether she could work with someone with whom she did not agree exactly on this one issue.

She paused. And then she said: “But I have another problem. I think it is wrong to condemn all of Islam.”

Now I looked at her for a moment without saying anything.

Then I spoke.  “But I don’t. In fact, I champion the work of some religious Muslims as well as those of secular Muslims and ex-Muslims and I work with Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents and feminists. To expose honor killings, to challenge Islamic gender apartheid practices is not the same as condemning all Muslims or all Islam.”

Again, I told her that I could work with someone with whose views I did not completely agree; could she? Although by now I was fearing that if she said yes that instead of working for me  she would force me to teach her in an unpaid tutorial.

She was not yet done.

“I also take issue with an article you wrote in which I believe you are stereotyping lesbians and Jewish lesbians.”

Friends: I actually managed not to laugh out loud.

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