Posted: 1/19/2008 12:05:00 AM
Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Ms-Ogyny where Israel is Concerned
by Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Ms was always hard to keep going. Gloria Steinem had to devote almost all her time to fundraising to keep it afloat. Editors had to threaten to sue for medical benefits and writers had to threaten lawsuits because they had not been paid. Despite appearances, it was always a shoe-string operation. But it had a good run. Over time, the magazine got smaller and less inflential—something which is typical of many magazines. Until now, Ms continued to enjoy considerable “girlish” acclaim and a nearly spotless reputation—at least among its followers, certainly not among its opponents. And, every major liberal Jewish organization viewed their aims as similar to that of Ms magazine’s.
The honeymoon lasted far too long and it is rather late in the day for the question of where feminism really stands on the question of Israel and Palestine to surface. Well, better late than never. This was bound to happen. It was only a question of when.
I was at the first meeting in Brenda Feigen Fasteau’s Tudor City apartment that led to the founding of Ms magazine in 1972. The magazine excerpted and praised many of my early books, including”Women and Madness,” “About Men” and “With Child. A Diary of Motherhood.” We share history—thus, I know where many of the bodies are buried and guys, wait your turn—before we get to you, there are lots of feminist corpses piled high here.
In the mid-1970s, I personally lobbied for Ms magazine signatures on Israel’s behalf in terms of the UN Zionism=Racism petitions. I usually failed but sometimes I succeeded. I led a delegation to Israel which included the late Jack Newfield and the late Ellen Willis—who returned to write more positive pieces about Israel and Judaism. Ellen also broke with Ms but trust me, that is another story.
Every feminist who has ever met Gloria Steinem is instinctively protective of her; they jockey to “protect” her and thereby gain entrance to her royal circle. Make no mistake: She wields real power. Many feminists believe that her recent op-ed piece in the New York Times directly contributed to Hillary’s win in New Hampshire. Gloria is and always has been a Democratic Party operative. Few feminists would dare to publicly disagree with her. They would risk their personal and professional standing.
I am talking about feminists who are the Presidents of state Supreme Courts, university presidents and professors, judges, state governors, Senators, Congressional representatives, state public officials and well-meaning, completely innocent civilians who view her as their inspiration and as a combination of Jackie Kennedy, Rosa Parks, the Virgin Mary, Mary Poppins, and perhaps Mary Tyler Moore.
Until this very moment, every single liberal Jewish organization, including the American Jewish Congress, would never, ever have disagreed with her. She is the media-appointed icon for women’s rights in America. (This is what once embittered more radical grassroots feminist groups). That—and the fact that, as Gloria herself explains, “I’m pretty—for a feminist, that is.”
She is also a bankable commodity for any organization and politician. People will still pay money to hear her speak or to dine with her.
Politics may have driven us apart but even I retain a warm affection for her. I would talk to her if she called me now—such is the nature of her personal power. Gloria is a “nice” woman. She really is. But her enforcers are not.
Robin Morgan, whom I personally introduced to Gloria and suggested that Gloria hire her as an editor in the mid-70s, has functioned as one of her enforcers. Morgan’s position on Israel and Judaism is beneath contempt. She has romanticized the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and demonized Israel and Judaism for a very long time. Post 9/11, Morgan identified with the possible persecution of Muslim men, whom she feared would soon be racially profiled by America, and she identified as a Palestinian-like victim herself, since she lived in the West Village, or close to Ground Zero.
Rather than repeat myself, I suggest that you read what I’ve written about Ms’s history in terms of Israel, Judaism, Islam, and Palestine in my latest book “The Death of Feminism. What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom.” Read especially, pages 112-113; 115-117; 119-120, 128. I would also suggest that you read selected portions of my books “The New Anti-Semitism” and “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman.”
You guessed it: Ms magazine did not excerpt or even review these books. (Just call me lucky!)
I have no idea how influential Gloria still is vis a vis the magazine. It matters not. It does not matter that her recent media venture with Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Lily Tomlin failed. What matters is that people pay attention to the political positions. The Feminist Majority took over Ms magazine. Elly Smeal is now in charge, as is Kathy Spillars.
Below, please find an abridged version of the AJC press release.
Here is a Call for Action that the AJCongress released today.
Ms. Blocks Ad on Israeli Women Leaders
Tell Ms. Magazine What You Think
Ms. Magazine has turned down an understated AJCongress advertisement (click here to see a “pop-up of the ad on your screen) that did nothing more controversial than call attention to the fact that women currently occupy three of the most significant positions of power in all three branches of the Israeli government — judicial, legislative and executive. The proposed ad included a text that merely said, “This is Israel,” under photographs of President of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinish, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.
Ms. Magazine officials told AJCongress that publishing the ad “will set off a firestorm” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject the subject presumably being whether or not one can say anything positive about Israel. Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal failed to respond to numerous calls by AJCongress President Richard S. Gordon over a period of two months.
Ms. Magazine editors are now saying that they rejected the ad on the grounds that two of the three women are from the same political party. This is the lamest of excuses: in a parliamentary system, it is always likely that the foreign minister and the speaker of the Knesset will be from the same party.
By the same token, if America elects a woman as president and Ms. pairs the new president in a photograph with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to underscore just how profound a change it is that women dominate the executive and (half of the) legislative branches of government, would that betray a partisan political bias or a legitimate feminist bias?
Now Ms. Editors and publishers need to hear from you. Register your compliant at their anti-Israel bias reflected in this decision to bar our ad by writing a letter, calling or emailing them. Tell them that their decision not to allow publication of an ad stating that Israel now has women at or near the top of all three branches of government, the judicial, the legislative and the executive, can only mean that Ms. has a distorted, anti-Israel bias.
Click Here To Take Action
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