Phyllis Chesler on the madness of pro-Islam feminism and the sadness of anti-Semitic Leftism

October 9, 2017 • 9:30 am

Phyllis Chesler has impeccable credentials as a feminist, including a lifelong history of activism and over a thousand articles and sixteen books on feminism, including the famous Women and Madness. You’ll probably think, as did I, that she makes too much of these credentials in her new piece in Tablet, “Against faux-feminists who deny the rights of muslim women and Jews.” Six paragraphs of her introduction lay out her accomplishments, which sound a bit too much like bragging, but I suspect that when writing an article like this—which takes Western feminists to task for ignoring the patriarchy of Islam, and also defending Israel—she has to establish her bona fides lest she be dismissed as a “sister punisher.”

I’ve banged on for several years about the double standards of both the Western Left and its feminist moiety: while viciously finding fault with every aspect of The Patriarchy in America—including things like a space scientist wearing a shirt made by a woman friend that was festooned with semi-clad women—they dutifully ignore far worse oppression of women under Islam. This is because, in the Victimization Hierarchy, being a person of color ranks above being a women, so that the oppressions of Islam (a religion supposedly held by people of color) are excused because they’re promulgated by brown people. It sounds crass to say it that way, but it’s true. And it’s hypocritical.

Chesler is mad as hell, and calls this double standard “faux feminism,” which she characterizes (accurately) like this:

. . . a new and what I describe as a “faux feminism” has arisen in the last 30 years, a postmodern and postcolonial feminism that passionately condemns Christianity and Judaism as the greatest danger to women’s rights but dares not critique religiously supremacist Islam for this same reason; an intersectional “faux feminism” that condemns only Western imperialism and refuses to acknowledge the long history of Islamic imperialism, colonialism, slavery, anti-black racism, and religious and gender apartheid; a “faux feminism” that is far more concerned with the alleged occupation of Palestine than it is with the occupation of women’s bodies, faces, minds, and genitalia world-wide–including those women who are being forcibly face-veiled, death-threatened, and honor killed in the disputed territories.

Women’s studies associations, national feminist organizations—many feminist Jews—are not merely “politically correct”; they have become “Islamically correct.” They are currently more concerned with the religious sanctity of head and face veiling than they are with FGM, forced face-veiling, honor-based violence, polygamy, child marriage, and honor killing in the West. Not only have faux feminists betrayed the Jews—in the name of anti-racism, they have also abandoned tribal and immigrant women of color—Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus—to barbaric misogyny. Above all, they have abandoned the most heroic ex-Muslim, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu feminist dissidents, both in the developing world and in the West.

And that’s the tragedy—that so many Western feminists have become such conformists. They are no longer independent thinkers. Faux feminists have also been persuaded that Islam is a “race,” not an ideology or a religion; that America’s historic enslavement of black Africans, and South Africa’s apartheid regime, is exactly the same as alleged Israeli discrimination against Arab Palestinians, including Jew-hating bomb makers and terrorists with blood on their hands.

Fundamentalists are trying to destroy what feminists have accomplished.

Feminists in America exposed, condemned, and analyzed rape. We began rape-crisis counseling and changed the laws about rape. Today, Western professional feminists—our women’s studies professors, politicians, journalists, human-rights activists—are not rescuing rape victims in Islamic communities, either in the Middle East or in the West. Feminists are too nervous about being called “Islamophobes,” “racists,” or “colonialists.”

Dare I, as a man, even intrude into discussions of where feminism has gone wrong? Yes, I do, and I will.

“Well,” you might say, “It’s simply easier to combat sexism at home than in the Middle East or elsewhere in Asia.” But that’s not true either, for, as Chesler notes, there are many organizations you can donate to that help oppressed women throughout the world. Further, it’s our responsibility as progressive Leftists to call out faux-feminism and criticize those behaviors of Muslims, and those tenets of Islam, that victimize women. It’s time for real progressives to push back against the faux feminists who are metastasizing in our ranks. There is only one reason why feminists are so eager to call out the oppressions of Christianity and Orthodox Judaism yet so loath to do that with Islam—and we know what that reason is.

Here are a few organizations that combat violence against and oppression of women around the world, and use their money judiciously (they’re rated highly by Charity Navigator):

Global Fund for Women
Futures Without Violence
Center for Health and Gender Equity
American Jewish World Service (helps everyone, not directed only at Jewish women)
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

The second part of Chesler’s piece is about the Left’s anti-Semitism, and of course it will be more controversial because Israel is the Demon State, universally criticized by the Left. Chesler herself has been deplatformed for defending Israel. A few quotes from her piece:

One of the things that’s new about the “new” anti-Semitism is that it is coming to us both from the Islamic world and from the Western intelligentsia—and this time it’s global, and 24/7, via videos, the internet, cable vision, doctored footage, etc..

Like many people, I had assumed that the world’s hatred of Jews had ended, that Jewish history would never again repeat itself. I was wrong. Those who still believe that Jewish history can never again repeat itself must dispense with that illusion. Jewish history has always repeated itself and may continue to do so until the coming of the Messiah. [JAC: Well, Chesler’s going to wait a long time. . . ]



After publishing The New Anti-Semitism, I went on to write six more books, two not yet published, and nearly a thousand articles. I also conducted and published four studies about honor killing. This pioneering feminist research about femicide enabled me to submit affidavits on behalf of Muslim and ex-Muslim girls and women in flight from being honor killed in immigrant communities in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia, India, and Africa. This research has also been used in honor killing prosecutions in the United States and Canada.

The fact that I am also a passionate Zionist has been used to marginalize my feminist work. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I have been disinvited as a keynote speaker at conferences. I have “made” some death lists. I have seen American classrooms being invaded by American totalitarians, fascists who, in the name of “free speech” and “academic freedom,” are verbally and physically violent. They mean to censor all objective truth, but especially the truth about Israel and Islam, and to redact history.

Today, my closest allies are not faux-feminists for Palestine. I work with genuine dissidents. Therefore, none of us are politically correct. We are anti-Islamists or anti-Sharia-ists: As the feminists of yore, we share one universal standard of human rights. We support post-Enlightenment Western values such as individual, human, and women’s rights, free speech, the right to dissent, freedom from and freedom of religion, the separation of religion and state. These dissidents comprise the major resistance movement of our time. Many write under pseudonyms and live with 24/7 police protection.

I can no longer work with Jew-haters. It is too painful. Therefore, my allies and I all support Israel’s right to exist and flourish.

I’ve made the point several times that anti-Zionism (that is, the opposition to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state) is hardly distinguishable from  anti-Semitism, and I’ll reiterate that here. Look at it this way: many of the Left who are “anti-Zionist” are nevertheless in favor of a Palestinian State, and for reasons similar to those leading to the establishement of Israel: as a refuge for “oppressed and persecuted Palestinians”, just as Israel was a refuge for Jews who had been persecuted in many places.

In other words, the Palestinian state will be a nationalist state in the same way that Israel is a nationalist state. (But they will of course differ: if you consider Israel, which has a sizable population of Arab citizens with rights equal to those of Jewish citizens, as an “apartheid state”, you haven’t seen anything until you see what a Palestinian state will do!).  Yet if you oppose Israel’s right to exist (anti-Zionist), you will argue that you’re not an anti-Semite. But if you oppose a Palestinian state’s right to exist (and I don’t), you’re called an Islamophobe and a racist. This asymmetry in attitudes leads me to believe that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, for why else are affirmations of Israel’s right to exist demonized while calls for a Palestinian state valorized?


h/t: David

46 thoughts on “Phyllis Chesler on the madness of pro-Islam feminism and the sadness of anti-Semitic Leftism

  1. “Well,” you might say, “It’s simply easier to combat sexism at home than in the Middle East or elsewhere in Asia.” But that’s not true either

    Personally I’m fine with someone deciding they will focus on combating sexism at home. If they don’t want to get involved in middle east culture and politics, okay. But that is manifestly *not* what the intersectionalists are doing. They’re actively supporting various mideast causes and engaging in mideast politics. Sorry folks, but it’s you that brought the mideast into the conversation; we’re responding to that.

    1. +3.

      I’d never heard of Ms Chesler despite her prolific writing.

      This subject is one I, too, feel strongly about. The number of people who are supportive of misogyny in culture and religion just because most or all of the members of that culture or religion aren’t white annoys me intensely. You just have to call a white person colonialist or racist to make them back off from supporting the rights of women and children all over the world.

      There’s a reason that countries with Western-style Enlightenment democracies are more successful than other countries. It’s not because the majority of the people in most (but certainly not all) of those countries are white. It’s because the principles underlying an Enlightenment etc. state are actually better.

      1. +4
        I would like to point out that not only “It sounds crass to say it that way, but it’s true. And it’s hypocritical.”, but also: And it’s paternalistically racist.

  2. We have met the enemy…. Polarization is endemic in our culture, but not in an academic way. In academic circles, it used to be the case that people argued, strenuously sometimes, for a case and then the chips fell where they would. I, for example, criticize Israel politicians for any number of poor practices. I support their own self-determination and only criticize their inconsistencies. They want Palestinian labor, but they don’t want Palestinian citizens. So, either they have a permanent guest worker program or they just expel the non-Jews and do without. But they want it both ways. They are okay with Palestinian non-Jews living in Israel as long as they accept non-citizen, second-class status. There is no “path to citizenship” as it were.

    They want a Jewish state, but they will not accept the Israel that is built and maintained solely by Jews as it would lower their standard of living.

    In the same vein, I support equal rights for women but criticize wanting things both ways. I criticize men more than women in this arena for the same defects.

    One cannot, however, criticize gays without being labeled homophobic, criticize Islam without being labeled Islamiphobic, criticise feminists without being labeled anti-woman, etc. We can, however, criticize Christians without being labeled Christophobics! Instead, we are scum-sucking atheists.

    Polarization is creating more and more distraction while the real work, with real damage, is being done “under the radar.” well, al least the distractions don’t involve starting a war! What? We still have wars running? Where? How come there is nothing in the news? (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!)

    1. I know that it’s not really the main subject of Jerry’s post but I think that some misleading information in your comment should be clarified. 20% of Israel’s population are Arabs. Do you suppose that one of them, who is a Supreme Judge, doesn’t have Israeli citizenship? Or Israeli Arab who is a general in IDF? All of Israeli Arabs have Israeli citizenship and exactly the same rights as Jewish citizens of Israel, inclusive an Arab representation in Parliament. There are many other foreigners (not Jews) in Israel who after a time of residence in the country became citizens. (Inclusive “boat refugees” from Vietnam who were given shelter by Israel.)
      Palestinian Arabs, who do not live in Israel are coming over border to work during the day and return home in the evening. This is normal in Europe: on our western border Poles are going to work in Germany, and on our eastern border Ukrainians are coming to work in Poland. When, because of terrorism, Israel stops this traffic, there are noisy complaints from Palestinian side: 1. there is a huge unemployment in Palestinian Authority; 2. Israelis pay Palestinian Arabs the same wages they pay Israeli citizens and this is high above what Palestinian employers pay. There was a time when, again because of terrorism, Israeli government started to encourage people from Philippines to come to work in Israel and the cry about discrimination of Palestinians was heard all over the world.

    2. One cannot, however, criticize gays without being labeled homophobic…

      Milo Yiannopoulos is a right-wing hack. I hereby criticize him for being deceptive and two-faced for consulting with white supremacists on how to re-brand the alt right as having nothing to do with white supremacism.

      There you go; counterexample given. Unless you think there is something homophobic about my criticism?

      1. The point was about being LABELED homophobic (by the regressive left), not BEING homophobic.

        Though the point has to be made that (if you subsribe to regressive leftist dogma) you can critise gays as long as they are right-wing gays.

        Recently at a gay pride here in the Netherlands, there was a group of conservative gays that were participating with slogans condemning anti-gay violence by young (mostly) Moroccan men (a significant problem especially in the big cities). Predictably, they were set upon by the leftist intersectional crowd, who also called for the immediate resignation of the pride’s organisers for even allowing them to participate.

        1. I’m curious whether the “conservative gays” were generally-conservative (on economic policy, for example) or whether their conservativeness was determined on the basis of calling out Islam-inspired anti-gay violence. Not that it really matters to your point.

  3. Nice use of “moiety,” boss. I first came across that word in a first-year contracts casebook, in an old limey case called Kingston v. Preston. The professor called on me that day, even though I was hiding out in the back row trying to look invisible, asked me if I had read the case. “Only a moiety, sir,” said I.

    He got even with me on the final. (As he explained to me in the hallway later, “we professors always get the last laugh.”)

  4. I’ve just begun to read Chessler’s piece but have to note that her description of burkas as “ambulatory body bags” is a characterization that says it all. And noting the sensory deprivation is something that I’ve never come across previously, but is spot on, too.

    I’ve read Women and Madness and it’s a helluva good book.

  5. “This is because, in the Victimization Hierarchy, being a person of color ranks above being a women, so that the oppressions of Islam (a religion supposedly held by people of color) are excused because they’re promulgated by brown people.”

    You saw this in perfect action New Year’s Eve in Cologne, 2015 and the mass molestation of women. And yet big-time media, ie, liberal media said nothing, until right-wing and social media had it all over their feeds.

    Persons of color are considered to have more redemptive power than women (i.e. white women) for assuaging white liberal guilt.

  6. I just don’t get, have never gotten, “The Left’s” new outbreak of antisemitism. I understand what they say. That’s not my problem.

    It is similar to listening to William Lane Craig explains one of his arguments. I understand what he says. But I don’t understand why he accepts his premises, or expects anyone else to, or why he believes his premises inevitably lead to his conclusions.

    No doubt a liberal with antisemitic opinions, who will vociferously deny they have any antisemitic opinions, will come along and explain it to me. I’ve read such explanations many times, often on this very site. And I might even take a shot at rebutting some of there inaccurate claims / premises, though that never seems to do any good. As with most religious and other ideologically based view points they seem to be based on self-image which necessarily entails strong emotional investment.

    A self image in which they are a highly ethical person. I’ve no doubt most think that, mean it, with utter sincerity. But I don’t understand how they can not see how their antisemitic opinions don’t meet their own ethical standards.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. It makes me terribly sad.

      Although I’m not so sure it’s new–especially in Europe, sadly.

  7. The enemy of your enemy isn’t necessarily your friend. I’ve read Chesler’s book Patriarchy: Notes of an Expert Witness, and she is crazy. You don’t want her as your ally.

    I also hate to see you jump on the anti-zionism equals anti-Semitism train. Some see existing as a Jewish state as antithetical to democracy as existing as an Islamic state, or as a Christian state.

    1. Some see existing as a Jewish state as antithetical to democracy as existing as an Islamic state, or as a Christian state.

      Please explain in what ways Israel is antithetical to democracy.

      1. Yes, the explanation would be welcome. I could never understand why Polish, Swedish, French, Danish etc. states can be democratic and only a Jewish one cannot.

        1. Maybe because Poland, Sweden, etc, don’t require ethnic cleansing, and a continuous hunt for Jewish immigrants to maintain the semblance of democracy? Or are we pretending that the West Bank and Gaza are not de facto Israel?

          1. Poland actually was formed after II WW on ethnic cleansing of millions. Currently Polish government is trying to “hunt” Poles who live i diaspora and get them to return to Poland. As far as I know there was and is no ethnic cleqansing in Israel. 1948 Arab refugees escaped from war, after their own leaders appealed to them to leave the battle field to those 5-7 invading Arab armies and promised them a return a week or two weeks later to divide the spoils after dead Jews. Arabs who stayed multiplied since 1948. The same with the population of West Bank and Gaza. When a population multiplies several times it’s rather difficult to call it “ethnic cleansing”, don’t you think?
            Gaza is under full control od Hamas. Not one Israeli soldier is there. There are two Jews, captured by Hamas and held incommunicado as hostage. Blocade which started after attacks on Israeli civillians doesn’t mean that “Gaza is Israel”.
            According to Oslo Agreement Area A of the West Bank is fully under control of Palestinian Authority. They have their own government, ambassadors, educational system, police, judicial system etc. In Area B civillian control is in the hands of Palestinian Authority, security is shared with Israelis. Area C (where just 5-10% of Palestinian population live) is under Israeli administration. So no, neither Gaza nor West Bank are “de facto Israel”.

            1. I always love watching you pick apart posts like Pablo’s. You’re so well-informed that it’s a joy to read your comments. I like to think I know a lot about Israel and its history, but I learn so much more every time you post something like this.

              Thank you.

            2. Specifically, around 3 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Poland after WWII. These Germans and their descendants have, somehow, not spent the past 70 years shooting rockets into Szczecin or bombing buses in Bydgoszcz. Today, consequently, a German is free to move to Gdansk and no one minds at all.

              1. Settlements are on about 2% of the area of the West Bank. Most of them are very close the the armistice line, the sk. Green Line form 1949. The resolution of UN Security Council talked about retreat of Israel from “territories” – not “all territories” and not “the territories. People who drafted it gave their reasons: The UNSC resolution talked about “secure borders” and the borders on armistice line were not secure. It was understood that Israel will have right att retain some areas. Settlements are NOT build on land which is private property of any Arabs. If sometimes Arabs come with claims and can document such claims, the settlement is dismantled.
                East Jerusalem is a different problem. This is a city which in its over 3,000 years long history was divided for 19 years: from 1948 to 1967 after Jordan invaded Israel. From the middle of 18 century Jews were in majority in this city. 1948 Jordan killed a lot of Jews in Jerusalem and ethnically cleansed the rest to the last one. Jordan demolished over 50 synagogues. Palestinians in the charta of PLO from 1964 stated that they do not have any clamis to areas being under the Hashemide Kingdom rule, which included East Jerusalem. Jerusalem was for Jews all over the world the most sacred, valued and holy place. Why should it be given back today?
                Israel, after it liberated Jerusalem 1967 never expelled Arabs from Jerusalem. It even gave them supervision over the holiest place of Judaism because it was also holy for Arabs (it was Moshe Dayan decision a few days after 6-Days War). For my life I cannot understand how can this be called “ethnic cleansing” by Israel.

  8. Some good news from at least part of the German left, the Bavarian Green Party has passed a motion to ban the BDS movement from any of the activities, and calls for the rest of the Green Party to do the same. They condemn the double standards applied to Israel, as well as calling BDS “in its totality, antisemitic, hostile to Israel, reactionary and anti-enlightenment”.

    Also regarding double standards, a masterclass from Maajid Nawaz in confronting anti-Semitic loons from the British Labour Party. Jackie Walker (former head of Momentum) is refusing to express an opinion about whether or not it is anti-Semitic to use the term “final solution” when discussing Israel (as Friends of Palestine had recently done). After 7 or 8 minutes of this hedging, Maajid finally cites a case where anti-Muslim fanatics called for a final solution against Muslims, and she immediately has a healthy condemnation for that.

    I am glad to see some on the left finally waking up to this.

    1. I’m so glad to see someone prominent taking on the antisemitism in the Labour Party. Someone like Jeremy Corbyn should never be able to become the head of a major political party in a place like the UK, but clearly antisemitism isn’t nearly as unacceptable as it should be there (and, particularly, on the left).

  9. I would call myself an anti-Zionist in the somewhat limited sense that I think the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine was, in retrospect, a terrible idea. I don’t think that’s anti-Semitic.

    1. As Zionism means the creation of a Jewish state, I don’t understand why thinking it is a bad idea is “limited” anti-Zionism. It was a good idea at the time because there were hundreds of thousands of survivors of the Holocaust who had nowhere else to go and because Palestine was administered by a British Mandate that had from its inception the duty to provide a Jewish homeland. Some people like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (a great pal of Hitler’s who hoped to introduce concentration camps to Palestine) spoiled what could have been a mutually beneficial arrangement. I would say the “bad idea” was not the Jewish state but Arab terrorism.

  10. Having followed Dr Chesler since
    the very publication of her
    Mothers On Trial’s first edition in y1986,
    and as a radical feminist not caring one whit about what are others’ silly and stupid
    opinions of what just must be my alleged
    fatty, Jaba – like appearance (since I am
    that radical feminist), I have since before
    that year stated these very same things
    of Dr Chesler’s. Faux means false.
    Untrue by any definition.

    For whatever are their selfish or self –
    promoting interests, why some apparently
    without study and without research, certainly without evidence … … of what is true, keep
    trying ofttimes l o u d l y, long and long
    to equate postmodernism with feminism is
    without merit.


  11. I was sort of struck with the contradictions when the issue of the migrant boys who assaulted the 4 year old girl in Twin Falls, Idaho came up. Several prominent feminists wrote articles about how it was not really “rape” or used other similar lines of reasoning to excuse the behavior.
    While trying to explain the reaction to my teenage daughter, the best explanation I could come up with is that the authors put their leftist politics ahead of their feminism. In that sense, rape or honor killing is a thing that happens to individuals, while Islamophobia affects the whole of the proletariat.
    Or something like that.

    1. I had not heard of that. That’s appalling. I hope none of those “prominent feminists” have children of their own.

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