This is not about Linda Sarsour.
This is about Jews who are afraid to identify themselves as Zionists. This is about people worldwide who hear the word “Zionist” and think about tanks vs “freedom fighters,” “occupiers” vs “oppressed” people.
This is about women who are put off by the title “feminist.” This is about women who happily identify themselves as feminists but do not think about women who live in less privileged countries.
This is about lies.
The problem with lies is not the lie itself or even the liar. It is only when listeners begin acting as if the lie is legitimate, as if it is the truth, that reality begins to warp.
Linda Sarsour is not the problem. She can announce that it is impossible to be a Zionist and a feminist until she is blue in the face. She can say whatever she wants, that’s her right (because she is lucky enough to live in America). Frankly, I don’t care what she says.
The problem is with all the people who listened and nodded. The people who pondered her words as if they were worthy of consideration and discussion.
The problem is with everyone who did not openly laugh in her face.
Anyone can say ridiculous things. I can tell you that whales swim in the clouds. That doesn’t make it true. It certainly doesn’t mean this is a topic that should be discussed and pondered. We know what whales are. We know what the sky is. End of story.
A few days ago, there was a piece on Israel’s Channel 10 discussing Sarsour’s statement that Zionism and feminism are incompatible. What I heard shook me to the core.
Two women were interviewed, both gender studies professors, one Jewish, the other an Israeli-Arab, both self-proclaimed feminists.
The Arab woman agreed completely with Sarsour. No surprise there. What horrified me was the Jewish woman’s response. She could not bring herself to utter the words “I am a Zionist.” She started apologizing, saying that today Zionism means apartheid and oppression and she certainly has nothing to do with that. Then she said, quietly: “But of course I do believe that Jews have the right to live free in our homeland, Israel.”
To this, the commentator replied: “That means you are a Zionist.”
No one has the power to determine your identity – unless you give them that power. The definition of Zionism is very clear: the belief that the Jewish people have the right of self-determination in their ancestral homeland, Israel. The re-establishment of the State of Israel is proof and an example to the world that: “If you can dream it, you can make it real.” Zionism is the Jewish example to the world that anything is possible, that with hard work and faith, against all odds, you can realize even the wildest dream.
That is my identity. No amount of lies, BDS, apartheid weeks or Linda Sarsours can change that. Unless I let them, unless I begin to behave as if their lies are reality.
The definition of feminism is also very clear: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It doesn’t say anything about one gender being better than the other or about men and women being identical. It’s about having equal value. Being a feminist does not mean hating men any more than being a Zionist means abusing Gazans or the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.
Putting on a hat in the shape of female genitalia does not make that person a feminist. It’s not about demanding free birth control or even abortions. It’s certainly not about belittling men or pushing men aside.
Feminism is about freedom. It is about the value of the individual woman and the freedom to achieve whatever she dreams about and is willing to work hard enough to achieve.
Just like Zionism.
Saying a feminist cannot be a Zionist is one of the most ridiculous statements a person can make. What liberation movement has more to do with the freedom and self-actualization of women than Zionism? What country provides more opportunity for women to achieve whatever they want than Israel?
While Hillary Clinton was discussing glass ceilings for women in America and touting her gender as a justification for voting for her, Israelis were saying, been there, done that. Long ago. 47 years ago. Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969.
In Israel, women can be anything they want. They can be secretaries and CEO’s of billion dollar companies. They can be models and Nobel Prize laureates. Women can be combat pilots, government officials, judges and athletes. Women can drive a bus or work as a construction worker. They can be black or white, short, tall, thin, fat, pretty or not so pretty, of any ethnicity and with widely varying physical capabilities (do you have any government ministers that are confined to a wheelchair?). Not one of these labels matters. It’s their capabilities and drive to succeed that count.
I have never heard an Israeli woman say, apologetically, “I am just a mom.” In Israel mothers are cherished and deeply appreciated. Lots of jobs are important but what job is more important than being someone’s mother?
Israel is an egalitarian State. Men and women worked side by side to re-establish the State. They fought for liberation together. There are male Zionist heroes and female heroes of Zion. My mother was named after a Zionist underground resistance organization, formed and led by a woman.
Zionist men and women came to Israel, plowed fields and built homes together. They fought off enemies, side by side. Together they build a country, together they birthed the Start-Up Nation.
Zionism and feminism go hand in hand. Saying otherwise is utterly ridiculous.
I don’t care what Linda Sarsour says. This isn’t about her. This is about everyone who listens to her lies and doesn’t laugh in her face. This is about people who let her lies define our reality.
I know who I am. I know what a Zionist is. I know what a feminist is too. If you don’t, open a dictionary.
Better yet – come to Israel and see for yourself.