Riots over gender segregation. And silence over Palestinian segregation

ActivismFeaturesIsrael/Palestine
on 23 Comments
beit shemesh
Protesters against gender discrimination (Photo: Michael Fattal/Haaretz)

Yesterday, December 27, Israeli civil society and politicians responded to the recent violence against an eight-year old girl, Na’ama Margolese, and the 300 rioting Haredi who attacked Israeli police and camera crews from Channel 2 and Channel 10 news.  Thousands demonstrated in the streets, including secular and some religious.  However, amid the dissent against the sexist, fundamentalist, and racist men, there is a contradiction to the call for equality: Palestinians.

The December 26 riot began after Israeli police attempted to remove a sign calling for women to walk on the opposite side via the message, “walk quickly, without drawing a crowd and without talking to each other.” Haaretz reported that the sign has been up for six years , according to local residents. When the police moved to take down the sign, 300 ultra-Orthodox men hurled rocks at the police.

Pro-gender-segregation-ultra-Orthodox-men zoomed into the spotlight after harassing an eight-year old girl Na’ama Margolese– a case that Annie Robbins reported here last night. Shai Gal, a reporter with Channel 2, filmed an interview with Na’ama, her mother, and Haredi (ultra-orthodox) residents of Beit Shemesh who advocate harassing women. One man told Channel 2 that he is a “healthy person,” and therefore justified in physical acts of abuse against children. “I’ll tell you why. To spit on a girl who isn’t behaving according to the law of the Torah is justified.” And he went on:

‘There are Rabbis and they give us the power [to know] how to appear when walking in the street, and how a woman should behave when walking in the street, and that’s the way it should be.’

The haredi have had tacit approval from the state for years to commit violence against women, call children whores, and spit on them. Now many of them are rioting and throwing rocks at police. At the same time, women have agitated against the gender discrimination by sitting in the front of segregated buses, incurring physical abuse.  In 2006  Haaretz reported that a group of Haredi men assaulted Miriam Shear, 50, on a segregated Egged bus.  Shear said:

“I’m not moving and he said, ‘I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.’ Then he spat in my face and at that point, I was in high adrenaline mode and called him a son-of-a-bitch, which I am not proud of. Then I spat back. At that point, he pushed me down and people on the bus were screaming that I was crazy. Four men surrounded me and slapped my face, punched me in the chest, pulled at my clothes, beat me, kicked me. My snood [hair covering] came off. I was fighting back and kicked one of the men in his privates. I will never forget the look on his face.”

Haaretz says that a man then kicked Shear in the face.  She filed suit against the bus line, and in June of 2011, the court made a ruling:  gender discrimination is legal, so long as it is voluntary on the women’s parts.

The discrimination against women parallels racial discrimination. The gender-segregated buses are operated by the public cooperative transportation company Egged, which also operates buses servicing settlers in the West Bank, effectively discriminating against Palestinians.  In November six Palestinian activists challenged Egged’s racial discrimination, and the Popular Struggle Committee said of these “freedom rides”:

Several Israeli companies, among them Egged and Veolia, operate dozens of lines that run through the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. They run between different Israeli settlements, connecting them to each other and cities inside Israel. Some lines connecting Jerusalem to other cities inside Israel, such as Eilat and Beit She’an, are also routed to pass through the West Bank.

beit natif
Beit Natif  during a Nakba attack, 1949. (Photo: Palestine Remembered)

For Palestinians, the military denies them physical access to the roads where they might attempt to board buses, creating a de facto state-enforced segregation. And as for Beit Shemesh, which was called Beit Natif before the Palestinian Nakba, when the entire village was razed to the ground, it functions as part of the Apartheid structure of the West Bank. Beit Shemesh is one of the Israeli towns inside of Israel’s 1948 borders that are connected to Israeli settlements in the West Bank through a system of “Israeli-only” roads which are serviced by Egged buses. 

Jeff Halper writes in the “Matrix of Control” that Beit Shemesh is instrumental in annexing East Jerusalem, and Palestinian lands as far as Bethlehem using road networks:

The Emergence of a “Metropolitan [Israeli] Jerusalem.”

The ring roads and major highways being built through and around Jerusalem are intended to create a regional infrastructure of control, turning Jerusalem from a city into a metropolitan region. “Metropolitan” Jerusalem covers a huge area. Its boundaries, incorporating a full 10% of the West Bank (440 square kilometers), stretch from Beit Shemesh in the west up through Kiryat Sefer until and including Ramallah, then southeast through Ma’aleh Adumim almost to the Jordan River, then turning southwest to encompass Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Efrat and the Etzion Bloc, then west again through Beitar Illit and Tsur Hadassah to Beit Shemesh. It also provides a crucial link to the Kiryat Arba and the settlements in and around Hebron. In many ways “Metropolitan” Jerusalem is the Occupation. Within its limits are found 75% of the West Bank settlers and the major centers of Israeli construction.

The latest disturbances in Beit Shemesh have been denounced by Knesset members, journalists, moderate Haredim, and secular Israelis. Female Knesset members have called for talks on gender discrimination. None of these detractors is bringing up the parallel Palestinian experience. For instance, Limor Livnat, a Labor party Knesset member and minister of Culture and Sports, threw an olive branch to Tzipi Livini (Kadima), asking her to leave politics out of the case. By “politics,” she means Palestinians.

Other remarks by Livnat are paradigmatic of the mélange of statements made by moderates, liberals and leftists.

“I’m not sure I mind it if they decide to segregate bus lines in Modiin Illit or Beitar Illit,” Livnat told Ynet , continuing, “It’s their way of life. If it doesn’t bother any woman, I’m not sure it bothers me.”

Even the recognition that calling a seven-year old a whore, or supporting patriarchal walks through town is wrong, does not get at the root of the issue. Gender discrimination did not suddenly appear in Beit Shemesh, and it did not suddenly appear in Israeli society. Over the past ten years, Beit Shemesh has moved from a Likud strong neighborhood to a Shas voting bloc. This bloc is pro-settlement, pro-militarism and yes, pro-sexism.

The Haredi men in Beit Shemesh, who each morning wake and thank God they were not born a woman (“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has not created me a woman”), are the practitioners of gender discrimination. But Livnat, Lipni and the organized dissenters are the actors in this drama who have allowed both state-owned and private companies to institutionalize these practices so long as it is Palestinians who remain oppressed. 

23 Responses

  1. justicewillprevail
    December 28, 2011, 10:02 am

    Time and again we see the same pattern: it is not the discrimination and bigotry which offends many Israelis (they are well used to it, it is encoded in their culture); no, it is the drawing of attention to it through the world media that they find uncomfortable and worrying. See the ridiculous bigot Leiberman’s recent tantrum over the EU drawing attention to discrimination inside Israel. They have expended vast sums of money and effort in intimidating the media, making it a taboo to raise the discriminatory principles underlying the Jewish State of Mind, and they don’t like it when it is exposed. The crime is not the bigotry but the identification of it in the world with the Zionist agenda. Perhaps they also get a glimmer of themselves as seen through other people’s eyes, and glimpse their own prejudice and bigotry, which they are in deep denial about.

  2. Dan Crowther
    December 28, 2011, 10:39 am

    “The Haredi men in Beit Shemesh, who each morning wake and thank God they were not born a woman (“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has not created me a woman”)”

    These guys should be saying: blessed are you, lord our god, king of the universe, who has created a woman willing to have sex with me.

    Religion: A scheme to get ugly guys laid, working like a charm for millenia

    Of course, the “treatment of women” by “Islamo-fascists” or whatever the Zio’s refer to them as, was a big part of the pretext for invading Iraq( and plays heavily in the war on terror/lets go kill iranians nonsense). Hitchens, Frum and others used to trot out Ayaan Hirsi Ali to make the case for them.

  3. Woody Tanaka
    December 28, 2011, 10:41 am

    I must admit a small degree of schadenfreude in seeing these Jews being discriminated against by their fellow Jews. The famous and well-expressed expression, “Zionism is Racism” was, perhaps, a bit better expressed, “Zionism is Bigotry.”

    Did the Jews who support — by their very Zionism — bigotry and discrimination against the Palestinians really believe that, once unleashed, they could control the hatred and bigotry which is a primary Zionist weapon and that it wouldn’t turn and engulf them, as well??? Once you permit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc., as a matter of state policy, then you have only yourself to blame when a powerful subsection of your state decides that you are not “pure” enough to be free of discrimination.

    Let us work towards and end of all discrimination regardless of the victims, be they Palestinians or Jewish women and children who displease the fundamentalist/orthodox lunatics.

  4. American
    December 28, 2011, 10:46 am

    They beat women? And they don’t get charged with assault and sent to jail?
    And Israel calls itself a western democracy?
    If incidents like this happened in Syria or Egypt or Saudi it would be all over US cable news as an example of radical Islam.

    But I’d say Israel is going to get even worse…..their ultra population is growing by 6% a year and was at 800,000 out of 7 million in 2006. And 50% of them or more live on State welfare.

    link to economics-ejournal.org

    • pabelmont
      December 28, 2011, 11:52 am

      It was on NPR this morning (12/28) — or some of it. But nothing about Zios oppressing Palestinians.

  5. Koshiro
    December 28, 2011, 10:51 am

    Look at this from a pragmatic angle. The increasing power of the Ultra-Orthodox and the resulting fissures in Jewish-Israeli society are good news:
    a) They contribute to the deterioration of what’s left of Israel’s reputation.
    b) They have the potential to seriously fracture the Jewish-Zionist community in Israel. In the long run, this might even result in genuine civil strife.
    c) Haredi for the most part are economically and militarily useless. Their prevalence in Israeli society is bound to weaken it.

    Operating from the assumption (and this is the only reasonable assumption left) that everything that is bad for Israel is good for the Palestinians, the more internal fissures Israeli society suffers from, the better.

    Appealing to the decency of “liberal” Zionists and thinking they might recognize the parallels between discrimination against Palestinians and discrimination against women is futile. Being a Zionist (in the current sense) literally requires you to be an unashamed hypocrite and to lack the capacity for empathy.

    The most futile of notions would be to support “liberal” elements in Israel against the encroachment of Jewish fundamentalism. On the contrary, secular Jews coming under pressure is something that should be welcomed. If the increasing Iranization causes mass emigration of the secular elite: Excellent! If the Israeli economy falters because of the combined effect of brain drain and economically underproductive Haredi: All the better! If it suffers even more because women are shut out of the productive process: Wonderful!

    P.S.: Yes, I am taking somewhat of an advocatus diaboli stand here. But then again, how would you counter these points?

    • Dan Crowther
      December 28, 2011, 2:06 pm

      you make a lot of good points koshiro…..although, the “secular elite” should be personae non gratae anywhere in the world……

  6. hophmi
    December 28, 2011, 11:44 am

    How many article have you written about discrimination against women in the Arab and Muslim world, Allison? It’s a much, much bigger problem there than it is in Israel.

    And for the record, it’s not technically discrimination if women volunteer to sit in the back of a bus as opposed to being required to by law anymore than it is gender discrimination if a woman chooses to stay home and raise children rather than have a career.

    All of this freaks out the vast majority of Israelis and the wider Jewish community, something completely absent from your Orientalist analysis of the situation.

    • Avi_G.
      December 28, 2011, 12:07 pm

      Actually, as someone who knows very little about Israeli society, you, hophmi, should be the last person to comment on such matters.

      The fact of the matter is that Israeli society was always a macho society. Even in secular circles, women are still treated as objects and men carry all the ‘weight’ of credibility and power.

      In the Israeli army, for example, women are repeatedly harassed. Despite all the Hasbarah that claims that the Israeli army is a shining beacon of freedom and equality for both women and gays.

      When Danaa, a commenter here, posted that she once shot at a male soldier during her time in the army, I wasn’t surprised. The system leaves women very few avenues to address their grievances.

      The rest of your comment is not worth a response as it, too, is based on conjecture.

      • hophmi
        December 28, 2011, 12:33 pm

        “The fact of the matter is that Israeli society was always a macho society. Even in secular circles, women are still treated as objects and men carry all the ‘weight’ of credibility and power.”

        The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of macho societies in the West where women are objectified. Somehow, Israel has managed a female Prime Minister, has a female as head of one of its largest parties, and several other woman MPs.

        “In the Israeli army, for example, women are repeatedly harassed.”

        Statistics and comparative analysis?

        “When Danaa, a commenter here, posted that she once shot at a male soldier during her time in the army, I wasn’t surprised. ”

        Neither was I, but for different reasons. LOL.

      • Avi_G.
        December 28, 2011, 12:53 pm

        hophmi says:
        December 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

        The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of macho societies in the West where women are objectified.

        Clearly, you do not understand the extent. That you are equating the two is testament to your lack of knowledge and experience. It’s akin to claiming that 1+2=4 and then dismissing as confused those who point out that the total should be 3.

        Somehow, Israel has managed a female Prime Minister, has a female as head of one of its largest parties, and several other woman MPs.

        You’re right. You know more about Israeli society from a distance of some 7000 miles and from one example. Golda Meir’s premiership, by the way, isn’t a good indicator of a non-Macho trend, especially since she’s been dead for close to 40 years.

        And, if women in parliament are indicators, then why is it that you repeatedly treat Arab society as primitive and primal when there are countless women in the current Iraqi parliament, in the Syrian parliament and in the Iranian parliament?

        How come, one indicator is valid — in your view — for one society, but somehow invalid for another society?

        Incidentally, you seem to think that societies are static. But, then again, given your views of Arab society, the way you lump all 22 states together, the way you have zero knowledge of its history, I’m not surprised.

        In the Israeli army, for example, women are repeatedly harassed.”

        Statistics and comparative analysis?

        It’s called experience. You should look into it sometime seeing as you lack so much of it.

        P.S. — That false bravado of yours, it’s nauseating, especially since you seem to be impervious to the irony of your own sophomoric comments.

      • Chu
        December 28, 2011, 12:53 pm

        “When Danaa, a commenter here, posted that she once shot at a male soldier during her time in the army, I wasn’t surprised. ”

        Neither was I, but for different reasons. LOL.

        Nice one Homphi. You really are a psycho…

      • hophmi
        December 29, 2011, 10:58 am

        “It’s called experience. You should look into it sometime seeing as you lack so much of it.”

        Yeah, actually it’s called statistical analysis. You should try it because it actually has more validity than anecdotes do.

        “And, if women in parliament are indicators, then why is it that you repeatedly treat Arab society as primitive and primal when there are countless women in the current Iraqi parliament, in the Syrian parliament and in the Iranian parliament?”

        There are 23 women in the current Knesset, about 19%.

        In the current Iraqi Parliament, there is a requirement that women must comprise 25%, and whaddaya know, women comprise exactly 25%.

        In Syria, it’s 14%, the highest in the region outside of Iraq. The average in the parliaments of Arab countries is . . . 3.4%.

        link to joshualandis.com

        In Iran, there are . . . 8. Out of 290. That’s under 3 percent.

        link to joshualandis.com

        I’m not sure where I used the words “primitive” or “primal.” Perhaps you could also point that out. Along with more ridiculous comments about how Israel is macho, as if no other society in the world were.

    • Woody Tanaka
      December 28, 2011, 12:20 pm

      “How many article have you written about discrimination against women in the Arab and Muslim world, Allison? It’s a much, much bigger problem there than it is in Israel.”

      Typical bigoted trash from hophmi. “The Arabs are worse, the Arabs are worse…”

      I, for one, think that a bigger story is the hypocrisy of the Zionist Entity, a bunch of ingrate deadbeats, which prides itself as being a modern state, but then permits this crap.

      “And for the record, it’s not technically discrimination if women volunteer to sit in the back of a bus as opposed to being required to by law…”

      Yeah, and I’m sure it’s TOTALLY voluntary when the alternative is to have this orthodox vermin spit on them when they sit where they like.

      • hophmi
        December 28, 2011, 12:35 pm

        “Typical bigoted trash from hophmi. ”

        So, it’s bigoted to say that women are discriminated against in the Arab world? LOL. You’re an ostrich, or just simply braindead.

        “Yeah, and I’m sure it’s TOTALLY voluntary when the alternative is to have this orthodox vermin spit on them when they sit where they like.”

        Ah, referring to people as vermin. A good practice of the enlightened progressive people. Jerk.

      • Woody Tanaka
        December 28, 2011, 12:54 pm

        “So, it’s bigoted to say that women are discriminated against in the Arab world?”

        No, it’s bigoted to take the author of an article on discrimination against women in the Jewish world to task because she chose to focus on the Jewish discrimination instead of that which you want her to talk about.

        “Ah, referring to people as vermin. A good practice of the enlightened progressive people.”

        Yes, anyone who would tell a woman to move to the back of a bus and then spit on her for doing nothing more than rejecting the barbaric, racist, bullshit, religious rules under which man wants her to degrade herself is, in fact, vermin.

        “Jerk.”

        LMAO. Getting called a jerk from the likes of you is like a badge of honor.

    • eGuard
      December 28, 2011, 1:18 pm

      hophmi: discrimination against women in the Arab and Muslim world is a much, much bigger problem there than it is in Israel.

      Of course it is bigger elsewhere. Within “the Israel world”, discrimination against Arab women does not exist. “Against Arabs” does it.

    • eGuard
      December 28, 2011, 1:24 pm

      hophmi: what about discrimination against women in the Arab and Muslim world, Allison? It’s a much, much bigger problem there than it is in Israel.

      The biggest country in “the Muslim world” is Indonesia. Now exactly what problem is there with discrimination against women, hophmi, and how so much bigger than in Israel?

    • eGuard
      December 28, 2011, 1:33 pm

      hophmi: I think maybe you can’t read English very well (assuming it was the same of the hophmis as this one today)

      Did you even read the title, hophmi?

  7. pabelmont
    December 28, 2011, 11:56 am

    An old Talmudic rule was (so I’ve heard) that Jews should make nice with the (goyish) people and governments among whom they live (even if they eat separately).

    Well, these orthodox people in Israel also live in diaspora (the orthodox are anti-Zionist — believing that it is forbidden so much as to pray for the ingathering of Jews to Zion much less to work for it in “the world”), they live in a state (Israel) run by goyim (the non-orthodox Jews).

    So why do they make trouble instead of making nice? Is Talmud out the window? Ask Neturei Karta folks if you have contact with them.

    • richb
      December 29, 2011, 10:15 am

      Note one of the suggestions in the panel discussions here:

      link to aljazeera.com

      One of the “solutions” mentioned was everybody including the Haredi should be in the army. It wasn’t mentioned why there was an exception, namely that it violated the Three Oaths.

      The Three Oaths are not merely based on the Talmud but also the Song of Solomon and Jeremiah 29:7.

      “Seek out the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray for it to the Almighty, for through its welfare will you have welfare.”

      Jeremiah continues:

      “Do not let your false prophets among you and your sorcerers seduce you, do not heed your dreamers which you cause them to dream. For they speak falsely to you in My name. I did not send them.”

      The Haredi make an easy target but the root of the problem is the Jewish ethnocracy. All religious minorities — whether they be Haredi or Palestinian Muslims or Palestinian Christians or Messianic Jews — suffer discrimination because of the Zionist program of ethnocracy. Until Israel adopts real religious and political freedom inside the 1967 borders all we discuss relative to the conflict will fail. See Ben White’s recent book, Palestinians in Israel, for more details.

  8. pabelmont
    December 28, 2011, 12:16 pm

    “If the Holocaust was a hurban, a physical catastrophe for Jews, the “New Chauvinism,” euphemistically portrayed as “Jewish Pride” (as if pride were anything but a vice in traditional Judaism), together with real power and the loss of Eimat ha-Goyyim / Fear of the Gentiles, has been a moral catastrophe of epic proportions for Judaism.” From A New Year’s Resolution and Some Grounds for Optimism .

    “Eimat ha-Goyyim / Fear of the Gentiles” may be what I was thinking of as an old Talmudic rule that Jews should make nice with their goyish neighbors.

  9. Les
    December 28, 2011, 12:59 pm

    Orthodox and Hassidic Jewish women in Brooklyn can only have arranged marriages.Such imprisonment suggests that many American Jews are quite happy to look the other way when it comes to domestic politics.

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